Lana Del Rey makes fans emotional with first new album in two years

Written By Mya Burns, Copy Editor

On Aug. 30, 2019, Lana Del Rey released her newest album named “Norman F****** Rockwell!” Although it had been only two years since her last album, for fans it felt like decades.

Norman Rockwell was an American painter and illustrator whose art depicted the everyday lives of Americans. According to an interview from Vanity Fair, Lana Del Rey said that for her and the producer of the album, Jack Antonoff, the title of the album is poking fun at the current “American Dream” and also at news headlines that we are being inundated with relating to various interpretations of American values.

The title track starts out calling the subject of the song a “man child,” which sets the tone for the rest of the song. Many of Del Rey’s songs usually discuss men that she loves but are emotionally unavailable to her in some way. They don’t typically criticize the subject except to say that they hurt her. However, this song is almost exclusively about the shortcomings of the subject. With lines like “your poetry’s bad and you blame the news,” and “you act like a kid even though you stand 6’2.” Lana is pointing out something that I think everyone will experience at some point: someone that loves to hear themselves talk. He writes poetry and is always talking, but what is he really saying? Most of his ideas are just repeated and watered-down versions of ideas that women said first but he never hesitates to explain everything to people around him. This is illustrated really well in the line, “you talk to the walls when the party gets bored of you.” Sometimes, you can only take so much of this man child before you find excuses to talk to someone else.

Next up on the album we have “Mariners Apartment Complex.” This song is very similar to the sentiment of the first song but sounds a little bit more exasperated. The first two lines of the song, “You took my sadness out of context, at the Mariners Apartment Complex,” really hit for me. In recent years, I and a lot of my friends have experienced relationships with the men mentioned in the first song where they would romanticize our sadness or use it to explain why the relationship was toxic. The next line, “I ain’t no candle in the wind,” shows that now Lana doesn’t want her role in a relationship to be the person that guides or saves her partner. She can be there for you as a lover, but not as a mother.

“Venice B**** ” is the next song on the album. This song is one that I think most directly references the theme of Norman Rockwell and paints a scene of an ideal American life. Although the American dream has definitely morphed over the years, I think that there is still an ideal of how our generation would love to live as an adult. Our generation wants to be in a relationship filled with passion, lust and just a little bit of hardship to have something to complain about. A relationship filled with art, and anything but a 9 to 5 job. Lana describes that kind of wonderful dream in this song. “You’re in the yard, I light the fire, And as the summer fades away, Nothing gold can stay, You write, I tour, we make it work, You’re beautiful and I’m insane, We’re American-made.” I think this line summarizes the tone of the entire album, showing the ideal relationship through Lana’s eyes. Later in the song, she directly says “Give me Hallmark,” showing the fantasy aspect of this relationship.

“F*** it I love you” is the fourth song on the album and one of my least favorites. However, I still think that it embodies the theme of the album well. In this song, Lana describes the feeling of finally giving in to your feelings for another person and although it hurts it also feels so good. The light, airy chorus is contrasted with the dark verses where Lana talks darkly about the way she’s living and how its killing her. However, she still puts all of that behind and will “turn the radio on, dancing to a pop song,” showing how the love she’s feeling makes her forget, even for a short time, all of the bad feelings she’s having when she’s alone.

When I first listened to the fifth song on the album, I really disliked it. “Doin’ Time” really didn’t sound like Lana to me, and the lyrics really threw me off. However, once I discovered that it’s a cover of a song by the same name by Sublime, I appreciated it a little bit more. Although I really still don’t care for the sound of the song, I can appreciate how the sounds mesh with the rest of the album and how the themes of the lyrics fit. Although, I do kind of wish that Lana wrote this about a girl that she was in romantic love with, because I would love for Lana to be a canon bisexual.

To me, “Love song” is the most stereotypically Lana-sounding song on the entire album. The piano and strings in this song add minimal instrumentals to accompany Lana’s lyrics about this love that seems to be genuinely good to her. It also sounds very similar to a lot of songs from her album “Born to Die,” referencing fast cars, reckless living, passionate love and being a star. The line “be my once in a lifetime” made my heart flip because that sentiment is definitely how you feel at the beginning of an exciting relationship. Every new relationship feels like the only thing in the world that matters at that time in your life.

“Cinnamon Girl” is very similar to “Love song” sonically, but the lyrics are very different. This love sounds like the second half of a new relationship that isn’t working, where you realize that things aren’t as picture perfect as you anticipated. Communication closes up, things become more distant and there’s things that are left unsaid because you don’t know if it will be the thing that causes everything to fall apart. Themes of this song that seem very Lana are the mention of “the pills that you take, violet, blue, green and red, to keep me at arms length.” Many of the men that Lana sings about are unavailable to her or pushing her away in some way, but that seems to just draw her in. The line in this song that really stuck with me was “If you hold me without hurting me, you’ll be the first who ever did.” This line is so deeply sad and full of pain. Lana, you deserve a lover that treats you right! Someone tell her that she deserves the world, please.

Although I love “How to disappear,” there isn’t really anything about the song that’s new to this album. Another man that is rough-and-tumble, fights, does drugs and keeps Lana at arm’s length. But, somehow, she still loves him deeply. Seems like Lana has a type and it isn’t a good one.

“California” continues the theme of longing and regret that are featured in “Cinnamon Girl” and “How to disappear.” In this song, Lana sings about regretting not reaching out to a loved one that used to be around but no longer is. Some have speculated that this song could be about her ex-boyfriend, Barrie James O’Neill, who moved out of the country after their break. Others think it could be about a loved one that took their own life. If that’s the case, the lines “I shouldn’t have done it but I read it in your letter, You said to a friend that you wish you were doing better, I wanted to reach out but I never said a thing” become much more painful than if they were about a lost lover. Whichever case it is, this song really puts you in your bag fast.

The “Next Best American Record” takes the listener back to a feeling of American nostalgia. It mentions lots of places and parts of pop culture that are references to staples of 70s, 80s and 90s culture, such as the Eagles and Led Zeppelin. It also seems to sound very similar to a lot of Lana’s older music from “Born to Die.” Towards the end of the song, Lana sings “It’s you, all the roads lead to you, Everything I want and do, all the things that I say.” This line sounds very similar to the chorus of her older song “Video Games:” “It’s you, it’s you, everything I do, I tell you all the time.” This song takes you back in time to “Born to Die” in 2012 but sounds so good it holds up in 2019.

“The Greatest,” the next song on the album, continues this theme very well, this time with more of a sarcastic and satirical feel. Lana expresses how much she misses the culture of the past few years, as well as some things that happened quite a while ago. She references the wildfires in California, Kanye West going blonde, the Beach Boys and more. She’s nostalgic for all of these things and thinks that if this is it, maybe she is really done with the pop culture scene after all. “The culture is lit, and if this is it, I had a ball, I guess that I’m burned out after all.”

“Bartender” is another slower song. It’s another love song referencing a romance filled with fast cars, drinking and a love that Lana has to struggle to save. She sounds less sad than in “Cinnamon Girl,” but the relationship still sounds filled with longing and sadness.

“Happiness is a butterfly” is yet another sad love song. This song describes a romance on a night out on the town. The love in the song, much like happiness, is hard to grasp and maintain, just like a butterfly. Another part of this song that really hit home and hurts your heart is the line “If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst that could happen to a girl that’s already hurt?” It’s really hard for women who’ve been in toxic or abusive relationships in the past to realize that they deserve better. Although Lana might not be explicitly referencing a cycle of abuse, it definitely seems like she’s referenced this a lot both in this album and throughout her career. It’s really sad to see lines like this be relatable to so many people, but unfortunately that’s the case in a lot of people’s lives.

The last song on the album is “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have— but I have it.” This song is the song that most directly references Lana’s depression. She calls it a “black narcissist” on her back, saying “She couldn’t care less and I’ve never cared more.” This song illustrates pretty clearly the feeling that when you have a mental illness, it sometimes feels pointless to have any kind of hope for the future, even reckless. But you still have it, and that’s what keeps you able to fight to get better. The line “Don’t ask if I’m happy, you know that I’m not, but at best, I can say I’m not sad,” is another really great line. Those who struggle with mental illness know that it’s sometimes impossible to say that you’re happy, but being able to say that you’re not sad is almost as good.

Overall, I’m glad that Lana has returned with this album. It shows a lot of growth in her personality as a songwriter. She’s shown a more stable side of herself, one that’s able to stand up to men that aren’t good to her and one that recognizes that she isn’t happy but is able to continue to fight for herself and her career.