Norman Fucking Rockwell

While this usually well-written lyricist fell short in some of her songs, she knows what her audience wants and delivered on this record.

Lana Del Rey’s release of her sixth studio album, “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” times out perfectly with the close of summer. Rey’s use of melancholic beats and techno twists makes for a fitting array of summer songs, balanced with a precise amount of emotional underlays. It evokes a nostalgic feeling that comes with the season’s end — knowing that those moments are coming to a close, but that there are still so many unknown ones to come.

Rey released her first single from the album — a cover of Sublime’s “Doin Time”— back in May. Though this is one of the more upbeat songs from the album, it makes for a great introduction to the season, as the song takes place during the summertime in California beaches. Rey teased that “Norman Fucking Rockwell” would be released within the same week, but disappointed fans when it didn’t come out. Needless to say, waiting made it all the better. 

The songs on the album are consistent with Rey’s usual genre — she doesn’t stray from her retro sound and romantic ‘60s themes. She flourishes in slow melodies, and in this album especially, she takes advantage of soft instrumentals. Her first song on the album, “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” begins with soft piano, and gradually introduced as the song progresses. 

Some tracks carry themes and melodies similar to songs from her past works. For example, her song “Video Games” from the 2012 album “Born To Die” carries many matching instrumentals with “The Next Best American Record.” Not only are their tempo changes alike, but they both have themes of lingering desire. In “The Next Best American Record,” she sings, “It’s you, all the roads lead to you / Everything I want and do / All the things that I say.” To compare, in “Video Games,” she sings, “It’s you, It’s you / It’s all for you / Everything I do.”

There aren’t any surprising changes to Rey’s musical style in “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” but this isn’t a bad concept at all, and It doesn’t diminish the impact of this album. It only proves Rey knows her roots and that she hasn’t been influenced by outside factors since her 2017 album,“Lust for Life.” 

Rey also proves that her talents go beyond singing. She showcases her poetic writing and crafts beautiful lyrics. In “Love song,” she sings “The taste, the touch, the way we love / It all comes down to make the sound of our love song.” She puts an emphasis on the personal aspects in the relationship that come together and make their “song.” In essence, their song is a story that’s unique to the two of them. It’s the little things she sings of that come together and make the sound of their relationship.

In “Happiness is a butterfly,” Rey sings about being in an unfulfilling romantic relationship. She sings, “Happiness is a butterfly / Try to catch it, like, every night / It escapes from my hands into moonlight.” She compares happiness in this relationship to a butterfly, because although there are glimpses of it, it isn’t ideal. She seeks happiness from him when it’s night, but is never able to “catch” it because it disappears. Rey creates the image that the happiness she tries to feel is temporary.

Rey knows what messages she wants to convey through her lyrics and she knows how to pair them with the right instruments to make it that much more meaningful. She doesn’t stray from her old-Hollywood glamourous persona. It’s refreshing to hear Rey’s taste hasn’t changed since her last album. She pinpoints the aspects her fanbase loves about her songs — the sadness, tragic love and lust — and she performs them just as strong as she did in her early years. 

Contact Joanna Sommer at sommerjj@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.