While walking to my Italian class this past Friday, I encountered my very first religious experience. No, I did not accidentally stumble into Seminary Hall; I was listening to Lana Del Rey’s sixth studio album, gloriously entitled “Norman F*cking Rockwell!” Admittedly, I was nervous about this album since the title and album cover are strikingly different compared to Del Rey’s other albums. While she does go through eras that are distinct in their own right, a common theme for Del Rey’s cover art is her alone, looking sultry and placed either in or in front of a car. This may seem like a trivial detail to the average listener, but for diehard fans like myself, Del Rey posing on the cover of NFR! in a sailboat with Jack Nicholson’s son, Duke Nicholson, took some time for me to process. All of my skepticism left as soon as I heard “California,” the first song that came on shuffle and swiftly placed me into a trance-like state.
As I am the biggest LDR stan I know, I find it difficult to rank any of her albums or songs. However, I do go through phases of overplaying the same handful of songs until I move onto the next batch. Currently, my favorites on NFR! include the title track “Norman f*cking Rockwell,” “California,” “Bartender” and “The greatest.” The title track is a slower ballad that tells the story of an egotistical poet Del Rey has had a tumultuous relationship with. I am eternally grateful for the laughter-inducing opening line calling this unknown poet a “goddamn manchild” and for the chorus that asserts, “Cause you're just a man, it's just what you do. Your head in your hands as you color me blue.” In true Del Rey fashion, reading between the lines reveals connections and references from her older songs. For instance, the repetition of blue and the line “I can’t change your mood” are allusions to her 2014 tracks “Shades of Cool” and “Black Beauty,” both off of the album “Ultraviolence.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF LANADELRAY.COM
Besides her beautiful and melancholic voice, my favorite attribute of LDR is that she puts her whole being into her lyrics. As I have grown up through my teenage years listening to her meaningful ballads that often bring me to tears of either happiness or sadness (mostly the latter), I have seen the progression of Del Rey’s lyrics shift into more pop culture and political commentary (which just happen to be my favorite things). She does still produce her notorious gloomy love songs, but I feel more connection to her songs that contemplate the state of this country and the world. Specifically on this album, she refers to climate change, the California wildfires and calls out Kanye West for his support of Trump, all at the end of the song “The greatest.” The title in and of itself is criticizing the American dream Norman Rockwell portrayed in his work and how people still cannot move past the traditional idea of what being an American in modern society truly represents. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Del Rey reveals, “It was kind of an exclamation mark: so this is the American dream, right now. This is where we’re at—Norman f*cking Rockwell. We’re going to go to Mars, and Trump is president, all right.”
Del Rey may not be an artist that qualifies for much radio play, but that is because fame is not why she continues to release her ethereal music. Her songs have made more of an impact on my life and the lives of so many than any catchy pop song ever has. Just listening to one of her songs immediately sends a wave of peace and solace over me that has gotten me through the most stressful times of my life. I may be a bit biased (as one can surmise), but if she does not win the Grammy she has been deserving of since her debut album “Born to Die,” you will indeed see me protesting the Recording Academy for overlooking one of the best songwriters and singers of our generation.
Victoria is a sophomore with a double major in Political Science and Italian and a minor in Law, Justice and Society.