Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Review

Lana Del Rey returns with new record Norman Fucking Rockwell!, once again treating us to self-assured but damaged ballads with a cinematic presence.

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been eight years since Lana Del Rey’s breakthrough album Born to Die was released. Her music has that timeless quality that makes us feel like it’s been a part of our world for decades. With the release of Norman Fucking Rockwell!, we see Lana in similar territory as she once again pulls off the sultry essence with a sound rooted in her love of pop culture and Americana, but this time the tragic romance is accompanied by strength and indifference that’s stronger than ever.

Lead track Norman Fucking Rockwell opens in a gentle but hard-hitting manner as gentle piano leads into lyrics of “God Damn man child, you fucked me so good that I almost said I love you.” It’s a neat trick that makes the listener sit up straight and get ready to not only listen to the music but also pay close attention to the lyrics and poetry that ensue. It’s a gentle opener that is full of flowing melodies but also gently coerces and strongly manipulates.

Venice Bitch carries on the penchant for ‘strength in swears’ with Lana “Fresh out of fucks forever” as the sultry number flows forwards into one of the strongest and prettiest choruses on the record. The trick is continued on Fuck it, I love You as sweet harmonies lead up to hypnotising beats against lyrics of California just being a state of mind. Wafting electronics provide solace to wallow in as Lana portrays her usual image of strength that’s raised by manipulation and problems of the heart. 

Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!

The nostalgia and nods to the past are as strong as ever with the singer referencing heroes and artists that have inspired her, and also relying on those classic cinematic sounds and timeless qualities that we’ve come to expect. Doin’ Time samples Ella Fitzgerald’s Summertime to great effect amongst 90s beats and bass. Love Song revels in all the prettiness of heartbreak against minimal sounds and beautifully paced lyrics. 

As always with Lana Del Rey, the multi-layered and distinct stories of romance play the main part of the record. But instead of feeling like a rehash of old ideas, the strength in lyrics and melodies keeps everything fresh, even if there are no new ideas in the structure of the tracks. California builds mercilessly with the singer’s strength in voice and lyrics growing as the track progresses, whereas Bartender even goes as far as to cite the way she uses music and lyrics as a coping mechanism: “Sometimes Girls just want to have fun, the poetry inside of me is warm like a gun”.

Norman Fucking Rockwell! Is a triumph on songwriting that creates an atmosphere for anyone to get lost in. As always, you can feel the singers pain and humility throughout the record, with the listener playing their part in the stories and emotions that ensue. The synths and electronica are perfectly harmonised with the intermittent soft and gentle piano, with the singer able to perfectly balance what each track needs to make its point. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is one of Lana Del Rey’s strongest records to date, and cements her place as one of the great, sultry songwriters.

Score: 4/5

By Jamie Parmenter

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