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Lana Del Rey: ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’ Review

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

Content warning: This article contains discussion of topics related to rape culture, domestic abuse, and suicide.

Lana Del Rey, born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, has just released her ninth studio album, titled Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd. At the beginning of her rise to fame, she followed the unspoken standard album-release timeline, giving herself between one and three years to release new music. Del Rey’s debut album, Born to Die, was received negatively by critics, yet it remains a staple of the 2011 music scene. Criticisms of her early work had much to do with the belief that her lyrics were disingenuous, and the stories within her lyrics were crafted for the purpose of upholding a desired aesthetic. Themes of sex, love, drugs, and death recur in her music consistently, yet many critics questioned whether these themes came from an authentic place, or if they were simply another piece of an aesthetic that is puzzling for older generations to understand the appeal of. While Del Rey has had remarkable success since her debut album, the sophistication of her lyricism wasn’t widely recognized in the world of critics until 2019, with the release of her most critically acclaimed album (and fan-favorite), Norman F*****g Rockwell! (NFR!). Not only was NFR! A huge success, but it also marked the beginning of Del Rey’s collaboration with super-producer Jack Antonoff. The reception NFR! received made it difficult for both fans and critics to envision how Del Rey could create another album that came close to matching the impact of what was arguably her first true masterpiece. 

The pressure of topping one’s best work is a curse that promises many failed attempts before it is possible to strike gold once again. In 2021, Del Rey released two albums, a mere seven months apart from each other: Chemtrails Over the Country Club (March 2021) and Blue Bannisters (October 2021). While both albums have their highlights, neither were particularly spectacular, nor did they contain the cohesivity and sonic texturing that gives NFR! its brilliance. With the announcement of Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd (her third collaboration with Jack Antonoff), along with the release of the lead single by the same title, fans across the globe were excited to hear the sound her new project might take on, yet the lead single seemed to be a continuation of her past two projects. Del Rey’s beautiful vocals can’t be taken for granted, but the slow-tempo piano-forward song did not bring the excitement that a new era should strive for, especially coming from an artist who has taken many risks in her career through the blending of various genres. 

A little over a month before the release of the full album, the second single, “A&W,” was released. With a runtime of over seven minutes, the song starts slow, with a similar sound to the title song, building the expectation that the album would complete a trilogy of slow and underproduced acoustic projects, yet those expectations vanished before its listeners at the five and a half minute mark, when the folksy singer-songwriter sound fades into a trap beat with almost rap-like vocals, similar to her 2011 hit “Diet Mountain Dew.” Beyond the production choices and the sound of the music itself, which is generally the first takeaway upon listening to any music, the choices made and the lyricism behind “A&W” provide a crash-course of Del Rey’s life and career, bringing elements from each of her albums all together in a single song, including a remixed instrumental track from the NFR! title track. Not only does it serve as a symbol of Del Rey’s life and discography, but upon listening to the album in full, it was the perfect choice for a single, as it gives listeners a peek into the progression of the entire album. 

Titled after her family name, the opening track, “The Grants,” reflects on Del Rey’s family, tied together by a theme of anticipated loss and the repeated line, “I’m gonna take mine of you with me.” Simultaneously haunting and warming, “The Grants” features a choir of female voices leading the listener into the album with a sense of wonder. Del Rey’s past works don’t steer her listeners to believe that a new album will be cohesive in both its sound and its storytelling, and the opener alongside the first two singles does not show promise. Upon first listen, each song is enjoyable, and many are brilliant, but the album feels messy as a collective piece of art. However, when listeners dive deeper into it, it becomes more obvious that the order of the tracklist is calculated and symbolic; like the album’s title, the run of the album takes us through a metaphorical tunnel.

“The Grants” is a touching song about the love and graciousness Del Rey holds for her family, but the feeling of loss looms over her love, as if she is preparing to enter a tunnel. This is followed by the title track, serving as an introduction to both the tunnel itself and the increasingly darker topics reflected throughout the album. Feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as the fear of being forgotten (referencing Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me”) are explicitly expressed in the song, and the question, “When’s it gonna be my turn?” rings out as a soul-stirring cry for help. 

Track three, “Sweet,” paints a picture of a shallow romance as Del Rey asks tough questions: “Do you want children? Do you wanna marry me?” She asserts her desire for a deeper understanding of her partner, as well as a simple life in the country, reminiscing on the things she wishes she had said. At 37 years old, Del Rey ponders the conventional life and expectations of women, and her insecurities about this are later reflected in “A&W,” the fourth track, with the remark, “Did you know a singer can still be looking like a side piece at thirty-three?” The fourth track is also our first look into the themes of abuse and rape culture that are ever so present throughout the album. She sings out, “If I told you that I was raped, do you really think that anybody would think I didn’t ask for it?” The overarching message behind this song, while still personal to her, is ultimately about the experiences of womanhood. At this point in the album, we aren’t completely in the dark yet. The tunnel is in sight, and she is just beginning to enter it.

Del Rey doesn’t shy away from risk-taking; if anything, she is her freest in this album. She makes choices that feel right to her, and it is clear that she isn’t concerned with commercial success. This is especially obvious in the “Judah Smith Interlude,” a four-and-a-half-minute audio recording of Los Angeles preacher and influencer Judah Smith speaking to a crowd, backed by a soft piano melody. While it may seem unclear at first why this was a necessary addition to the album, Smith’s final words illuminate Del Rey’s intent behind the record as a whole: “I used to think my preaching was mostly about You…I’ve discovered my preaching is mostly about me.” Through Smith’s preachings, Del Rey reveals that she is ultimately writing music for herself, not for her audience. She has finally let go of the public’s opinions, and fans are witnessing her at her truest, rawest self. 

Track six, “Candy Necklace,” featuring Grammy Award winner Jon Batiste, delves into Del Rey’s past of abusive relationships, accompanied by an eerie and evocative piano melody. The opening line of the track references NFR!’s “Cinnamon Girl” as she reminisces on her past, which seems to be the drive behind the album as a whole. She expresses that her relationship makes her feel suicidal, and at this point, she is entering the darkest part of the tunnel. Strong piano chords and playful dialogue between Del Rey and Batiste follow in the “Jon Batiste Interlude,” as Batiste exclaims, “I feel it heavy,” and Del Rey sings lightly in the background, giving listeners insight into their writing process and interactions in the studio. The interlude provides somewhat of a breather before Del Rey finds herself in the darkest part of the tunnel, reflecting on her hardest truths in “Kintsugi.” Track eight is a heartbreaking recollection of the loss of loved ones, yet Del Rey begins to accept her sadness and hints that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of filling cracks in broken pottery with gold lacquer, and Del Rey uses this as a metaphor for how her adversities have helped her find hope, repeating, “That’s how the light gets in.” 

Although Del Rey is closer to finding her way out of the tunnel, she dives even deeper into her dark past in “Fingertips,” contemplating her history of substance abuse and depression, painting a picture of her suicide attempt at 15 years old. She wonders if she can survive, and if she does, if her family will be there, as she recalls the effect her uncle’s suicide had on her. With these heavy themes gaining even more background, Del Rey pours her heart out; her listeners are welcomed into the calamitous truths of the corners of her mind, and almost nothing is left unsaid. “Fingertips” is the emotional climax of the album, and the closing lyric, “I just needed two seconds to be me,” offers a hand as Del Rey navigates the tunnel and begins to find her way out.

Sampling SYML’s “I Wanted to Leave,” “Paris, Texas” follows Del Rey’s travels from Paris to Alabama, with uncanny yet sweet vocals that follow the arpeggiated piano melody. The track draws parallels between Del Rey leaving Paris and knowing that she must end her relationship. “When you know, you know,” is sung repeatedly, representing her recognition that her relationship needs to end when she returns home. This realization comes after the journey she takes her listeners on in “Candy Necklace,” and she has finally found a way to pull herself out of the damaging and abusive relationship that she felt stuck in. 

Following the structure of the album’s title, the eleventh track has an absurdly long title: “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing” – yet this title doesn’t distract from the beauty of the song. Del Rey pleads for transformation and hopes that the wisdom of her grandfather can be passed down through generations, and she once again addresses the public’s perception of her: “I know they think that it took somebody else to make me beautiful…but they’re wrong.” Del Rey has faced many controversies throughout her career, yet she continues to maintain her image as a good-intentioned woman who is deeply misunderstood. 

The twelfth track of the album finally brings the light Del Rey has been searching for, both literally and metaphorically. “Let The Light In” features Father John Misty, who first collaborated with Del Rey in 2016, co-starring in the “Freak” music video. The two artists have a similar approach to songwriting and have been teasing a full collaboration for the past seven years, with Del Rey covering Misty’s “Buddy’s Rendezvous” in 2021. Their first song together doesn’t disappoint, with their voices blending seamlessly, and it serves as a turning point in the album. The song illustrates what Del Rey has been yearning for: a healthy relationship. While the couple fights, she is still happy and loves her partner unconditionally, and she can at last see the light at the end of the tunnel, learning that she had to allow the light to come in to reach her newfound happiness. 

As the light comes in, Del Rey offers a conventional love song, “Margaret,” about Jack Antonoff and his fiancée, Margaret Qualley. Antonoff’s band, Bleachers, is featured on the track, and the lyrics behind it allude to past revelations within the album. The phrase, “When you know, you know,” is recycled, this time in a more positive context, with Del Rey singing about Antonoff and Qualley being “the ones” for each other. “When you’re good, it’s gold,” is perhaps a reflection of “Kintsugi,” suggesting that finding the right partner can fix someone and turn their damage into something beautiful. 

After witnessing the love her longtime friend and collaborator and his fiancée share for each other, Del Rey is able to see more clearly what love should look like. “Fishtail” is a rumination of this; Del Rey recognizes that her lover didn’t want her to be happy, and she is able to remove herself from the situation by taking back her power and speaking her mind. The light at the end of the tunnel is the liberation she finds in seeing things clearly. 

Nearing the end of the album, “Peppers,” featuring Tommy Genesis, seems like a strange addition. With a trap beat and playful lyrics that separate it entirely from the narrative of the record, Del Rey’s cohesivity becomes less clear. Yes, she has found her way out of the tunnel and into the light, but the upbeat sexual energy of the song is a drastic departure from the melancholic mood of the album. “Peppers,” while enjoyable, can only be described as unserious when looked at as a piece of the narrative that Del Rey builds in the hour-and-eighteen-minute runtime of the album. Perhaps it is symbolic of Del Rey finding sexual liberation in spite of the abuse she has faced, for without this idea, it is alarmingly out of place. 

Del Rey closes the album with “Taco Truck x VB,” which starts as a declaration of how she no longer cares what critics think. She is speaking directly to those who criticize her and spin her statements, twisting her original intentions. What brings the album together is the latter half of the closing track; Del Rey samples and remixes “Venice Bitch,” a nearly ten-minute long song from NFR!. Along with the other pieces of her sixth album spread across the record, it becomes clear that Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is a tribute to her past, as well as a journey she takes through delicate introspection. She weaves her older music into her new music to create a brooding nostalgia that is alleviated by a point of enlightenment reached somewhere along her journey. Del Rey is her most authentic self in her ninth album; it may not be her best work to date, yet the ups and downs are evocative of life itself – the album is unpredictable and emotionally truthful. Del Rey brings everything she has to offer, magnifying her heart and mind for the world to see. 

Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is available for streaming.

Apple Music


Savannah is a writer for Her Campus at Pace University. She typically covers music through album reviews and anaylsis. She is a junior at Pace University, majoring in Arts & Entertainment Management. She was a junior editor for Her Campus at Pace last year (2022-2023) and assisted in the initial editing process of the editorial team. Savannah is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and pianist, and is releasing music for the first time this year. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, reading, and travelling.