Singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey released the cover art for her sixth studio album, “Norman F------ Rockwell!” on July 31. It features Del Rey and Duke Nicholson posing on a sailboat and was taken by photographer Caroline Grant, Del Rey’s sister. (Photo courtesy of iTunes)
‘Norman Rockwell!’ album blends sultry synthetic beats and sweet string backing tracks for soft rock sound
After hearing a new album once, I listen to it multiple times through reaction videos on YouTube to hear other people’s insight. Lana Del Rey’s newest album, “Norman F——- Rockwell!” (parental advisory for explicit lyrics), released on Aug. 30, is one of my favorites, so I decided it was time to do a reaction of my own.
“Norman f——- Rockwell”
This title track sets the mood and vibe for the rest of the album. Sweet orchestral sounds are joined by strong piano, then Del Rey’s voice comes in. Even without the lyrics, the tone of her voice conveys the love she feels for the subject of this song. At the same time, she criticizes his behavior, which is standard for the rest of the album — sweet songs about how love impacts you and your partner.
Favorite line: “Why wait for the best when I could have you?”
“Mariners Apartment Complex”
A piano’s strong, melancholy theme and acoustic guitar star in this song reminiscent of a folk ballad. Del Rey’s voice is laid-back until the passion hits in the chorus. This song has a more sorrowful feel than the last, providing a nice juxtaposition. You’ll feel misunderstood yet empowered to stay true to yourself. The song ends with techno beats that repeat throughout the album.
Favorite line: “Think about it, the darkness, the deepness. All the things that make me who I am.”
This song’s carelessness fits well with the last. Del Rey’s voice sounds like feathers floating in the wind or an underwater recording. It is a calm, relaxing song, and a long one at that, finishing at 9:37 minutes. I usually skip the last five minutes because it’s just instrumentals, but when I have the time on a car ride or reading a book, I like to appreciate the full length.
Favorite line: “And as the summer fades away, nothing gold can stay.”
“F— it I love you”
The changing pace of Del Rey’s singing and the way she murmurs the lyrics as if in a haze pull me into this song. It is a sweeping experience and is over in the blink of an eye because it fully immerses you.
Favorite line: “It turns out everywhere you go, you take yourself, that’s not a lie.”
This song is very different from the previous ones. First of all, it’s a cover (originally released in 1997 by Sublime), and I really appreciate Del Rey’s choice not to change the she/her pronouns in the lyrics. “Doin’ Time” uses techno beats and synthetic instruments, creating an upbeat, sultry song. This is a song I listen to for its backing music and the beat as much Del Rey’s voice.
Favorite line: “Oh, take this veil from off my eyes. My burning sun will, some day, rise.”
“Love song” brings us back to the sweet ballads Del Rey is known for and away from the starkly techno “Doin Time.” You primarily hear her voice simply accompanied by piano and string accents. Due to the understated instrumentals, her voice remains the focus without any fancy vibrato or high notes. The song is merely a pure, melodic piece about two people facing insecurities.
Favorite line: “Is it safe, is it safe to just be who we are?”
This is one of my favorite songs of the album. It conveys a sense of pain that comes from isolation and the romanticizing of relationships. The piano backing during the verses is simply two notes repeated four times each throughout the song, which amazes me because it shows the musicality of Del Rey’s voice on its own. It would probably be my favorite song if not for the instrumental stretch at the end where a synthetic beat comes out of nowhere. However, if I listen to the album in order, I do like listening through the end because the change in feeling ties into the next song.
Favorite line: “Violet, blue, green, red to keep me at arm’s length don’t work.”
“How to disappear”
This is quickly becoming another favorite despite my initial discombobulation due to the synthetic drums and brass that give a very different tone. The backing music and Del Rey’s voice combine to create a schmaltzy and jazzy tune. It’s like the soundtrack to a tragic story you watch from afar. As in “Doin’ Time,” I appreciate the beat and instrumentals as well Del Rey’s breathy vocals. Although this is a sad song with many stark minor chords, it ends on a hopeful note with a simple major triad.
Favorite line: “He moves mountains and pounds them to ground again.”
This track had to grow on me. It starts out too slowly for my taste, but I really like the rich chorus that builds up then crashes over you like a wave. The chorus redeems the song for me, and the second verse is more engaging than the first as the music gets stronger. However, I still fight the temptation to press “skip” when this track comes on, which is disappointing because I like the lyrics’ message of taking initiative.
Favorite line: “I’ve heard the war was over if you really choose the one in and around you.”
“The Next Best American Record”
The word that comes to mind when listening to this is “hopeful.” The verses, pre-chorus and chorus each build upon the previous to create a feeling of whirlwind romance.
Favorite line: “You made me feel like there’s something that I never knew I wanted.”
This song indeed evokes a sense of greatness — but of a bygone era. The lyrics suggest a fall from grace, but the song itself is fantastic to listen to with flowy vocals accompanying strong instrumentals. I imagine Del Rey saying goodbye to a past life, looking back with wistfulness and longing but still finality.
Favorite line: “We didn’t know that we had it all. But nobody warns you before the fall.”
This is the first song on the album I fell in love with. It starts with strong, rich vocals in the verses, but the chorus is what really got me. The piano in the background creates a cascading waterfall of tension with descending notes, emphasizing the importance of haste in the story being told. An interesting facet of this song is the purposeful stuttering of the word “bartender,” which takes crisp vocals to a new level.
Favorite line: “I bought me a truck in the middle of the night. It’ll buy me a year if I play my cards right.”
“Happiness is a butterfly”
While “Bartender” was my first love, this is my all-time favorite from this album. The feeling I get from it is frustration: being tired, angry and sad with yourself and others. It has no faults for me, which is an impressive feat. There are four distinct melodies to this song, and I love all of them. The song transitions from self-pity and acceptance of trauma to picking yourself up and demanding more.
Favorite line: “If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst that could happen to a girl who’s already hurt?”
“hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it”
Raw and all-telling, this song highlights Del Rey’s unfettered voice and emotions by limiting the accompaniment to a piano. The song discusses holding on to hope, yet conveys a sense of hopelessness. Hope bursts through only in the final moments of the song, when the words “but I have it” are sung, a fitting end to the album.
Favorite line: “They write that I’m happy, they know that I’m not. But at best, you can see I’m not sad.”
—By Sarina Rye
Originally published in the Nov. 12 edition of the Octagon.