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Lana Del Rey’s New Album: An Emotional Exploration Of Identity And Mortality

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

Since Lana Del Rey’s last album, Blue Banisters, crowned her with the achievement of most #1 Alternative Albums in Billboard artist history, Del Rey has strolled away from visions of romantic female melancholy and Americana to give listeners what reviews consider her “riskiest” yet “most beautiful” album to date.

Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is Lana Del Rey’s longest album, with an hour and 17 minutes of exploring the concepts of love, sexual liberation, family, identity, and fear of the future and the ultimate mortality of herself and everyone she knows. As her soothing voice tends to induce feelings of a heavy heart, Tunnel under Ocean Blvd recounts the singer’s mixed melancholy feelings, as well as her growth and acceptance, of the uncertainties of life and romance. If you take a listen, you too can easily feel how her melodies can tug at the heartstrings of our joys and pick at the scabs of our own griefs as we live our lives and share similar feelings the singer does.

The album’s title track, and lead single following the announcement of her album in late 2022, follows the singer’s lingering fear of being forgotten, and wishing to love and nurture herself in a way where people cherish her presence and remember her when she is gone or no longer relevant. Lana references the Jergins Tunnel, the true tunnel under Ocean Blvd., where Long Beach California residents could walk through to reach the beach. A formerly beautiful and regularly used entryway, Lana questions how even important things can be lost to history and forgotten by most. Reaching on the fragility of human life and how short our time is to make a long-lasting impact on ourselves and on others, the singer seeks to be remembered, urging the listener to not forget her when she’s gone (whether that be from Earth or from the industry).

The rest of the album subtly follows this theme of legacy, identity, and memory. The first track of the album, “The Grants,” reiterates these themes in a different light, as Lana sings about preserving the memory of herself and her loved ones in her life and a supposed “conscious afterlife.” She promises to carry their love and legacy on, hoping there are others out there who will do the same for her.

In terms of love and relationships, “A&W” explores both sexual liberation and somewhat unwilling acceptance, reminiscing on how aging has changed her desires and feelings toward herself in comparison to the once innocent and carefree child she once was. She cites others’ unfavorable perceptions of her over the years, and speculation of whether she would still be beautiful and important as she ages. Though comfortable with her desires and her identity, she mourns how the sexual nature and identity of girls have been taken advantage of, both physically and emotionally. She comes to the bittersweet acceptance of how partners see and treat her, but implies that this female compliance is never fair. “Sweet” and “Candy Necklaces” also explore the complex nature of love and desire, and the desire for more than a solely physical connection.

“Paris, Texas,” my favorite from the album, explores the singer spontaneously leaving her home (and a partner) to escape and find new beginnings. She trusts herself and her innate desire to find herself and her path elsewhere, even if it means leaving behind those who tie her down. Searching for individual happiness, she faces the harsh reality of returning home and finding that the person she had left has gone away and moved on from her. Yet, she comes to terms with “home” being a state of mind, and that home is beyond a physical place and is what you make of it, not tied down to the possibly negative and growth-stunting people you were once associated with.

In the most raw and personal track of the album, “Fingertips,” Lana recalls personal tragedy, as well as the recurring fear of death, aging, and losing the people closest to her despite still being young. She sings of her family, hoping they stay safe and wondering if she has the capability to start a family of her own. She mourns being misunderstood in her years of music-making, and how the media has displayed her despite only wanting the simple things in life — a family, peace, and living happily at home. She mourns a poor relationship with her mother, and a complicated relationship with drugs and alcohol. She even sings of the news while preparing for a show in Monaco of her uncle’s apparent suicide at a National Park, citing that in every tragedy, she barely had time to cry. The track flips back and forth between stories and memories, but it pieces together as a scrapbook of emotion. Lana finally allows herself to grieve the negative situations of the past that she has never come to terms with, and lets her emotions flow out, as she sings, “like waves in the sea.”

Entering college, we begin to become subject to the real world, and life starts feeling a bit more real than just being in the familiarity of our cozy hometowns. We start to age, and growing up oftentimes just doesn’t involve paying taxes and getting a steady job. We realize that relatives pass away, relationships built on years of trust can crumble in a span of hours, and the questions over who we are and what we want feel much more unanswered than we once assumed. We barely even have time to take it all in, as life moves so quickly and time never stops for us. The bubble that many of us grew up in starts to burst. This album convinces listeners that not only are these feelings normal, but that it’s a good thing to mourn, grow, and bask in the uncertainty that comes with fears, hopes, and dreams for something more.

Though I haven’t covered every one of the 16 songs in Lana’s recent album, I think it’s best to leave the listener with the freedom to experience their own meanings of this album. Each song is filled with the singer’s references, if not to family and relationship conflict, then to conflict with herself and the perceptions others may have about her. Debuting at number three in the Billboard 200 in its first week, Do you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd clearly caught the attention of the masses, and is a compilation of some of the most personal and relatable songs Lana has written. Relying on a softer style of singing as well as softer instruments throughout the tracks, the style and theming is definitely astray from her more popular work, and yet she has still been able to capture the interest and love from both fans and casual listeners alike. This album deserves all the love it gets, if not for its raw messages and emotion, then for Lana’s always harmonious voice and bittersweet instrumentals made perfectly for a quiet drive during a rainy and humid spring day.

Joan Tejera

U Conn '24

Joan is a junior at the University of Connecticut studying as a Computer Science and Engineering major. In her free time, she loves playing video games, listening to new music (constantly updating her Spotify playlists), and cooking & baking heart shaped things.