Lana Del Rey is somewhat of an enigma — she lacks the same pop prowess as acts like Ariana Grande or Lady Gaga, but that hasn’t stopped her from having one of the most loyal followings in pop music. With nearly 13.9 million and 9.4 million followers on Instagram and Twitter respectively, the singer has become a beloved star worldwide.
On the singer’s sixth album, “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” released Aug. 30, Del Rey strays farther from her original sound than ever before. Her 2012 major-label debut, “Born to Die,” was full of catchy, electric and remix-worthy hits, and Del Rey put it best herself when she described “Norman Fucking Rockwell” as “a folk record with a little surf twist” in an Aug. 22 interview with Billboard.
The latest album is one hour and seven minutes of guitar riffs, piano solos and emotional, angry, pensive ballads. The singer has proven herself to be one of the most timeless and musically versed songwriters of her generation as she managed to fill an entire album with references and Easter eggs to classic rock music.
The album’s title track references Laurel Canyon, a Los Angeles neighborhood that gained notoriety in the 1960s and ‘70s for housing artists such as Jim Morrison, Carole King, The Mamas and The Papas and more.
Track seven, “Cinnamon Girl,” references a Neil Young classic of the same title. On track eight, “How to Disappear,” Del Rey sings, “I’ve got a kid and two cats in the yard,” which is likely a reference to a similar lyric in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Our House.” These are just a few of the nods and winks to classic rock strewn throughout the album.
The album itself seems to melt together a fever dream, with songs as hazy and intangible as a mirage in the desert. The nearly 10-minute “Venice Bitch” is a standout with soft and sensitive lyrics, while the cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” is a surprisingly perfect fit for Del Rey’s old-fashioned vox.
“Norman Fucking Rockwell” does feel sonically repetitive at times — while her lyrical abilities surpass those of most others on the radio, irregular listeners are unlikely to hear much of a difference between it and her past albums.
Del Rey created the album in collaboration with producer Jack Antonoff, who’s riding fresh off the success of Taylor Swift’s “Lover,” released Aug. 23. Despite managing to fly under the radar for most of his musical career, Antonoff is known for being the frontman of alternative band Bleachers, the drummer of pop group fun. and producing for many of the most revolutionary female singers of the 2010s, including Lorde, St. Vincent and Carly Rae Jepsen.
While Antonoff is typically associated with heartstring-pulling, ‘80s-style synth music, a sound notably absent from “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” the producer’s own ideas have never overshadowed those of his co-creators. Regardless of any of her co-writers and producers, this is Del Rey’s album, through and through.
“Norman Fucking Rockwell” is now streaming on Spotify and Apple Music.