Norman F***ing Rockwell Review

Discover the artistry of Lana Del Rey’s new album


Sourced from Time Magazine

Filled with 14 chilling, melancholy songs, Lana Del Rey’s sixth album was released to the world on Aug. 30, 2019. Her album title is, “Norman F***ing Rockwell.”

Del Rey has filled all her previous songs with references to American culture. For this album, she wanted to name it after Norman Rockwell, who was an American author, painter and a major well-known political figure in the 20th century. In a Vanity Fair interview, Del Rey said that her reason behind the title is that Rockwell’s works exemplified his idea of the American dream and adding a swear word in his name will make a statement about current affairs in the country. 

The album itself is littered with piano ballads and guitar solos. The music resembles ‘70s soft rock music mixed with classic pop sounds. Each song has its own unique feeling of sadness, which is a recurring theme in her work. The way Del Rey sings is nostalgic but eerie and goes along perfectly with every somber note. In most of the songs, her haunting voice is heard with a lone instrument playing in the background. It is enough to never become boring. The sudden dynamic changes and the long pauses before each word fill the mind with much to think and feel. Listening with headphones on, the sorrowful music clouds the ears and makes it easy to drown in the blue feelings. 

Lana Del Rey promoting an album in Seattle in March 2012

As much as the music is important to a song, the lyrics are equally important. Del Rey has placed many Americana references in this album as well. The second track, “Mariners Apartment Complex,” has the phrase “I ain’t no candle in the wind,” referring to Elton John’s famous song about Marilyn Monroe, “Candle in the Wind.” She pays homage to Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s song “Dream A Little Dream of Me” in her song “F*** it, I love you” and Joni Mithcell’s 1971 song “California” in her song “California.” Del Rey also references her past songs like “Summertime Sadness” and “Radio.” She uses words and phrases like “the blues” and “summertime” to help create and bring across a hopeless, depressing tone. Del Rey has the ability to paint a story with her songs just like Rockwell had the talent to paint about the heartfelt lives of Americans. She pulls stories from her real life to create a fictional story for her songs. She is a poet in a way, one who writes about her past alcoholic self, relationships long gone and controversies she was in or interviews that went wrong.

Lana Del Rey also tackles the social and political conflicts happening today in her songs. The track with the most mentions of current news is “The Greatest.” She uses this song to criticize the status of the world and the chaotic state of living in it. She also sings about L.A. being engulfed in flames in her lyrics “L.A. is in flames, it’s getting hot.” Interestingly, the album cover shows the coast in the background burning. In her lyrics “Kanye West is blonde and gone,” Del Rey also criticizes Kanye West bleaching his hair blonde to support Donald Trump, becoming a carbon copy of Trump and republican rhetoric and disrupting his image of one who fought for racial justice. She ends the song with “‘Life on Mars’ ain’t just a song” to reference one of David Bowie’s best-known songs “Life on Mars” and the possibility of living on Mars, with the Earth dying of global warming and advancing technologies.

Her last track on the album is called “Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but I have it.” “Hope is a dangerous thing” is a quote by the character Red in the 1994 prison film “The Shawshank Redemption.” Del Rey gender-flips this quote to drive home her feministic point of view, especially for the rise of feminism in the past decade. Hope can be dangerous to have because it can drive one crazy, but she brings her theme across, which is spending time with and being there for one another is the greatest hope she has. 

“Norman F***ing Rockwell” is a great album to listen to when boredom steals the show or when background music is needed. Lana Del Rey is a genius when it comes to writing lyrics for her song because she effortlessly blends her theme into her story. She was able to put her own political views into songs about her childhood and struggles in life. She has the capability to whisk any listener away to a wistful, alternate reality.