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Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Album Review)

Thursday, 05 September 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

When Lana Del Rey’s Video Games attained viral status in 2011, it felt entirely plausible that her success would be a flash in the pan. Many critics (often male) derided her as a contrived, inauthentic pop star whose cinematic melancholia could not translate to long term appeal. Eight years and four albums later, they’ve been proven wrong about her longevity, and yet Del Rey’s multi-textured inauthenticity has flourished, and become a kind of defining brand. Sometimes you can be wrong and right at the same time.

Landing somewhere between Portishead, Cat Power and a Twin Peaks: The Return outro performance, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ is a reference-loaded paean to broken emotions and brutalised dreams. It is an album of consistent arrangement nous—courtesy of Del Rey and producer du jour, Jack Antonoff, among others—that places her poetry front and centre in a collage of borrowed cultural artefacts. 

Doin’ Time represents this confection fully. It’s a cover of a mid-'90s song by ska-punks Sublime that itself used Ella Fitzgerald’s Summertime as a starting point. In Del Rey’s hands it becomes a millennial dreamscape with washy reverb and breathy, layered vocals that inspire a kind of synthesised reverie. 

Fuck it I love you does things slightly better. Easing off on the synth sounds, it manages to connect as a highly mannered, debased and despairing ballad with magnificent lyric writing. 

“I like to see everything in neon," Del Rey sings. "Drink lime green, stay up 'til dawn. Maybe the way that I'm living is killing me.” It is music that would flourish in a shopping centre or focus grouped corporate playlist, almost despite itself.

There is good taste and then there’s bad taste. And then there’s no taste. The real and present danger is that ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ exists in the latter space, borrowing so much from proven winners that the artist herself disappears. Despite Del Rey’s undeniable talent and unabashed lyrical honesty, there remains an impression that much of this is swallowed up by the overloaded kitsch Americana and Hollywood junkyard branding that has been created to sell her music.

Lana Del Rey Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue February 25 2020 - LONDON O2 Arena
Wed February 26 2020 - MANCHESTER Arena
Fri February 28 2020 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Sat February 29 2020 - BIRMINGHAM Resorts World Arena

Click here to compare & buy Lana Del Rey Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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