Norman Fucking Rockwell! is many things—a combination of soft rock and piano ballads, a string of pop culture references to famous artists, a rumination on the tumultuous relationships, and the culmination of Lana Del Rey’s career. Since her beginnings with the viral debut single “Video Games” in 2011, the singer has been characterized by a unique, cinematic quality driven heavily by themes of romanticism and depression. Despite commercial success and solid critical acclaim from records such as Ultraviolence and Lust for Life, there’s always been a slight incoherence in her content, missing a measure of realism and depth. Released Aug. 30, NFR resolves these issues as Del Rey perfects her personal brand of melancholy.

The album is almost entirely produced by the duo of Del Rey and singer–songwriter Jack Antonoff,  the guitarist and lead singer in indie bands such as Bleachers and Fun. Through a lengthy guitar solo in “Venice Bitch” or a soothing set of chords accompanying “Mariners Apartment Complex," the two develop instrumentals that share the spotlight with Del Rey’s vocals. However, the singer’s lyricism and range are the highlight of the album, particularly as she dissects the emotional spectrum of relationships.


Diving into the titular opening track, Del Rey immediately presents the first of numerous love dichotomies that exist throughout the album. She notes that her romantic partner is utterly lacking in maturity and talent, yet she accepts that she “can’t change that” and croons “why wait for the best when I could have you?” Here, the singer profoundly articulates how individuals settle in relationships with others despite their partner's faults.


The rest of the record builds off of this narrative. For instance, the 9–minute masterpiece “Venice Bitch” furthers the theme of the opening track. It begins with the lines “Fear fun, fear love” before Del Rey launches into pure, effusive desire for her lover, saying “You’re beautiful and I’m insane/We’re American–made.” In this case, the singer flips the mindset of the track “Norman Fucking Rockwell” brilliantly, showcasing how perspectives differ between people and over time. Songs such as “Fuck It I Love You”, “Cinnamon Girl”, and “How to Disappear” deal with the impact of drugs in the downfall of Del Rey’s past relationships, sometimes being her own fault and other times being her partner's. It cautions listeners to prevent addiction from destroying their relationships in a haunting, personal manner. Lastly, “Love Song” and “The Next Best American Record” describe the enjoyment of—and later nostalgia for—toxic romances, capturing the central contradiction of the record by highlighting that individuals are unable to stay away from those who hurt them.


Del Rey also provides insight into her own internal conflicts surrounding addiction, depression and perceptions of the world around her. “Mariners Apartment Complex” refers to her trademark melancholy, reflecting her efforts to overcome it and helping others as she tells the song’s subject “You’ll lose your way, just take my hand/You’re lost at sea, then I’ll command your boat to me again.” Del Rey is able to recognize that the people are in the same position that she was once in, and she serves as a guide for such individuals on the same path to recovery that she followed. However, “The Greatest” shifts the other way, showing her moments of longing towards her times of addiction, unable to deal with her current environment as “L.A. is in flames” and “Kanye West is blond and gone”. Despite bettering herself, the society she is a part of has changed drastically in ways that have shocked her—from the California wildfires to America's support of Donald Trump—and have left her desiring the past. Meanwhile, “Bartender” deals with allusions to Del Rey’s past alcohol addiction and recovery, yet at the same time she sings to the song’s titular figure with a slight stutter, mimicking intoxication.  


The last song on the album, titled “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have—but I Have It”, also deals with the singer’s self–perception, as she cries “Don’t ask if I’m happy, you know that I’m not/But at best, I can say I’m not sad.” In a sense, it merges the notions of depression from Born to Die and Ultraviolence with the happier tone of Lust For Life, and indicates that Del Rey is walking a line somewhere in between. With each of these songs, the singer captures the notion that individuals are always struggling to find balance while being pulled in multiple directions at once.

The record also includes a cover of “Doin’ Time” by the American band Sublime, which serves as a sweet interlude for Del Rey to showcase her range as she smoothly hits every note and adds her own style to the piece.


Norman Fucking Rockwell! proves that Lana Del Rey is at her musical zenith, layering haunting instrumentals with her melancholic vocals and hypnotizing lyrics as she presents her unique perspectives for the listener to interpret. Seven years since the record Born to Die turned her into an international superstar, she’s asserted control over her own sound and outdone all of her competition in the music industry. As of right now, NFR is the album of the year.


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