At the time this review was written, Lana Del Rey’s Instagram page was set to private.
It’s a trademark move for the Queen of Cool, an eternally angsty teenager who says all the things we want to and more, on her latest record, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.
See the lyrics: “I can’t help but feel somewhat like my body marred my soul” on the title track. This is an existential dread we can all tightly latch onto. The traditional track is verbose, awkwardly vexing, and typically therapeutic as Del Rey bares it all, per usual.
Before that, on the opening track, “The Grants,” she sounds – contrastingly – sweeter than ever, singing the soft and harrowing croons of a gentle and giant soul and poet. An homage to her true moniker, Lizzy Grant, it sets the stage for the parochial album with a Gospel-like flow. She swoons: “So many rivers so long, but I’m/Doin’ the hard stuff, I’m doin’ my time/ I’m doin’ it for us, for our family life/ Do you think about Heaven? Oh-oh/Do you think about me?”
The 16-track album feels like a church experience. It’s just over an hour long, there are preachy interludes, and it feels slightly obligatory as opposed to enjoyable. Many have hammered Del Rey for her always lyrical exposé of champagne problems and pseudo secrets, but something that garners her stern respect: she makes the music she wants to make. She’s not out here manufacturing hits. She’s here to heal, stretch her soul, and write what moves her. It doesn’t really matter how much of it is true. She is the ultimate metaphor in that there’s a sort of senselessness to her art that makes it inherently interesting. Just what the fuck is she talking about?
Although, then a line will hit you and her art becomes more germane to the human experience.
There is a soulful selfishness to her songwriting that bursts with personal appeasement and it’s great to hear and see someone expressing herself through art so openly and honestly. We’re supposed to believe that Lana Del Rey is a persona, but it feels like she’s fully become the avant garde Aphrodite whose stories she’s been regaling us with for so many years. The transformation just might be complete.
Early on in the album, “A&W” she goes deep as she sings: “I’m invisible, I’m invisible/I’m a ghost now, look how they found me/It’s not about having’ someone to love me anymore/No, this is the experience in being an American Whore.” Then the song transitions into a familiar ditty with a Lana-lime twist just tart enough to take the familiar personal: “Jimmy, Jimmy cocoa puff, Jimmy Jimmy ride/ Jimmy only love me when he wanna get high.”
Her music is an accomplishment in production and sound. The lyrics are harrowing and dark. There are interludes that are strange and haunting. Maybe they should come with a trigger warning for atheists and recovering churchgoers alike.
The veritable pantheon of contributors is listed on the album itself, a nod to the colorful community Del Rey calls comrades. Each collaborator adds a beautiful value, from Jack Antonoff to Jon Batiste.
A highlight is “Candy Necklace” featuring the aforementioned Batiste, a pretty, dark trip down quintessential Lana lane. Sometimes it’s emotional, uncomfortable, and calls on repetitive, bold beats and hooks, as well as nostalgic references and relatable colloquialisms, like “I’m obsessed with this.”
In a moment of the song Batiste takes over. There’s no Lana. It’s just pretty piano, a well kept promise of emotional punch. Then she comes back in. It’s beautifully executed and arranged.
Their joint track leads into a Batiste interlude that offers soft and hard explanations (so many croons), and the boldness of Batiste’s piano beating like a fire in your belly. Haunting laughter accompanies other electro-synth effects, ushering in the eerie.
These are the moments that can make us glad people like this are still innovating and making music. It helps advocate for the unusual. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd really doesn’t have any “bops” and it’s not your spring break mixtape. That is, unless, you’re going through some sort of understandable, post-seasonal affective disorder recovery and/or break up. In that case, play it out. The beauty and the madness on this album proves why Lana Del Rey earns her keep as an deep songwriter and innovative music creator.
THE NEW ALBUM FROM LANA DEL REY, HER NINTH STUDIO LP, IS OUT NOW WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC!