Lana Del Rey shines on latest album by finally finding her sound

Neon Tommy | Wikimedia Commons

Neon Tommy | Wikimedia Commons

Adding to her long list of name-dropped icons of Americana, the New York native pop songstress Lana Del Rey dropped her sixth studio album entitled Norman Fucking Rockwell! in August.

Much like the 20th century illustrator himself, Lana Del Rey captures the minutiae of life with a unique perspective that has finally solidified with a star-spangled sense of self and confidence on the new record.

Jack Antonoff, pop music's not-so-hidden secret curator for stars like Taylor Swift and Lorde, handled much of the record's production alongside Del Rey. The duo combines their mutual love for a stripped yet lush sound and for the tunes of yesterday to piece together an idyllic record.

Whereas Antonoff's affinity for pianos and strings may highlight the melodrama of Lorde's sophomore record, on Norman Fucking Rockwell! the pairing evolves Del Rey's typical hushed sound to become a quiet and confident take on love, fear, politics and more all over intricate and light production.

Often seen as music's resident sad girl, a title that she claims on Ultraviolence, Del Rey has weighted past records down with heavy production that blast this moniker with hip-hop influenced tracks like “Dark Paradise” and orchestra samples on “Young and Beautiful.”

Norman Fucking Rockwell! discards hi-hats and huge string sections for neat piano melodies and controlled instrumentation. The decrease of noise highlights the consistent high points over the past five records; Del Rey’s lyricism and vocals.

The record features an assembly of different vocal techniques with the high melismatic whispering on "Fuck it I love you" and eerie stuttering “t’s” on “Bartender.” 

Del Rey’s meandering experimentation goes beyond vocals and manifests in the songs’ forms.

With tracks like "Venice Bitch" that boasts a bloated nine minute and half long run, the initial response is concerningly confused. But as this third track unravels out of itself, it's a silky melodic stroll through the nostalgia of a relationship where "as the summer fades away/ Nothing gold can stay."

The crescendo of electronic sounds over the track’s acoustic roots tie Del Rey's own roots in synth beats and distortion from her 2012 sophomore record Born to Die with the more folk-focused sound she's explored on the 2017 Lust for Life

The timeline that “Venice Bitch” walks down takes listeners directly to the growth and influences behind Del Rey.

Songs are not just given their space to breathe; Norman Fucking Rockwell! sees each song developing their own atmosphere that has always floated around in Del Rey's music but never fully formed.

The style of Del Rey changes from record to record, yet there always seemed to be more style over substance. Norman Fucking Rockwell! hones in on the substance of each song, finding a strong style within each.

Although the record may go from a dancing sway in "How to disappear" to a pleading and familiar pop sound on "California," it laces each track together in their unique stance and formation.

Del Rey exposed how her managers feared releasing “Venice Bitch” as a single due to its length and title and would prefer a typical three minute pop track, according to an interview she did for Beats Radio 1.

“I was like ‘no, end of summer some people just wanna drive around for 10 minutes and get lost in electric guitar,” Del Rey said, and that word was final.

The record is void of cheap tactics to sell. There’s no obvious filler track and the song list is kept at a modest 14 songs with no fellow singers featured on any track.

Norman Fucking Rockwell! sees Del Rey focusing on the music and developing a unique style of indifference to bitesize singles and shiny features. 

The record does not care about the state of modern music business but solely for the music itself.

ArtsSven LarsenComment