Lana Del Rey’s sixth album Norman F**king Rockwell stands out because of the title alone, but is captivating for more reasons than one.
Lana Del Rey’s music has a reputation of repetitive melancholic lyrics and moody sounds, appealing to her predominantly young, female audience. With songs such as “Born to Die” and “Dark Paradise”, Del Rey invokes a feeling of heartbreak and angst into the listener.
Although her previous albums have much acclaim and are very well known, her sound has gotten more formulaic over the years. Norman F**king Rockwell is a step in a new direction for her, breaking away from her songs of tragic lovers and opening a new well of emotion and lyrical genius. NFR! feels like Lana Del Rey’s most stripped down album, focusing on the meaning behind the lyrics, piano ballads and strung out instrumentals.
One of the highlights of the album is “Mariners Apartment Complex”, a ballad that deals with a tragic romance, which seems to be a frequent topic for Del Rey. The ballad is filled with soulful lyrics such as “I f**ked up, I know that, but Jesus/Can’t a girl just do the best she can?”, opening up about her feelings of insecurity and doubt. We start to see more emotions than the melancholy and heartbreak Lana has given us in the past. We start to see Del Rey break through emotions like concern, regret and doubt.
Del Rey also strips it down in her song “The greatest”, using an almost sarcastic tone to sing about the end of the world. There are many nods to pop culture figures in the songs on the album, singing “I miss the bar where the Beach Boys would go / Dennis’ last stop before Kokomo” in “The greatest”. She also pays tribute to Elton John in the song “Norman F**king Rockwell”, saying the phrase “I ain’t no candle in the wind.” We also get a sleepy and electric cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time”, Del Rey putting her own twist on the classic. The title in itself is a nod to another pop culture figure, Norman Rockwell. Del Rey chose the title to put a twist on his idea of the American Dream, rewriting it with her album, Norman F**king Rockwell.
Although most of the tracks on Del Rey’s album are great pieces that are breaking her out of her mold, there are some moments when the lyrics seem to slip back into the mournful and poetic sound her older tracks had. Despite the few dips in the lyrics that can be seen throughout the 14 song record, each song Del Rey has put out is filled with rich and soulful vocals and calming strings and piano ballads that accompany it.
Norman F**king Rockwell is a great album that is a step into a fresh new direction for Del Rey and her new music. Del Rey has traded the outdated and tragic poetic prose for lyrics that hold genuine meaning and deep emotion. The authenticity of her stipped down belts and beautifully orchestrated instrumentals mean a new age for Del Rey’s vision of the classic American Dream. Although Lana Del Rey has already held the title of a talented songwriter, NFR! Exhibits a side of her than she has not shown the industry previously, but she will hopefully continue to show.