Lana Del Rey
Norman Fucking Rockwell


3.4
great

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
August 30th, 2019 | 527 replies


Release Date: 08/31/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Pretty. Empty.

Any artist as dependent on Americana as Lana Del Rey is giving themselves over to a delusional worldview. An idealized past is formed from the songwriting clay, given shape by music and lyrics, and made ambulatory by listeners who feel the same hunger for a time that never existed, at least not for more than a few people. As she sings on Norman Fucking Rockwell, “You make me feel there’s something I never knew I wanted.” This is largely an innocent endeavor, not any more sinister than other types of fiction. However, it is important to remember that it is a fiction, and its edifice – however beautiful – is only as strong as the thematic foundation underneath. NFR stands on shaky ground.

But the edifice sure is pretty. Jack Antonoff deserves a lot of credit for the album’s unity. His piano- and guitar-driven pop sound has proven surprisingly malleable, and it fits Del Rey’s voice very well. Rife with grace notes and strings, the title track presents placid waters for her to float atop, and when she slips into a falsetto at the end, repeating the word “blue,” he submerges her beneath the production, like a baptism. “Mariners Apartment Complex” starts out like a barn-storming ballad before, fittingly, quieting down for Del Rey’s rumination about gender stereotypes and how rewarding it can be to subvert them within a relationship. The ten-minute “Venice Bitch” is pretty and an admirable experiment, but it slightly buckles under the weight of its length, and Del Rey doesn’t seem to know how to ad-lib in an interesting way, settling for a lot of mumbled “la la”-ing.

Cutting the songs that Antonoff didn’t produce would have made the album much stronger. Her cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” seems appropriate for her but is ultimately pointless, the first song to break the reverie of NFR after the strong opening quartet. In the album’s latter half, “California”, “The Next Best American Record”, and “Bartender” all sound vaguely cohesive but have sections that drag, and their proximity to each other means that the back half of the album is not nearly as strong as the front. “California” is the best of them because of its verses, echoing the gender subversion of “Mariners…” and mimicking Antonoff’s piano before losing its momentum with an interminable mid-tempo chorus. “…American Record” is even slower, and its lyrics are probably the weakest on the album (“All roads lead to you, like the 405 I drive through”). “Bartender” is an intriguing look at Del Rey’s struggles with fame and stalkers, but her stuttering repetition of “bar-t-t-tender” during the songs closing minutes is grating and nearly ruins the song.

Throughout, Norman Fucking Rockwell is so apolitical that its lack of politics almost swings back around toward making a social statement by accident. This is music for and about the idle rich, full of lyrics about shiftless days spent dancing, fucking, and getting high in Los Angeles. When she writes about love, there is always a beautiful longing, always a desire to do something to someone or have something done to her (desires that often seem to go unfulfilled). She is easy to relate to in those moments, but as the album continues past sixty minutes, the emptiness at the heart of the album becomes apparent. The world presented here is so insular as to be nearly impenetrable: a life lived in a bathing suit during the day and a party dress at night. Dancing and diamonds are omnipresent, but so is a sadness exemplifying everything missing from a life that’s had any kind of meaning scooped out and replaced with something worse than nostalgia, with a need for a nostalgia that never quite comes because the past was never fulfilling. Del Rey doesn’t open a window into her life or identity, choosing instead to make tiny incisions where the bone is already close to the skin. Her willingness to repeat phrases and ideas feels less thematic than lazy, especially on an album as long as NFR.

Still, this is her best album yet, and great moments abound amidst the fat. The piano coda of “The Greatest”, the tender and gorgeously sung “Love Song”, the abandon of “Fuck It, I Love You” are just a few. And closer “Hope is a Dangerous Thing…” even has something of Leonard Cohen about it, a stark piano ballad dominated by her voice and her inimitable phrasings – “tearing around in my fucking night gown,” “serving up God in a burnt coffee pot,” “she never cared less, and I never cared more, so there’s no more to say about that.” It’s the only song on the album that finally peeks past the curtain of idealized Americana and catches a glimpse of a hungry and formless void, swallowing love and dancing and drugs but never filling up.



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user ratings (308)
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Slex CONTRIBUTOR (5)
I was one thing, now I’m being another...


Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2019


900 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

"I’m really not more of a liberal than I am a Republican — I’m in the middle."



- lana del rey, a very political person

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 30th 2019


44650 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

well she might as well be a nazi then amirite

Digging: Louis Cole - Time

Sinternet
August 30th 2019


20274 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

cancelled this hoe

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2019


900 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

like taylor swift, yeah

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 30th 2019


44650 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

nah taylor swift has a black friend, havent u seen the music video

Sinternet
August 30th 2019


20274 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

where might one purchase this 'black friend'?

budgie
August 30th 2019


12866 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

"I’m really not more of a liberal than I am a Republican — I’m in the middle."



hmmm

Digging: Men I Trust - Oncle Jazz

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
August 30th 2019


7998 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Glad we’re on the same page here cheers

Digging: Blood Cultures - Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2019


900 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

ha, i like your writing and your review, but obviously i don't see the political side of this album that you do

alamo
August 30th 2019


1733 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i dont see how the sublime cover could be pointless, it brings variety to the record as its most upbeat moment. like you can argue it ruins the mood or something which i disagree because it fits perfectly but just calling it "pointless" makes it seem like its a filler track with no purpose, which it objectively isnt

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
August 30th 2019


7998 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No problem, I’m glad to see a different opinion and I’m always excited to see a review from you

Stormheart
August 30th 2019


231 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice review chan!

Digging: Glassjaw - Worship and Tribute

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2019


900 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

i dont see how the sublime cover could be pointless, it brings variety to the record as its most upbeat moment. like you can argue it ruins the mood or something which i disagree because it fits perfectly but just calling it "pointless" makes it seem like its a filler track with no purpose, which it objectively isnt




it's a filler track with no purpose

alamo
August 30th 2019


1733 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ಠ_ಠ

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 30th 2019


44650 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

i mean the purpose of that cover is probably to have a momentary respite from the ball-draining lifelessness of the rest of the album

Hellscythe
August 30th 2019


4145 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

never thought something would actually make me like a Sublime song

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

nolerthebowler
August 30th 2019


3963 Comments


O B J E C T I V E L Y

covers on commercial albums should happen more often tbh

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 30th 2019


44650 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

was the best part here so why not

luci
August 30th 2019


11641 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I don't understand the assumption in the review that she should be expected to be political in her art. So what if it's apolitical? The record aims to capture the spirit of the modern era on a social/cultural level, the complex emotions of watching a world spiral into chaos. Overt political messaging seems like it would detract from that goal.

I also don't see why she should be expected to "open a window into her life or identity." I find it refreshing how she can convey deeply personal emotions through oblique references and without disclosing private details. It sets her apart from artists with a hyper confessional style that lay it all out there.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 30th 2019


44650 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

the last thing i want to hear about is white celebrities political views anyway so i have to agree that it would be a refreshing asset if i enjoyed this



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