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Lana Del Rey - Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (Album Review)

Monday, 27 March 2023 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Chuck Grant

When Lana Del Rey stepped into the pop hemisphere a decade ago, she was a creature of intense curiosity. Her breakout single Video Games still captures a unique moment in space and time: retro storytelling through the prism of social media filters, full of artifice and yet somehow in her own way, utterly authentic.

Nine albums in, this remains her shtick. ‘Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ is a washy, wallowy 16 track LP, and it covers ground that Del Rey has increasingly made her own: doomed Hollywood romances, scratchy cine film movies, and damaged characters.

A&W, one of the singles, is first among them. It's a seven minute narrative epic that begins during the protagonist’s childhood and ends with them as a messed up sex addict.

The lyrics are absolutely breathtaking: “If I told you I was raped, do you really think that anyone would really think / I didn’t ask for it? I didn’t ask for it. I won’t testify. I already fucked up my story.” It’s really upsetting, yet mesmerising stuff.

It is the lyrics that really make this album stand out. Del Rey has gone on record to cite the quality of collaborators as a key reason for the popularity of her music, and it’s probably better to think of her as a lyricist and singer at this point rather than a conventional singer-songwriter. 

This is not intended to damn her with faint praise—it’s actually more difficult to carve out a career for yourself with such particular skills, and this is demonstrated on her collaboration with Father John Misty, Let The Light In. Here a dreamy duet washes through and, for all intents and purposes, this is a Father John Misty song in arrangement and songwriting. And yet Del Rey’s languor and mopiness seems to own the room. It’s sort of rebranded in that way.

‘Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ is not Lana Del Rey’s best album, but it does show an artist who is comfortable within the world of her sound. We should not expect big genre swings anytime soon, and for her legions of fans, that will probably be good news indeed. To quote the marvellous ballad Margaret, her music exists to show, despite the sadness, frequent “flashes of the good life”.


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