Lana Del Rey's New Album Had Me Spiraling For a Bit
If there's any group entitled to
annoy their conversation partners say "I liked [this artist] before they blew up," it's us longtime listeners of Lana Del Rey. Maybe it’s because the singer has gone through so many turbulent changes in the court of public opinion throughout her career. When she first broke through with "Video Games," everyone (and we mean everyone!) was enthralled with the air of mystery around the then-ingenue. After a stilted SNL performance in 2012, she was slammed by the press and the Internet, quickly becoming the cultural moment’s favorite target. Still, her first major label album, Born To Die, became a smash hit, while the single "Summertime Sadness" quickly climbed the Billboard Hot 100. (It remains her highest performing single to date.) Ever since, she’s become a cult pop icon to a rabidly loyal fanbase—and her "questions for the culture" continue to draw ire from her critics.
Del Rey has leaned into her left-of-center influences across nine LPs, plus one book of poetry. And in recent years, her early discography has started to take off with a younger generation, with past hits like "Born To Die" and "Ultraviolence," and even her unreleased demos, being used in viral TikToks. If this has affected the singer at all, she's only getting delightfully weirder in her sound. Now more than ever, her music strays into an undefinable genre that defies conventions—like even choruses or hooks. She’s more interested in telling listeners a story. Any song off of new album Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard, out now, feels like a catch up with an old friend. She goes off on tangents, makes emphatic points, contradicts herself, and winds back around to reminisce on something both she and her audience are familiar with.
Let's listen along together, and let Lana take the wheel.
The album kicks off with the harmonious sound of a gospel choir, and Del Rey introduces us to the themes that have been on her mind lately. A rich melody that builds to a resonant choir of voices that asks what life after death is like.
Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
The first release off of the album which dropped back in December, is one of the more easily digestible songs from the collection. Here Del Rey shows off her talent for turning things people may feel too scared to say out loud into lyrics, "Open me up/tell me you like it/Fuck me to death/love me until I love myself."
Del Rey's at her most comfortable on this soulful ballad with a bite. She's still looking for love, but she knows what she wants now.
An anthem for all that Del Rey's has been struggling with during her career. Here she sounds confident and jaded, declaring herself an American whore while addressing some of the misogyny directed at her through the years. The song really takes off in the second half, when Del Rey drops her vocals into a chant that bangs along with a mesmerizing trap beat.
Judah Smith Interlude
An intense and disorienting transition into megachurch sermon by pastor Judah Smith is layered over with Del Rey's giggling and murmuring. Smith seems to be hitting on certain points that Del Rey's been ruminating in the record, but the preaching is a bit off-putting.
Candy Necklace (ft. Jon Batiste)
Jon Batiste's soulful presence shines here. The repeating piano melody is not only pensive and stirring, but paired with Del Rey's refrain, it becomes an earworm. Be prepared for the phrase "candy necklaces" to play on a loop in your head all day long.
Jon Batiste Interlude
Batiste's affinity for really gentle yet warm piano melodies blend in seamlessly with Del Rey's lilting vocals. This is a collaboration made in choral heaven.
Del Rey has grown more personal in her songwriting since her last album. "Kintsugi" is a more somber, almost eulogiac song ruminating on death and grief.
A perfect example of how Del Rey turns private musings into beautiful sprawling ballads. It feels like listening to her read to you from a page in her diary.
Paris, Texas (ft. SYML)
The shortest track on the record and also the most traditional in composition. With a melody that resembles the twinklings of a music box and wistful lyrics about leaving places behind, it's definitely one you'll want to put on to stare out of a window when you're blue.
Grandfather Please Stand on the Shoulders of My Father While He's Deep-Sea Fishing (ft. Riopy)
A song you'll want to blare while standing up through the sunroof of a Jeep with your arms out.
Let the Light In (ft. Father John Misty)
Del Rey works wonders with a frequent collaborator Father John Misty. Misty's more folksy rock influence mingles in harmoniously with Del Rey's crooning. This is an easy one to put on repeat.
Margaret (ft. Bleachers)
At this point I am crying.
Del Rey has fun with autotune here, and it's just as gorgeous as her stripped bare tracks. The bass only bolsters her natural sultriness, and creates an intimate—yet still dancey—song.
Peppers (featuring Tommy Genesis)
A sexy romp paired with experimental rapper Tommy Genesis's infectious refrain—AKA a winner. Del Rey calls upon the playful, coquettish melodies of her early career here, and proves she can still do, well, fun.
"Taco Truck x VB"
A surprising ending, the culminating track is actually a prettily disguised remix of a previously released track, "Venice Bitch." The richly layered remix feels like something new, and also like Del Rey's way of telling us that she's building on her body of work and embracing her legacy.
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