Norman F***ing Rockwell is Lana Del Rey’s finest album yet. It is complex, tender, and beautiful both lyrically and musically.
Following the string of singles that were released prior to the album, expectations were high for the big drop. In spite of our high expectations, Del Rey exceeds them all with what may be one of, if not the strongest album of 2019.
The titular track and album opener begins with mellow piano and melancholy lyrics. “Goddamn, man-child,” she sings followed by cutting lines like “Your poetry’s bad and you blame the news.”
The subsequent track “Mariners Apartment Complex” is a four-minute ballad charged with love and loss. The lyrics are complex, referencing struggles of sexism which don’t shout out female empowerment but instead soulfully proclaim the double-standards of the music industry. It’s heartfelt, powerful and alongside “Venice Bitch”, the piano tracks perfectly prelude Del Rey’s roaring single “F**k It I Love You.”
Del Rey’s cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” is a surprisingly poignant moment on the record. She does not modify the lyrics but pays homage to the original while equally putting her own stance on it. The tracks that follow are typically where a 14 track album would start to wilt. And yet despite being 67 minutes long, there are no songs that have us reaching for the skip button. Each track pulls us a deeper into a space where it feels Lana Del Rey is speaking to us personally, confessing her secrets as a friend would over a bottle of wine.
The album finale “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it” is nothing short of a masterpiece. She declares herself as a “24/7 Sylvia Plath”, singing of the “monsters still under my bed that I could never fight off.” The track is a mournful meditation on the singer’s battle with alcoholism, her struggles with fame and feelings of alienation. Only a true poet could get away with comparing themselves to Sylvia Plath and yet we don’t find ourselves dwelling on it.
The album closer is a candid conclusion to a record that holds the self up to the light and examines it fiercely and thoroughly. Norman F***ing Rockwell is an exceptional album which establishes Lana Del Rey as one of the most powerful lyricists of her generation. She has produced a beautiful album which lived up to the hype and sees Del Rey at the peak of her songwriting career.