Lana Del Rey’s music is always full of dualities. Her sixth studio album, “Norman Fucking Rockwell!,” is no exception. Del Rey’s writing, partnered with Jack Antonoff’s production, contains sarcasm and sincerity in every breath.
From the start, her vocals pull you into her sonic universe. The titular track fulfills the album cover’s hopes of boarding you on a ship that voyages into Del Rey’s carefully curated ocean of deep synths and lilting melodies.
Full of political undertones (and overtones), the album is an all-encompassing Freudian adventure of the ego in all its glory.
The album’s namesake was a notorious egomaniac — with some merit. “NFR!” is a celebration of not only being talented, but knowing you’re talented.
“We were so obsessed with writing the next best American record,” Del Rey reminisces on “The Next Best American Record.”
But she clarifies her intentions.
“Cause we knew that we could … we’re just that good.” To Del Rey, Norman Rockwell represents arrogance. But, there is no denying he was talented. He just happened to know it. And he wanted to hear others say it.
The album’s themes are clear: ego and mania; confidence turned to arrogance; chaos and order. “Your poetry’s bad, and you blame the news,” she says on the titular track, taunting anyone who takes themselves too seriously.
Every track flows into the next — it’s easy to finish one song and begin another without even noticing. The real masterpiece here is a track Del Rey released as a single last year: “Venice Bitch.” It’s the perfect song for long sunset drives, washing over you until you don’t even realize it is nine and a half minutes long.
Sonically, “NFR!” is intimate. Sounds of sailing on a friend’s boat, sitting in her living room while she plays piano and watching an art house film fill the album from start to finish.
Lyrically, the album is among Del Rey’s finest. Her genuine disarray and disillusion with the state of the world is masterfully and delicately woven through her biting lines and verbal eye-rolls.
“I fucked up, I know that, but Jesus. Can’t a girl just do the best she can?” is one of many memorable lines from the album’s first single “Mariner’s Apartment Complex.”
Representative of much of the album, Lana is using her platform as a cry for help — but not out of weakness.
If this album is about ego and confidence, it’s also about self-reflection. Being confident doesn’t mean telling people you are great. It means showing people you are great through genuine talent. Let the art speak for itself, Del Rey reminds us.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lana Del Rey album without gratuitous references to California. The final song on the album reminds us who Del Rey is at her core. The song “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but I have it” is a drawling confession of not fitting in but not caring.
From the electronic swagger of “Doin’ Time” to the painful vulnerability of “Fuck it I love you,” Del Rey is more sure of her image than her previous albums, and it shows. “NFR!” is Lana’s haunting ode to all things self-love: both the good and the bad.
The “You should watch me do my thing because I’m good at it, but I’m not going to tell you I’m good at it, I’m just going to be good.” The “You think you’re better than you are, and I’m not letting that slide.” And the “I’m sorry I tried to be perfect. Help me next time.”
Simply put, “NFR!” is good. And Lana knows it.