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Lana Del Rey | Norman Fucking Rockwell | Album Review

Polydor/Interscope Records
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Lana Del Rey, who once described herself as “gangster Nancy Sinatra,” is living up her self-anointed contradictory label. The opening track of Norman Fucking Rockwell opens with peaceful eastern-inspired instrumentation, followed by the lyrics “Goddamn man-child” in her distinctive contralto voice.

Some tracks, like the melancholy “Love Song,” sound like Del Rey’s signature “sad pop” that she’s perfected over the years. With lyrics like “You know that I’d just die to make you proud,” Del Rey continues her often tragic descriptions of romance.

In other ways, musically, Norman Fucking Rockwell is a bit of a departure, especially compared to her major-label debut Born to Die. Her latest album includes some catchy piano riffs that sound more similar to Billy Joel’s and Elton John’s work from the 1970s than Del Rey’s previous work. The similarity appears to be intentional, as in the track “Mariners Apartment Complex” Del Rey sings, “I ain’t no candle in the wind,” in reference to John’s “Candle in the Wind.”

Elsewhere, “The greatest” sounds like a Paul McCartney ballad. The track, which includes the lyrics, “I miss New York and I miss the music / Me and my friends‚ we miss rock ‘n’ roll,” possibly provides an explanation for the album’s retro vibes; perhaps Del Rey is feeling nostalgic, either for an earlier time in her life or just for the era of classic rock in the 1960s and 1970s. It also explains the reference to Rockwell in the album title and the Andy Warhol-inspired cover art.

Aligning oneself with rock music legends is a risky move, given that it inevitably invites comparisons. However, many of the tracks on Norman Fucking Rockwell, throwback or otherwise, are genuinely well-produced. Del Rey’s voice sounds stronger than in her earlier work, and the “melancholic in LA” lyrics are very distinctive of her public persona. Those who can’t stand Del Rey, either because of her low, breathy voice or because of her dark lyrics, probably won’t like this album either, but for everyone else it’s worth a listen.

 

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