Norman F*ing Rockwell! was released August 30th, 2019.
Norman F*ing Rockwell! is Lana Del Rey’s most mature venture yet. Her sixth studio album featuring Jack Antonoff has fourteen melancholic, soft, and nostalgic songs that perfectly match the vibe of our annual salutation to summer. Lana has dropped her aggressive, bad-bitch persona to create a collection of heart wrenching ballads about toxic summer flings on the beaches of California. Drugs, rich men, and casual sex seemed to have stopped filling some kind of void. This theme especially carries on through the tracks “F* it I love you”, “Cinnamon Girl”, and my personal favorite, “The Greatest”.
There seems to be a recent trend in pop music where the artist muses over the perils of party culture, not unlike Miley Cyrus’s new single, “Slide Away,” which touches on similar themes of emptiness and necessity for self-reflection. On NFR, Lana mostly reflects on the types of men that she tends to fall for and how their love affairs are often one-sided. It’s possible that she’s just romanticizing the emotionally unavailable, self destructive, e-boy, but she is dying to be honest with them about her feelings regardless of if they’re reciprocated. A lot of her lyrics point to a longing for her lovers to be more mature and just as vulnerable with her as she is with them.
There was of course, the song of the summer, “Doin’ Time,” a cover of the 90’s hit by Sublime. Compared to the rest of the album, it is the most playful and lighthearted of the titles. Her classic, beautifully apathetic vibe is strong on this track, as well as on, “Venice B*tch,” and, “California.” However, the remaining eleven out of fourteen songs feel more personal and honest as they’re about herself and her lifestyle. “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman for me to have – but I Have it,” are tributes to her internal struggles, and are only somewhat relationship-oriented. Lyrics like, “Can’t a girl just do the best she can,” really capture the defeat we have all felt when we do our best and still can’t figure out how to make ourselves happy. Still, the closing track asserts that it’s important to hold onto hope for the future. Even when all signs point to eternal insanity there is still a chance we might find peace, in love or otherwise.
All in all, Lana seems to be worn out by the evils of narcissistic men and the relentless suffering we all face purely by existing. Although she still finds ways to romanticize endless summer nights of paradise, each piano ballad makes your heart sink deeper into your chest for a woman who is clearly lost and in pain. This album doesn’t have a single song worth skipping, but it isn’t for the typical Lana fan looking for just another “manic pixie dream girl” anthem. It is almost ironic that NFR was released at the end of the globally proclaimed “Hot Girl Summer,” since it is a tribute to the girls who maybe started the season out on fire but ended it burnt out, wasted, and broken by some of the greatest nights of their lives.
Reviewer Theresa Marzullo is the Assistant Programming Director here at WFNP. She’s also an FM DJ! Catch her show every Wednesday night from 10pm-12am on 88.7FM and wfnp.org to hear some Lana Del Rey and more!