I’ll start by saying this: Norman Fucking Rockwell is Lana Del Rey’s most complete and consistently fantastic work to date. I can only believe that this is the most intimate look at who she is inside. It’s emotional, smart, lyrically captivating and stripped. A lot of people are painting this as if it’s a statement with abstruse political thought. Sure, an argument can be made for that. But, unpopular opinion? Not everything in 2019 is about politics.
Norman Rockwell paintings were a statement about the American dream and the times in which he lived. However, I don’t think this album should be taken into such exact context as that. I think Lana was utilizing her Norman Rockwell references as a manifestation for what we think life and love should be. We’re supposed to want picturesque, whole and complete love. But, when you look more closely it never is what it seems and that realization comes with great emotion. It’s messy. It’s sometimes the things you never thought you wanted. It’s sometimes letting go of the things you always thought you did. Idealized perfection — that’s supposed to be life and love, right? Maybe not. We’ve never seen Lana as vulnerable, smart or willing to be seen as she is in this album. Here’s why.
It’s Lyrically Stunning
Throughout this entire album, Lana teaches a masterclass on lyricism. She’s painting pictures and unearthing emotion in a way she’s never done before. Every piece throughout the entirety of the album is lyrically strong and authentic. I could easily see these lyrics being taken out, placed in a book and read poetry-style. Here are some of my favorites. Skip to the next section if that’s not your sort of thing.
Norman Fucking Rockwell
You talk to the walls when the party gets bored of you
But I don’t get bored, I just see it through
Why wait for the best when I could have you?
You’re in the yard, I light the fire
And as the summer fades away
Nothing gold can stay
You’re beautiful and I’m insane
We’re American made
Fuck It I love you
So I moved to California, but it’s just a state of mind
It turns out everywhere you go, you take yourself, that’s not a lie
I believe that you see me for who I am
So spill my clothes on the floor of your new car
Is it safe, is it safe to just be who we are?
If you hold me without hurting me you’ll be the first who ever did
Kerosene in my hands
You make me mad, I’m fire again
All the pills that you take
Violet, blue, green, red to keep me at arm’s length don’t work
You don’t ever have to be stronger than you really are
I wanted to reach out but I never said a thing
Happiness is a Butterfly
If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst
That could happen to a girl who’s already hurt?
Happiness is a butterfly
Try to catch it like every night
It escapes from my hands into moonlight
Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me To Have – But I have it
Don’t ask if I’m happy, you know that I’m not
But at best, I can say I’m not sad
‘Cause hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have
She couldn’t care less, and I never cared more
So there’s no more to say about that
It’s Musically Ingenious in Sound/Arrangement
Americana meets old Hollywood is very on-brand for Lana. But, to accomplish that by dancing with pop while seamlessly weaving together piano and guitar in the way she has is brilliant. Everything was done with intention and emotion.
There are also elements of surprise. For example, around the four-minute mark of Venice Bitch, the music just sort of keeps going jam-band style. During this time you don’t only hear the soft lulls of a familiar guitar and drums, but you also hear an electronic influence that adds texture and moves this song visually. She’s experimenting with sound, pacing, and volume in a way that really matches the picture she painted lyrically in this piece. This skill is done over and over again throughout the album.
It’s Emotionally Vulnerable in Every Way
I believe this is the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen Lana. When you listen to this album, it feels like we’re peeling back the curtains on her. She’s made this for the masses, yet you feel yourself become personally invested as each song goes by. It’s almost as if you’re peering in on an intimate conversation between two people that you have no business knowing about.
Norman Fucking Rockwell is streaming on all platforms now. What do you think of the album? Leave your thoughts below!