Norman F*cking Rockwell: A Track by Track Review

Lana Del Rey, formerly Elizabeth (Lizzy) Grant, has been a staple in the alternative scene for nearly a decade. Her pouty 2012 album Born To Die, singing about sugar daddies, cocaine, and cigarettes set her up for massive popular success. However, due to an unfortunate series of events, she saw those dreams dashed and divided like a million stars in the night sky. Her Saturday Night Live debut was lackluster and it seemed like she was dead on arrival. Despite these early setbacks, she kept writing and singing and became a stronger performer. She released a short EP called Paradise, that came with its own short film Tropico. She came out with a cult classic, Ultraviolence, in 2014. This album was more refined, and muted. She ditched the snare drums and added some electric guitar. Her content changed too, and she sang about the dark side of loving men who hurt her, crooning “He hit me and it felt like a kiss”, on the title track. This catapulted her into a powerful, unique position with a desperately devoted fanbase. As she transitioned into yet another new phase of herself, she released Honeymoon in 2015, and with this new iteration came a more jazz based, ethereal sound. It caught critics’ eyes, and became highly acclaimed in the music world. Her fans were split, because it was a much slower album than her previous work. 2017 brought in a more political Lana Del Rey, mixing political messages with witchcraft. She used a new design for her cover art that strayed from her formulaic all-caps fonts, for Lust for Life. Lust for Life was the first record she released with features, and mixed hip hop artists (A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti) with folksy legends (Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon). Again, fans were split, but her more political songs became popular anthems in Trump’s America. 

Now, we are living in another era and sound. Norman F*cking Rockwell was released on August 30th. After a two year wait, Lana fans finally got new music and she made each track worth it. The latest form of Lana Del Rey is a surfer, Instagram baddie, with a sound that was smoothed into perfection by producer Jack Antonoff. Here’s a breakdown of each song:


1. Norman F*cking Rockwell

The title track starts out with a provocative verse that left many fans reeling: 

G*ddamn, man child,

You f*cked me so good that I almost said “I love you”,

You’re fun, and you’re wild,

But you don’t know half of the sh*t that you put me through

Can you say icon? She uses her femme fatale persona while laughing at the men who thought they could handle her. It’s dedicated to all of the whimpering male artists who don’t have enough emotional intelligence to realize that their actions hurt people around them. 


2. Mariner’s Apartment Complex

This track is a little slower, and Lana takes her time explaining that she’s more than just 2012’s saddest singer. She has grown, and now she’s her own man. It’s a powerful ode to independence, and it’s one of the few times we see Lizzy come through, beyond the Lana Del Rey persona and show true vulnerability. She is showing a softer side, while still cooing to her man about how she can save him from himself. Like the cover art for Norman F*cking Rockwell shows, she is offering her hand to pull her listeners out of the darkness.


3. Venice B*tch

While this song has been out for nearly a year, it has not aged at all. Her brazen “fresh out of f*cks forever” line is a theme of this album. The music video for Venice B*tch is a home movie of trucks passing on the interstate and the original cover art was a picture she took on her iPhone. This 9-minute track was released as a single, much to the chagrin of her management, because it is not intended for the casual listener. It is for the fans, and for herself.


4. F*ck it I love you

A personal favorite, this song combines imagery of the neon signs of Las Vegas from her Born to Die era, with a more refined pop sound. She took some clear influence from Ariana Grande, half-rapping on the chorus. The music video for this track takes listeners into Lana’s world of bartenders, and surfboards. It’s California pop-rock at its finest and her dark lyrics intermixed with a hopeless devotion to her unnamed man make for perfect listening. 


5. Doin’ Time

Sublime’s Doin’ Time is having a moment, all thanks to Lana Del Rey. She took a classic and covered it to perfection. Hearing Lana sing about her girl is a refreshing topic change, even if it was just to stay true to the original. This is also her first song to ever hit #1 on a Billboard chart!


6. Love song

This is the epitome of Lana Del Rey. A slow ballad made for bad girls who just want to protect the bad boys from themselves. A tearjerker, this song deserves all the awards. She takes the listener on a trip to the Pacific Coast Highway, falling in love with someone with the hope that maybe, just this once, he’ll stick around. Love song is a must listen for anyone who has ever been in love. It breaks your heart and puts it back together all in in 3 minutes and 49 seconds. You might need a box of tissues on hand for this one. 


7. Cinnamon Girl

One of the most hyped up songs of the album did not disappoint. She fights to get close to a man who takes pills to keep her away, and spoiler alert—she wins. She sings “If you hold me without hurting me, you’ll be the first who ever did.” That’s the core of Lana Del Rey—she wants so desperately for one person to erase her past and be her one and only, and every time she tries she gets hurt. It’s a relatable sentiment and any heartbroken 20-something can find a kindred soul in this song. Plus, it’s very catchy, and the outro is a work of art by itself!


8. How to disappear

Our favorite sad girl takes a look at the past for this track. She cries on her old friend’s shoulder, and reminisces about her past in New York, living as a struggling singer in shabby bars. She takes solace in pretending that she’s back in that epoch again, no longer a world famous celebrity, just a writer trying to make it big in the city. She snaps back to the present day, or maybe it’s the future, later in the song and tries to forget everything she lost to get where she is now. This song will make you feel a nostalgia for things you haven’t even experienced.


9. California

Rock influences flare up again in California. She summons her former self for this track, and there is a clear Lizzy Grant influence in the way she wails out the chorus. It is desperate, longing, and sonically delightful. It is difficult to imagine that she sat on this song for five years. It was originally recorded with Miles Kane and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys in 2014. It is truly a masterpiece, from the instrumental to the lyrics. It is the crown jewel on this gorgeous album, and combines a little bit of each previous era to make magic.


10. The Next Best American Record

This track leaked when it was originally recorded for Lust for Life, but Jack Antonoff reworked it into a whole new piece. She sings about being obsessed with writing the next best American record, and it looks like she did. During a giant crescendo near the end of the song, you can hear what sounds like a glass breaking (4:50), and it adds the perfect amount of drama to an already cinematic song. The production is amazing, and the lyrics are beautifully dark.


11. The greatest

The greatest is a scary track for a few reasons. Firstly, it insinuates an early retirement. “The culture is lit, and if this is it, then I had a ball”, Lana sings over soft piano. She also adds that she’s wasted, which is concerning because of her struggles of alcoholism in the past. Luckily, she took to social media to assure her fans that she’s still writing and the next song on the album, Bartender, she talks about her sobriety.


12. Bartender

Bartender sounds like it belongs on a Tarantino film sequence. The piano gives it a theatrical and irreverent sound, and her lilting “bart-t-t-tender” adds a musical theatre dimension. It is a truly unique song in a discography that has been dismissed as always sounding the same. It’s also an ironic song, because while she has been sober for about a decade she’s romancing a bartender that serves her Cherry Coke. According to her, she doesn’t need wine because her “love’s sweet enough on the vine.”


13. Happiness is a butterfly

Another extremely hyped up song, Lana drives her heartbreak home in this ballad. She is trying to catch happiness, but it eludes her every night. It is a butterfly that escapes her hands, into moonlight. She gives a nod to her fans and calls them her babies, and asks “If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst that can happen to a girl who’s already hurt?”. Her pain is palpable and you can feel how hard she is trying to be happy by losing herself in the music, but it always disappears when she needs it the most. Let’s just hope whoever he is, he’s not a serial killer. 


14. hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it

The closing track was a jab at her management with a title that barely fits on the back of an album. She said in an interview that it is full of hidden messages and she had been writing it for years. She manages to invoke the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the glamour of Slim Aarons into a gentle lullaby. After all of the pain of the previous songs, especially Happiness is a butterfly, she still retains hope. She believes that, despite all of the trauma she has endured, she will remain hopeful for a better future. It is a flawlessly executed epilogue and wraps the album in a blanket of promise.