Heartbreak, California and Social Commentary: A Breakdown of “Norman F***ing Rockwell!”

After years of anticipation, Lana Del Rey has finally released her sixth studio album, “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” Lana named her album “Norman F***ing Rockwell” (NFR) after Norman Rockwel, who was an American artist in the early 20th century. Rockwell was most known for his art in The Saturday Evening Post, which reflected on American culture. 

I have been a fan of Lana Del Rey ever since her second album, “Born to Die” was released.  When listening to music, I like to analyze the topics being sung about. I think looking at an album comprehensively can help the listener understand the artist’s vision, especially for a musician like Lana del Rey. Heather Schwedel of Slate, annotates each subject that Lana sings about on “NFR.” Objectively speaking, the entire album is about California and heartbreak, which I’m not complaining about. 

Lana Del Rey starts off the album with the line, “God-d*mn, man-child” and at that moment I knew that Lana was about to go off. Lana Del Rey sings about how her ex is a “self-loathing poet, resident Laurel Canyon, know-it-all” who “[talks] to the walls when the party gets bored of you.” I’m unsure if the love interest Lana Del Rey mentions in her song “Happiness is a Butterfly” is about is the same know-it-all poet referenced in the title track. However, I can’t get the lyrics “If he’s a serial killer then what’s the worse/ That can happen to a girl who’s already hurt?” out of my head. Ouch, Lana. Who hurt you?

Lana Del Rey sings about California in the songs “California” (obviously), “Venice B*tch”, “F*ck it I love you” and “The Next Best American Record”, just to name a few. My favorite lyric of hers about California is in “F*ck it I love you” when she sings, “I moved to California, but it’s just a state of mind.” Aside from her mentions of a failed relationship in the title track “Norman F****ing Rockwell” and her reflections on moving to California, Lana Del Rey also gives some social commentary on “NFR”.

Lana Del Rey has stayed fairly apolitical in her music, but in an interview with Vanity Fair, Lana Del Rey said that the title of the album came to her because of the current state of America. “It was kind of an exclamation mark: so this is the American dream, right now. This is where we’re at - Norman F***ing Rockwell. We’re going to Mars and [Donald] Trump is president, all right.” Lana Del Rey sings in the “The Greatest”, “L.A. is in flames/ It's getting hot/ Kanye West is blond and gone/"Life on Mars" ain't just a song.” The lyrics “Kanye West is blond and gone” is a subtle dig at Kanye West’s support of Donald Trump. 

Aside from having a compelling message, “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” is full of moody bops. It’s hard to pick my favorite songs off “NFR” because I love all of the songs on the album. However, I would recommend checking out the title track “Norman F***ing Rockwell”, “Love Song”, “How to Disappear”, “Happiness is a Butterfly” and Lana Del Rey’s cover “Doin’ Time”, originally performed by Sublime. Although the album is about an hour long, I would recommend first listening to it in one sitting. Trust me, it’s an experience. Happy listening, collegiates!