BY ISABELLA MARCON
Lana Del Rey released her sixth album, “Norman F*cking Rockwell,” on August 30, 2019. The album is a bold, hypnotic response to American Idealism, as if Del Rey is picking up where she left off with the song, “Young and Beautiful,” from “The Great Gatsby.”
Known for being one of the most complicated modern-day singers, Del Rey commonly rejects commercialism in appealing to the masses and aims to please her true fans and her desire to tune to her own muse. For this album, Del Rey unexpectedly traded her recent trap-pop style for a modern-day take on baroque piano ballads and dazzling ‘70s folk.
Norman Rockwell was an American artist famously known for creating paintings capturing the American dream of love, family and success. In whole, Del Rey’s album revisits these themes with the perspective of today’s youth. Due to the album’s complex, puzzle-like themes, there is no real telling whether the title is meant to be sarcastic, cynical or an expression of frustration towards the reality of today’s American dream. The answer is likely “yes” to all of these interpretations.
“Norman F*cking Rockwell” represents a dreamlike blend of nostalgia towards the American dream and the reality of the nightmares of America at its worst. The contrasting perspectives of America collide, creating an album with much deeper meaning than what’s apparent at first listen.
Del Rey leads her album with a confident start and by the third track, “Venice B*tch,” the listener experiences one of the longest and most complex songs on the album. The song includes mainly slow-chord guitar rhythms and creates a relaxing mood, but is jarringly contradicted by the lyrics that remind listeners of the harsh reality that is the American dream.
The contrasting perspectives of America collide, creating an album with much deeper meaning than what’s apparent at first listen.
One of the most prominent lines in the song includes “nothing gold can stay,” which invokes both a Robert Frost poem and S.E. Hinton’s novel “The Outsiders.” If America is where immigrants once dreamed the streets were paved with gold, then Del Rey seems to believe the reality is harsh and unwieldy. If this were a dream of Venice Beach, then Del Rey’s music captures not only the wind, waves and surf, but also the jagged rocks, the trash in the breeze and homeless sleeping on the shore.
One of my favorite songs of the whole album is “How to disappear.” Although the song seems to be about conventional relationships on the surface, upon closer inspection the lyrics are about a damaged view of love, hurt and the ways a person can disappear into an unhealthy relationship. The song ends with the artist disappearing into a typical American life, existing but inconsequential, which is haunting in its truth.
Another strong track is “Happiness is a butterfly,” which is about the pursuit of happiness, a concept at the core of the American way of life. Del Rey says she chases happiness like a butterfly every night, but it’s elusive and short-lived. In the end, it leaves her feeling hurt and cursed, wondering aloud if her lover was serial killer, how much worse could it be. The song evokes a feeling of heartbreak and loneliness, which is, unfortunately, highly relatable for many.
If the parties in the movie “The Great Gatsby” represent nostalgia and the Norman Rockwell view of American life, the “Norman F*cking Rockwell” album is best understood as the morning after. For Del Rey, the memories of the American dream are fading, and what remains is the hope and harshness of the sunrise mixed with the soothing rhythms of the winds and the waves. Overall, the album is a breezy and serious effort that is definitely worth a listen, for both old and new fans.
- Relaxing moods
- Sonically pleasing
- May make you question the reality of the American dream
Photo courtesy of Lana Del Rey