By Blake Wedding —
It has been a long, winding road for Lana Del Rey, but it seems that after five previous studio albums, the titular singer/songwriter has finally found a signature sound.
In the past, I’ve had issues with some of Del Rey’s albums, but I could never possibly argue over the massive influence she has cast over her contemporaries as well as her appeal in modern music. Songs like “Videogames” and “Ride” are also undeniably sweeping, beautiful singles that absolutely excel where some of her full studio albums have missed the mark.
But with Norman F****** Rockwell!, Del Rey has pulled off something quite remarkable. After 2017’s disappointing and critically panned Lust for Life, the artist must have gone back to the drawing board completely and reevaluated herself; her unique qualities and strengths as a singer, and possibly reflecting on what could be improved and on what so many people took issue with on albums like Ultraviolence and Lust for Life.
Yet no less than two years later, Del Rey has shown incredible strives to try something new yet again; not only that, but something bold, and more than anything, something impressively authentic and sincere.
Norman F****** Rockwell is the culmination of all these ideas coupled with an artist at the height of their talent, focus and dedication.
So many of the songs on this album are standouts in Del Rey’s discography. Moreover, Del Rey embraces instrumental experimentation and a yearning to incorporate new styles of music and new sounds in a genuine manner.
Take the song “Venice B****,” which might actually be Del Rey’s single greatest song yet. It’s a long, instrumentally complex, emotionally powered and dense performance; one that single-handedly demonstrates Del Rey’s vocal chops and her talents as a performer and musician better than nearly any of her more well-known singles at this point.
Themes of heartbreak, infatuation, sensuality, love and summertime are at the forefront of this song, themes that Del Rey is no stranger to whatsoever. However, it’s the way that they are pulled off and come together on “Venice B****,” or other standouts like “Mariners Apartment Complex,” that make for a far more memorable listening experience than past songs.
All in all, it’s best to sum up Norman F****** Rockwell! by saying that it is one of the most important albums of 2019. It’s without a doubt the best work Del Rey has ever made, and even more so, it is proof that when an artist accepts constructive criticism and reflects on their art candidly, that hard work pays off. Del Rey has cemented herself as one of the greatest pop voices in the world at the moment.
Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal