Lana Del Rey has mastered her signature soft, sultry and somber sound, and after two years since the release of Lust for Life, Del Rey is back and more poised than ever on Norman F------ Rockwell!
The album has been a long time coming, with its first singles, “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “Venice B---h” released in September 2018, and Del Rey’s time commitment to the work really shows. NFR is, arguably, Del Rey at her very best.
The title itself is meant to arouse emotion. Rockwell was an author in the 1900s, most known for his commentary on American culture and the normalcy of American life. Though the hidden meaning can be perceived as a disapproving nod to the state of American culture today, Del Rey said the title reflects the meaning behind the title track. The song discusses being with the type of man who is the “creative type,” thinks he’s incredible and isn’t afraid to spend hours telling you so.
Underlying meanings are a common occurrence throughout the album, but an overwhelmingly obvious theme is love and nostalgia. Del Rey centers around love and loss in each song, save two or three, and each is more heartbreaking than the next. Though her albums all focus on a lack of love, except for her 2017 Lust for Life, something about the way Del Rey isn’t exactly sad, but isn’t happy either makes each song sting more than her other devotions in the past.
Del Rey is famous for her extremely unique vocals, which include intricate harmonies and a soft spoken tone, but what often flies under the appreciation radar is her exquisite instrumentation. Everything from the melancholy chords of the piano to the high pitched, synth harmonies in songs like “Venice B----” is not only on brand, but captivating to listen to.
Of course there are always the shining stars of albums, and Del Rey has a few. First, the titular song, “Norman F------ Rockwell,” which takes a look at the stuck-up creative type, who aren’t afraid to let you know they’re wonderful. “Venice B----,” a nearly 10 minute-long haunting number that is likely the best example of Del Rey’s beautiful instrumentation, but is also a prime example of her famous gloom-ridden love songs, saying “If you weren’t mine, I’d be jealous of your love.”
Finally, her last track, “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but I have it,” which similarly to “Venice B---” was a single released before the entire album. The song draws on one of her greatest inspirations, Sylvia Plath, but more importantly sums up the tone and theme of Del Rey’s emotions throughout the entire album. She says “Don’t ask if I’m happy, you know that I’m not, but at best I can say I’m not sad.”
The long-awaited Norman F------ Rockwell! is by far Del Rey’s most complex and elegant piece of work she’s ever created. The album not only expresses a feeling a lot of Americans are going through, which is the freedom and free fall of being alive, but also solidifies the claim that she is one of the greatest songwriters. Norman F------ Rockwell! is nothing short of a masterpiece.