Norman F***ing Rockwell review: Lana Del Rey delivers her best album since 2014's Ultraviolence
Lana Del Rey had produced Norman F*****g Rockwell alongside Jack Antonoff, Zach Dawes, Laura Sisk and her long time collaborator Rick Nowles.
Lana Del Rey welcomed sad girl autumn with her new album, Norman F******g Rockwell. Produced mostly alongside Jack Antonoff, also behind Lorde’s Melodrama and Taylor Swift’s Lover, NFR is, in her words, “a folk record with a little surf twist.” Zach Dawes, Laura Sisk and Del Rey's long time collaborator Rick Nowles have also assisted in its production.
The name takes inspiration from the artist Norman Rockwell, remembered for his illustrations of 20th century America, which have often been perceived as sentimental and idealistic. Del Rey has always celebrated her country — its wealth, power and influence — but NFR takes on the overly romanticised notion of the "American Dream", in a way only she can pull off. From singing about daddies, fast cars, jewellery and cocaine, her music has lately taken a political route (Like the single 'Looking For America' is about the growing epidemic of gun violence).
As the warmth of the piano washes over, Del Rey sings in the titular track, "God damn man-child." It mocks the soft boi, who is pretentious, insufferable and lacks self-awareness. The slow tempo number's wry humour will definitely make you chuckle. Inside 'Mariners Apartment Complex' she is in control ("I ain't no candle in the wind"), intent on fixing the broken man she loves ("You lose your way, just take my hand/ You're lost at sea, then I'll command your boat to me again").
The best track on the record is the nine-minute-long acid trip that is 'Venice Bitch'. Antonoff's generous use of reverb, the muddy electric guitar and sprawling synth, dip into '60s nostalgia. She even references Tommy James & Shondells' 'Crimson and Clover' in the bridge.
'Fuck It I Love You' sounds like a dreamy, syrupy romantic number, but addresses drug addiction. Maybe it's about the ongoing opioid epidemic in the US or her own brush with substance abuse. "Dream a little dream of me," she sings to her lover, alluding to the 1931 song. 'Doin Time' is a trip hop-infused cover of Sublime's 1996 song, where she takes on the role of the "evil girlfriend".
'Love Song' as the name suggests is a ballad, but it would fit better in Born to Die. It transitions to 'Cinnamon Girl', where she explores the dilemma of knowingly being in an unhealthy relationship ("Violet, blue, green, red to keep me at arm's length don't work/ You try to push me out, but I just find my way back in"). 'How to disappear' follows the same motif, but also takes a dig at masculine norms ("Cuts on his face 'cause he fought too hard" or even "He moves mountains and pounds them to ground again"). Del Rey builds an ornate fantasy, which never comes to fruition.
Second to 'Venice Bitch' is the broody 'California', combining her love for the state and her significant other. 'The Next Best American Record' references Led Zeppelin's House of Holy. It comes close to 'Summertime Sadness' or even 'Video Games' in terms of the catchy chorus. In 'The greatest', she reminisces about the times gone. The hypnotic electric guitar soars in this track as she comments on being "burned out" at the stagnant state of affairs. See it as a commentary on the oblivion most people adopt in the face of the ongoing crises in the world.
'Bartender' and 'happiness is a butterfly' fly by and the album comes to a well-rounded conclusion with 'hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it.' She compares herself to the feminist poet Sylvia Plath, summoning a very grim picture, but despite all the sadness, she will persevere.
It is safe to say that NFR is the best body of work she has put out since Ultraviolence (2014). The album is a lush masterpiece with psychedelic rock and soft rock influences, and witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. NFR is quintessential Del Rey, just somehow better.
Listen to NFR here.
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