Lana Del Rey's “Norman F******g Rockwell!” Album Review

Lana Del Rey is back with her highly anticipated sixth studio album, “Norman F*****g Rockwell!” Following the success of her 2017 album “Lust for Life,” "NFR!" has now solidified her status as one of pop's most unlikely, but consistent and sustainable, artists. "NFR!" is Del Rey's riskiest album yet, and also her best. It showcases the singer’s evolution and adaptation to not only the music industry, but the changing world we live in. Through her evolution, she has managed to keep the classic elements of her music that fans love: breathy vocals, slow melodies, meaningful lyrics, vivid visuals, and hints of nostalgia sprinkled throughout.

The title track, “Norman F******g Rockwell,” brings out Del Rey's sense of humor while singing about a “man-child” who embodies the contemporary American male. Del Rey sings, “God damn man-child / You act like a kid even though you stand six foot two / Self-loathing poet, resident Laurel Canyon know-it-all / You talk to walls when the party gets bored of you.” It’s her first portrait of a man in this album, but certainly not the last. Del Rey also throws in a nostalgic reference to the Laurel Canyon neighborhood in Los Angeles, famous for its music scene in the 60s and 70s.

In “The Greatest,” Del Rey reminisces on the good times, while adding another 60s reference of the late Dennis Wilson: “I miss the bar where the beach boys would go / Dennis’s last stop before Kokomo.” “The Greatest” also tackles the current state of climate change and American culture. It’s an emotionally honest song that perfectly encompasses the feeling that we’re heading toward an environmental crisis, but oddly provides a sense of comfort and peace in the end with a softly fading piano piece. Del Rey sings, “Miss doing nothin’ the most of all / Hawaii just missed that fireball / L.A.’s in flames, it’s getting hot / “Life on Mars” ain’t just a song / I hope the live stream’s almost on.” A vivid and chilling description of the changing world.

Del Rey excels at weaving in references to contemporary America, nostalgia, and love throughout the album. In “Bartender,” she mixes in the struggles of making a relationship work under the watchful eyes of the Hollywood paparazzi. Del Rey sings, “I bought me a truck in the middle of the night / It’ll buy me a year if I play my cards right / Photo-free exits from baby’s bedside / Cause they don’t yet know what car I drive / I’m just trying to keep my love alive.” She touches on this concept again in “Venice Bitch” with the lyrics, “You write, I tour, we make it work.” Multiple songs on "NFR!" beautifully chronicle the excitement and agony that come with relationships. Del Rey's most heartbreaking song on the album, “Love song,” has her yearning for a “once in a lifetime” love while asking, “Is it safe, is it safe to just be who we are?” The tremble and uncertainty in her voice as she continues to ask this question evokes a sadness that is so raw and painful in everyone who’s felt a strong love for someone else.

Del Rey and producer Jack Antonoff kept the album instruments simple; most of the songs surround a mesmerizing piano piece and acoustic guitar riffs are gradually added into some of the songs. I wouldn’t say it’s a happy album, but it’s not sad either. It exists somewhere in the middle, a melancholia feeling. In its purest form, "NFR!" is a cinematic album filled with odes to the beauty, glamour, and life in Hollywood, but reminds everyone of the emptiness of California in “F**k It, I Love You.” Del Ray and Antonoff created a dazzling album full of complex lyrics, paradoxes, and breathtaking melodies.

My favorite songs from “Norman F*****g Rockwell!” are:

  • “Norman F*****g Rockwell”
  • “Mariners Apartment Complex”
  • “Cinnamon Girl”
  • “Happiness Is a Butterfly”
  • “Bartender”

 

Image sources: 1, 2