Lana Del Rey
Norman Fucking Rockwell!


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
June 2nd, 2020 | 32 replies


Release Date: 08/31/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If this is it, I had a ball

Norman Fucking Rockwell! is an album all about endings. In ways both subtle and obvious, Elizabeth Grant imbues her greatest achievement to date with poetic allusions to death. Whether it’s The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson drowning at Marina Del Rey, which she delicately coins as his “last stop before Kokomo” (in this case, the fictional island symbolizes the unknown ether of post-existence), the figurative death of culture expressed through Kanye West dyeing his hair blonde (while seemingly losing all sense/sanity afterwards), or something as simple as a waning summer afternoon (“As the summer fades away, nothing gold can stay”), Norman Fucking Rockwell! suffers no shortage of metaphors. All of these people, seasons, or ideas once burned fervently, but they eventually lost their fire. Put in plainer terms, it’s an “all good things must come to an end” axiom. At one point she compares this inevitable cycle to nights spent partying and getting high, singing, “Those nights were on fire / We couldn't get higher / We didn't know that we had it all…”, recalling a youthful vibrance or drug/alcohol-induced high that can’t last forever, eventually cautioning – “But nobody warns you before the fall.” Norman Fucking Rockwell! represents a universal sadness centered around loss – in this case, of seasons, relationships, highs, fame, and entire civilizations...they’re all transient. Thus, Norman Fucking Rockwell! is a gorgeous blurring of these concepts that arrives at an aching realization about the present: we’re all we’ve got, and tomorrow is no guarantee.

The result is something of an apathetic apocalypse. You can’t turn the clocks back to yesterday, and that orange glow with billowing smoke on the horizon doesn’t look promising, so what’s left to do besides drink, smoke, and fuck? In a lot of ways, it feels like the damage is already done – to the planet, to common decency, to each other – and can’t be repaired. A famous post-rock artist once said: We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death. It’s this fatal purgatory where we’re literally just passing the time until something sets off a chain of horrific events. There’s a permeating sense of dread and paranoia that we’re going to live to see the grand finale, which is why, perhaps unintentionally, Norman Fucking Rockwell! speaks to us so fluently. Grant’s potent ambiguities are just tangible enough to latch onto – these elegiac ballads that quietly accept defeat as we stare down the ocean, our collective ship sinking. It’s our Nearer, My God, to Thee.

Yet, Lana Del Rey does not seem too concerned. Maybe it’s because she never intended for this album to be a vessel for our panic. After all, Norman Fucking Rockwell! isn’t in itself political; it merely lights the fire upon which we willingly throw our perceptions like kindling. It’s the sort of catalytic art that can ignite anything from revolution to apathy. It merely depends on who the onlookers are. In a world where tensions are at an all-time high, a piece that so eloquently expresses futility and hopeless damnation could serve as a rallying cry for last ditch revolutionaries who still see equal rights, the environment, or world peace as salvageable. After all, even just a little hope is a dangerous thing, and when Elizabeth Grant triumphantly sings, "When everyone's talking, you can make a stand", you can almost witness her transformation from hopeless tribute to mockingjay. On the stoic closer and veritable women's rights anthem, she dreamily prophesizes that "There's a new revolution, a loud evolution that I saw...", and again, one can't help but wonder if all of the apathy was merely a smokescreen designed to cover these subtly immersed, almost covert messages of unifying revolution. Or, maybe that's insane - but again, provocative art in the right setting is capable of eliciting such reactions. It's both dangerous and incredibly important.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
June 2nd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

...I guess I'm signing off after all?

As eerily indicative of the present as this sounds, I've actually had this written since last December. Was originally going to save this for review #500, and flesh it out a bit with more musical description, but in light of current events I just felt like publishing it now and as-is. I realize she was recently mired in a small controversy of her own, so maybe she's not the artist to preach revolution - but it's all in one's perception, I suppose.

Digging: Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


26492 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i thought that controversy was rooted in her lack of perception ;]

disagreed with a good deal of this, as expected, but a lovely read all the same - the second paragraph in particular is a lovely fleshing out of what this one's all about

Digging: Hum - Inlet

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


16432 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that score, johnny : o

Kompys2000
June 2nd 2020


4176 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Well-written as always Sowing, though I definitely bristled a bit at that reference to GY!BE lol

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 2nd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Haha. I knew it's blasphemous to reference GY!BE in a review of a pop album. But that line is too fitting right now.

Kompys2000
June 2nd 2020


4176 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Oh I absolutely agree that that line fits our current cultural moment to a tee, I just think Godspeed and LDR reach wildly different (and fundamentally incompatible) conclusions from that basic acknowledgement.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 2nd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I see where you're coming from but I actually disagree (only slightly). GY!BE is narrating it whereas LDR's perspective is more immersive. It's like a prediction vs. someone living the actual outcome. That's just my opinion, of course. I certainly understand the contrast in styles & intensity between GY!BE and LDR, haha.

luci
June 2nd 2020


12407 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

great piece, you tap into why this will likely be viewed as a generational record. it's both understated and inclusive of big feelings about the world, you can take what you want from it.

the gybe link is interesting because of the contexts in which we're interpreting apocalyptic art. we took gybe's music as fiction, but with current events we're experiencing emotions about the end of the world that we don't fully understand. i'd draw a dividing line between stuff like gybe and "new apocalypse" works. thinkpiece material

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


19442 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

is this your last review then?

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 2nd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nah lol. I've come too far to stop short of 500. No clue what it will be now though. Probably some low key indie album as usual lol.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


19442 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hahaha fair fair

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 2nd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@luci yeah no idea why the gy!be quote popped into my head, it just did. The funny thing is I wrote this review 6 months ago. Even the line "In a world where tensions are at an all-time high" were penned a long, long time ago (funny what a pandemic and nationwide riot will do to alter perspective). That's why I decided to drop this review now. I agree with what you said, too, about GY!BE's narrative feeling like fiction, whereas this is just LDR casually pointing out how fucked we all are.

Tunaboy45
June 3rd 2020


17162 Comments


Great write-up Sowing, this album marks the first time I've ever actually enjoyed any of her music. Brilliant stuff.

Egarran
June 3rd 2020


16742 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, still digging a handful of these songs.



I watched the guys getting high as they fight

For the things that they hold dear

To forget the things they fear

Digging: Descend - The Deviant

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 3rd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks both of you! I don't usually admit it, but I'm actually proud of how this one turned out.

This is definitely one of my top albums of the decade despite being relatively new. She just hits a new level here.

Romulus
June 3rd 2020


8745 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

love the review! i'm slowly coming around to the idea that this is her best. it's certainly the one that i find most top-to-bottom consistent

Gyromania
June 3rd 2020


30062 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Gud review mang

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 3rd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks but that 2.5 hurts my eyes dude!

Ryus
June 3rd 2020


18799 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

after track 3ish this gets pretty bad

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 3rd 2020


34908 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I agree that there's a slight lull after track 3, but I'll be damned if the back half of this isn't incredible. How to Disappear, The Greatest, Happiness Is a Butterfly, and Hope Is a Dangerous Thing are all 5/5 tracks.









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