On the album "Norman Fucking Rockwell!" Lana Del Rey transports listeners 50 years back in time with her classical voice and vintage instrumentals.
The project was produced by Jack Antonoff, a modern legend in pop music who has also worked with Taylor Swift and Lorde. Antonoff’s instrumentals cover the major genres of the 60s, which is Lana's signature sound. Soft rock melodies, psychedelic electric guitar solos, folky acoustic guitars and dramatic orchestral ballads are all prevalent on the album.
The song “Fuck it I love you” stands out for its theatrical production, which builds up to an epic layered climax at the chorus that makes it sound like it could be the next Bond movie theme song. Though the album is heavy on classical instruments, there are also some new age elements including synths and drum machine beats. The songs take their time with slow tempos that make it seem like time itself is slowing down.
Though these aspects of the album were well-done and clearly thought out, they are still relatively simple, allowing the singer’s voice to be the highlight at all times. Lana’s distinguished voice is dreamy and sweet sounding, yet sultry and full bodied complete with an old-timey transatlantic accent. It is clear that no autotune went into her vocals since they are stripped-back and clear. The mixing also contributes to the classic sound, with muffling filters layered over her voice to make it sound like the album is being played out of a phonograph.
Numerous 60s and 70s cultural references also contribute to her classic Hollywood aesthetic for better or worse. Sylvia Plath is referenced in “Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but I have it.” Led Zeppelin and The Eagles are referenced in “The Next Best American Record.” The album is even named after the all-American photographer Norman Rockwell, who is also mentioned in “Venice Bitch."
All of these countless cultural references, as well as references to California and drugs, serve to enforce her unique, drowsy and dark old-Hollywood aesthetic but can be repetitive. After listening to half of the album, talk of leather, Levi’s and Los Angeles gets boring and shows that the songs are really just different versions of each other with some outliers, of course.
A clear formula becomes exposed, making her lyrics predictable and making it more difficult to appreciate the other half of her lines that aren’t just naming pop culture trivia.
This other half of her lyrics are hauntingly beautiful, complex stories about the trials and tribulations of love and relationships.
“If you hold me without hurting me you’ll be the first who ever did,” Del Ray sings on “Cinnamon Girl.”
The first song also stands out in this respect because it isn’t loaded with filler lyrics and provides a hard-hitting account of dating a pretentious, disappointing man.
“Your poetry’s bad and you blame the news,” she sings.
Another stand out song is “Doin’ Time” which has a distinctly reggae sound and funky drums and isn’t oversaturated with references. However, this is because it is just a cover of Sublime’s song of the same name.
Though her distinct and highly specific style has an incredible amount of charm, it may leave listeners wanting more versatility from the singer, especially since this has always been her brand.
Until Lana deviates from her strict style, living in the swinging 60s along with her isn't so bad.
Thumbnail photo from flickr creative commons
Gladi Suero is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.