Lana Del Rey
Norman Fucking Rockwell


5.0
classic

Review

by Slex CONTRIBUTOR (45 Reviews)
August 30th, 2019 | 454 replies


Release Date: 08/31/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I was one thing, now I’m being another

To be completely morbid for a moment: this shitty, violent and hateful decade hasn’t been kind to many who are melting under the magnified gaze of mirrored evil we encounter every time the closest screen shows us the worst we’re capable of, but it has proven to be serendipitous for the narrative of Lana Del Rey. I don’t want to minimize the suffering of others or inflate the importance of one Elizabeth Woolridge Grant but it’s pivotal to point out how both the always latent prescience and budding growth the artist has brought to her music over the last decade dovetail beautifully as a statement of maturity and poise on Norman Fucking Rockwell. Because the personal is political and vice versa, Lana Del Rey can’t seem to help but realize that to weep for America is to weep for yourself, and this is her sustained wail over the flames of destruction and rebirth, both for herself and the world at large. America as she’s always pined for it can’t last, even in dreams; love as she’s always accepted it can’t last, even in a song. Norman Fucking Rockwell is the moment when one of pop’s greatest enigmas wakes up to the nightmare she’s living in and uncovers it as a great hoax of our own doing: hers, yours, mine. Narrative has been replaced by genuine introspection, kitsch has been supplanted by bitter truths, and the lights have been dimmed accordingly: it’s the end of the world, and ourselves, as we know it, so best to have a drink and get on with it.

Because Del Rey can’t escape the past, the album opens with a trademark smirking kiss-off; ‘you fucked me so good I almost said I love you’ is a blunt but intriguingly elusive taunt that ticker tapes across the entirety of the album until the credits roll alongside the elegiac “Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have-But I Have It”. Whereas before Del Rey’s vision was always either sepia-toned or silver and gold, the omnipresent darkness of our present times has seeped into every facet on display here. A truly impressive trick (which I’m hesitant to call such as I’m swooned by the ache and ardor shown here) that Lana manages to pull off is that even when ostensibly telling the truth, ambiguity still hangs in the air. By liberally referencing her back catalogue and various other artists, she presents the listener with an intersection of fact and fiction that proves hypnotic in its fatalistic suggestions. ‘Dream a little dream of me’ she sings, a wink wrapped in reference and nostalgia, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most heart stopping and heartfelt melody of her career thus far, amplified further by the crucial but fleeting moments of silence before it blossoms out of the ether. It’s a gorgeous moment of idyllic respite punctuated by the following lines’ plea for her lover to ‘make me into something sweet’, yearning for the shelter of a simple pop song before exclaiming with abandon, fuck it, I love you. There’s a newfound desperation in her voice here that lends inspiration and authenticity to an obsession of Del Rey’s: of plumbing the past to dignify or fix the present. It seems at first like a patent Lana-ism, but: consider the way it also looks back to that opening barb, and how flushed and hushed the artist sounds, how this backward glance culls from her own past this time to reach an overwhelmed declaration of love. She’s taken a hallmark of her ~aesthetic~ and twisted it around on herself so that there’s nowhere to hide anymore, and she manages to do this again and again, song after song.

It’s there in “Venice Bitch”, as she sings “One dream, one life, one lover, paint me blue” and quickly follows it with “Norman Rockwell, no hype under our covers, it’s just me and you’. A melodramatically referential daydream morphs into the real thing, becoming simpler and truer in the process, a meta admission of anxiety and comfort. It’s certainly there in the more pointedly political “The Greatest”, where a depressed reference to the death of Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson slowly but steadily mutates into a death spiral for America, the metaphor made clear: the golden times are over and a harsh wave has come. That she presents these opinions and feelings and memories across 14 torch songs with little to no deviation in sound is very much the point; there’s now a creak in the decadence, a cold air under her beloved California sky, and a stillness to the proceedings is more than made up for with the growth she displays, from both an emotional and a songwriting perspective. Staccato pianos and weeping strings buttress breathtaking melodies that seem continuously to materialize from thin air, plucked out of a solemn silence and thrust into the spotlight. This uniformity also course corrects the thematically and tonally scatterbrained approach to sequencing that were present on Honeymoon and Lust For Life. But I think that it most of all simply calls attention to the numb state we as a human race find ourselves in, paralyzed with shock and grief and such greatly diminished anger. The endless scroll of chaos continues to roll on, and nothing gold can stay, but there are still things we can find solace in: love hard fought, truth, conviction, solidarity. To present these things so simply and unvarnished is essential. Hope is a dangerous thing for a world like ours to have, but we can have it. For those who’ve stuck with Lana Del Rey, hoping for all of the artist’s far-reaching strengths to fully and finally click, Norman Fucking Rockwell represents a new golden age.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
fogza
August 30th 2019


327 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Great review.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2019


15644 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

holy moly, the average for this album. i'll definitely get on this once i've jammed tool a couple of times.



great review slex

Digging: Chelsea Wolfe - Birth of Violence

luci
August 30th 2019


11669 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Review is marvelous! This is exactly the angle this album needs. I appreciate that you led with a zeitgeist analysis and then illustrated how the songs convey those sentiments. A lesser writer would have reviewed the songs and then added that they have political implications. There's an intoxicating, gorgeous sadness to this album that can't be separated from the conscious outlook. Classic on arrival.

Egarran
August 30th 2019


12667 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great album, great review.



She should be the role model for western women.

BigPleb
August 30th 2019


59800 Comments


There is no way this can be that good haha.

Don't dig a single Lana album, will this change that?

luci
August 30th 2019


11669 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

It's her Flower Boy. There's definitely potential for people who didn't enjoy her previous records.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
August 30th 2019


10117 Comments


Luci basically took the words right outta me, this was a thorough analysis and written very well. Kudos my man, was a great read.

Digging: WRVTH - No Rising Sun

anatelier
August 30th 2019


2874 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Title track is lovely

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2019


15644 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

every one of her albums progress significantly with every release, so the high scores seem more than legitimately earned. definitely looking forward to checking this.

Egarran
August 30th 2019


12667 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

>Don't dig a single Lana album, will this change that?



Probably not.

You should try Ultraviolence, it's her most metal album.

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 30th 2019


32091 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is your best review (although blush makes some good observations, see below), and I agree with just about everything you said. Like luci already stated I'm glad you delved so, so much deeper than "political implications" because that's such a cliche at this point. Marvelous writing that mirrors the quality of this album.

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

Egarran
August 30th 2019


12667 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You just feel that this lady is smart as fuck. It's a pleasure to hear her dissect society.

alamo
August 30th 2019


1743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great Fucking Review

Digging: O Terno -

Pikazilla
August 30th 2019


3551 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I thought I'd hate this at first, but this is actually pretty cool. Best sput hyped album of 2019? Quite possibly.

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2019


3017 Comments


"but it’s been some kind of serendipitous for the narrative of Lana Del Rey" -- is the "some" here right? Reads a tad awkward to me, but I understand how it could/would make sense, just making sure.

"conflate the importance of one Elizabeth Woolridge Grant" -- do you mean inflate here? Otherwise, conflate with what? "conflate it [the suffering] with the importance..." ? (I might be reading it wrong)

Some awkward expression here and there, but very nice review as usual!!! I love your writing, but you know that. I don't quite understand the fact/fiction thing based on the evidence provided, but it's very intriguing.

Digging: Lil Tracy - Anarchy

Sinternet
August 30th 2019


20303 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

QUEEN

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

luci
August 30th 2019


11669 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Need to mention how seamlessly trip hop is integrated here. On the previous records it came across as somewhat forced eclecticism, but here the beats come and go in perfect alignment with the album's flow.

WeepinnWillow
August 30th 2019


759 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

that sublime cover is a sin and makes this an instant 1.5

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 30th 2019


32091 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I'm not the biggest fan of releasing covers as LP tracks (to me, an album should be all original expressions -- which I realize is flawed logic, it's just my preference though) and might have liked to see that released as a single instead. However, it's very well executed and it melds perfectly with the hazy atmosphere of this album. She pulls it off.

luci
August 30th 2019


11669 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

it was the 4th single from this album actually. the upbeatness makes it a slight outlier but it's positioned well in the tracklist and is an excellent cover overall.



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