Lana Del Rey – Norman F****** Rockwell Review

By Emily Ricalton

In January 2012, it’s fair to say that my life within music was about to make a dramatic, yet extremely dedicated change –my not yet musically inclined 11-year-old self was about to discover an artist that would impact the majority of my younger years. 

Lana Del Rey, also formally known as Elizabeth Grant, released her first album ‘Born to Die’ during this month. This was after receiving huge success from her first track ‘Video Games’, which was released in August 2011. From this moment onwards, Lana Del Rey, who was aged 27-years-old at the time of her break through, was to become a global star.

Now aged 34-years-old, Lana has now released her sixth studio album, which, undoubtedly, has become her biggest success to date. Receiving the best new album title and a rating of 9 from Pitchfork magazine, Lana’s ‘Norman F*****g Rockwell’ (‘NFR’) is definitely a dream album that is guaranteed to satisfy your new music cravings. 

The 14-track album, which many Lana fans have waited 2 years for, after the release of her previous album ‘Lust for Life’ in 2017, begins with the title track of the album – obviously named ‘NFR’. The track is embedded with a sense of pure romantic heartbreak, one of which is able to empower its listener. This romantic theme continues throughout the rest of the album, but for me, it is mainly captivated through the raw elements of this starting track. NFR is a song that relates to the truth and pain within romantic relationships, representing a sense of disappointment by labelling her lover as a ‘manchild’ – one of the best lyrical constructions to date. In a recent interview with NME magazine, Lana actually discussed the meanings and purposes behind her songs, stating that ‘being able to express my sadness (through music, that is) sometimes makes me actually more cheerful than some people I know, because I gave myself permission to have a lot of colours’.

 And isn’t that what music is all about? An expression of relatable feelings and emotions? For me, this is what makes Del Rey so treasurable and an artist that I adore so incredibly much. After all, her music did become such a statement to teenage years – this can be shown through my matching ‘Paradise’ tattoo to the star; she really is a great homage to my music taste.

Unlike her previous three albums, Norman F*****g Rockwell directs her fans back to her routes, representing a mystical sound that is iconic of both ‘Born to Die’ and ‘Born to Die: The Paradise Edition’. The album itself is embedded with a deep sadness that is expressed through rhythmical guitar riffs and a dreamy poetic voice. However, unlike her first two albums, NFR isn’t a love story to the history of America, it is a hard-hitting truth to the disaster that her country has become over the past couple of years between her first and recent albums. 

With the domination of a disappointing president and the overwhelming attacks of gun violence, I believe that Del Rey has used her sixth album to represent the changing opinion of patriotic belief within both herself and her music. Through tracks like ‘California’, and obviously her pre-released ‘Looking for America’, which isn’t featured on the album but relates to gun violence, Del Rey promises a sense of hope through this West American land, excluding it from the adversities shown through the rest of her country. She sings ‘you don’t ever have to be stronger than you really are’, as well as ‘I’ve heard the war was over if you really choose’, connoting a sense of reliance and safety if her loved one just comes ‘back to California’. It is almost as if she excludes the state from the rest of the world, supplying a theme of hope that her listeners can cling onto throughout the decline of the political, criminal and economical climates of America during this depressing time. 

However, this overriding theme of adoration for the state of California, as previously seen in her 5-minute track ‘Ride’, which also happens to be my favourite song of all time, is quickly killed off. The eleventh track on this masterpiece of an album, ‘The greatest’, emphasises a despair so deep that it almost enlightens the listener into reconsidering the lack of structure that our current world is experiencing. By referring to relevant movement points within today’s generation, Lana sings ‘L.A.’s in flames, it’s a getting hot/Kanye West is blonde and gone/ ‘Life On Mars’ ain’t just a song/ Oh, the livestream’s almost on’, making these points a gloomy depiction of our modern world’s enjoyments – almost as if the history of our lives have been forgotten and today’s technology has been a forever element of our everyday routine. 

Lana at Coachella 2014, Image Source – Flickr, Neon Tommy.

She may be a romanticised character, who sings about love and reliance within her previous albums, but she is also a woman of strong political belief and realisation, driving her passion into those who take the time to listen to her beautifully constructed music. 

And, with the sudden rejection with women within modern culture, especially shown in the 2016 presidential elections, Lana goes onto title one of her most politically inclined tracks on the album ‘hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it’. This melancholy titled song, which Pitchfork magazine labelled as a ‘doomy 16-word poem’, is an awe to the lack of respect that women have received in recent years, yet Lana still remains with this sense of hope, singing ‘yeah, I have it’ to empower not only herself, but the young, influential listeners that connect to her music. After all, women have been captivated by the opposite gender throughout the majority of their short lives, forcing Del Rey to sing about this ‘new revolution, a loud evolution’ that modern-day women are bringing to a world of conformity and sexist ways. 

NFR is definitely an album of pure beauty, featuring original songs that represent the pain and strong opinions that Lana has as an authoritative figure to the female music industry. However, in true Del Rey style, as seen in other released tracks, like ‘Summer Wine’ and ‘Chelsea Hotel No 2’, she had to feature a cover on this iconic album and this time it was in the form of Sublime’s, ‘Doin’ Time’. And, let’s just say, she smashed it. The cover itself has a beachy, surfy vibe that is symbolic of her favourite state and current home location, California. Not only this, but the track flows beautifully, almost like water, making it an easy listening track to chill out and relax to. Even though the album is full of intelligent masterpieces, ‘Doin’ Time’ is one of my favourites from NFR and I highly recommend you listen to it, even if you skip the album altogether. 

Lana Del Rey is an artist of acquired taste, but she is definitely someone who has made a great change to both poetry and the music industry as a whole. She is someone who both men and women can admire, and she is definitely someone who has had a great impact upon my life. Even though nothing will ever beat her first two albums, NFR is an incredible album and it ranks highly in my eyes, making it one of the best albums released in 2019 to date. 

Lana will be touring in late February and early March of next year, so if you get the chance to, definitely get tickets – it will be an event you’ll never forget. 


Rating: 10/10


U.K Tour Dates 

Tuesday February 25 – The O2, London
Wednesday February 26 – Manchester Arena 
Friday February 28 – SSE Hydro
Saturday February 29 – Resorts World Arena, Birmingham