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Much like her early releases, brooding melodies and slow-tempos lay the foundation for Lana Del Rey’s sultry vocals and musical tributes on sixth studio album, Normal F***king Rockwell.
Primarily produced by Del Rey and pop hit-maker extraordinaire Jack Antonoff, the album offers all the scuzzy nostalgia fans have grown to love in the eight years and five albums since Del Rey’s – real name Elizabeth Grant – breakthrough in 2011, but with the addition of elegantly drawn-out piano and slow-burning guitar solos.
While one might expect more of a pop slant, due to the addition of Antonoff (Taylor Swift, St Vincent, Carly Rae Jepson), NFR is dominated by cinematic ballads laced with twanging guitars and electronic accents.
This runs throughout the first singles released from her latest effort; Mariners Apartment Complex and Venice B***h back in September 2018, and Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It and a pretty dreamy cover version of Sublime’s Doin’ Time earlier this year. This month’s double release of F**k It, I Love You and The Greatest live as standouts on the record.
With album artwork featuring Del Rey and actor Duke Nicholson – grandson of Jack Nicholson – on a yacht, while the city burns in the background, the release is packed full of her usual shout-outs, including nods to musical veterans David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson and American poet Sylvia Plath – a Del Rey favourite. All are mentioned across the record, along with the album’s namesake, American artist, Norman Rockwell.
Sat against 2017’s more overtly hip-hop inspired Lust For Life – featuring cameos from A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd – NFR amplifies the emotion.
Somewhat expected, she veers from serenely delivered breathy love songs to sombre tales of the less than perfect men in her life with ease. Like many of her other songs, the melancholic yearning and blind acceptance is rife, all while she acknowledges that’s she’s a “f***ing mess” too.
The eponymous opening track has a filmic quality, setting up the rest of the record, which sees her continue to explore American history often referencing regular haunts in California and New York with blissful folk-rock undertones and soulful, smooth vocals.
With subtle drums, much of the album offers low-fi electronics plucked strings and melodic piano riffs. Happiness Is a Butterfly is a lesson in emotive storytelling while Hope is a dangerous thing… is purely Del Rey at her best.
NFR is sublime in its Lana-isms, both a jump into the unknown and a safe space to house everything brilliant about Del Rey’s previous records. It’s as tortured as it is beautiful.
Lana Del Rey returns to the UK in February 2020 for an arena tour. See her live in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham. [Find tickets]
1. Norman Fucking Rockwell
2. Mariners Apartment Complex
3. Venice Bitch
4. Fuck It, I Love You
5. Doin’ Time
6. Love Song
7. Cinnamon Girl
8. How to Disappear
10. The Next Best American Record
11. The Greatest
13. Happiness Is a Butterfly
14. Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It
Listen to Norman F***ing Rockwell on Spotify: