Trigger warning: mention of assault
Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, professionally known as Lana Del Rey, released her long-anticipated ninth album, "Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd", on March 24, 2023. It's one of her most personal albums so far, with insights into her past, her family members and more sensitive topics like assault.
LDR's album was produced in collaboration with Jack Antanoff, who also features on the album as The Bleachers. Other features include SYML, Tommy Genesis, Jon Batiste, Judah Smith, and Father Jon Misty. Jack took to twitter to express how he felt working on this album and has mentioned several times that A&W is his favorite track!
i love this lana album and i loved every second of making it with her. i love our time together, one of the great relationships of my life. i get overwhelmed when music comes out so just saying hi and thank you to everyone involved and everyone listening!— jackantonoff (@jackantonoff) March 24, 2023
The first single that was released is the title track of the album: Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, followed by A&W (American Whore) and The Grants, the opening track of the album.
Album Review: a Personal Peak of a Singer we Thought we Knew
One thing that immediately stood out to me is the mention of family throughout the album. The opening track, The Grants, directly refers to her family, and the song talks about how she wants to take memories of her family with her into the afterlife. The bridge is especially impactful:
My sister's first-born child / I'm gonna take that too with me / My grandmother's last smile / I'm gonna take that too with me / It's a beautiful life / Remember that too for me
Other instances include Fingertips, where she once again references her sister's baby, but also expresses the wish to have one of her own.
Charlie, stop smoking / Caroline, will you be with me? / Will the baby be alright? / Will I have one of mine? / Can I handle it even if I do?
The eleventh track of the album, Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing, says exactly what it means: she wants her grandfather to stand over her father and fulfill his wishes. The song also touches upon her own feelings, where she talks about how everyone thinks that someone else made her who she is, but they're wrong.
It took somebody else to make me beautiful, wonderful / As they intended me to be / But they're wrong
Many took to twitter to tease the titles Lana comes up with when it comes to their length and randomness (like hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it on NFR) but also expressed their love for Lana and how much they enjoyed tracks on the new album.
"what's your favorite song?" other: delicate from reputation lana stan: grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he's deep-sea fishing from the album did you know that there's a tunnel under ocean blvd 💀— bea ):) (@yelenatromanoff) April 16, 2023
It's a fairly rare and new phenomenon of Lana del Rey's lyrics being positive, and many songs on this album, like Margaret ft. The Bleachers and Let The Light In ft. Father Jon Misty represent this. Margaret is an especially beautiful song and one of my favorites.
The context behind the song is that Margaret is Jack Antanoff's fiancee, and they are set to get married in December 2023. The fact that Jack has an entire verse to himself in the song is very special.
'Cause when you know, you know / And when you're old, you're old / Like Hollywood and me / That diamond on your ring / The soul that you bring to the table / The one that makes me sing / In a minor key
The song starts with Lana saying she's writing this song for a friend, and progresses to say that there are no explicit signs that tell you someone is the one for you, you just know that they're the one. She also cleverly drops the wedding date through the lyrics, and the texture of their voices together is gorgeous. Jack Antanoff expressed his love for this song and Margaret on Twitter!
and of course .... "margaret" forever .... in song form and all others— jackantonoff (@jackantonoff) March 24, 2023
Let The Light In is a very simple song lyrically, allegedly referring to a private relationship where the woman is having an affair with a committed man, with the song coming to an end as the woman wanting more than what they had but stayed in the cycle of continuing the affair. I enjoyed the simplicity of the lyrics and production, especially how the song begins, because it gives you the perception of a healthy relationship where two partners enjoy simple activities together and care for each other:
Pick you up at home, quarter to three / Ask you if you want somethin' to eat / Drive around, get drunk, do it over again
She also references her 2019 album Norman Fucking Rockwell! a few times throughout the album. One of the most prominent sections is, of course, the remix of Venice Bitch on Taco Truck x VB, something fans were absolutely not expecting. This is also one of my favorite tracks on the album, and I love how the transition from Taco Truck to VB is bridged by a voicenote from Margaret.
Taco truck x VB is the most superior thing I’ve ever heard— lea 🌙 (taylor’s version) (@leaTSwiftie) April 25, 2023
Other more subtle references are that on the 9th track of the album, Fingertips, a single lyric in the first verse echoes the tune of Bartender, the 12th track on NFR.
"I wish I could extrapolate some small intention / Or maybe just get your attention for a minute or two"
On Let The Light In, there's a subtle reference to Love Song, a track from NFR through the lyric:
Look shinin' in the light, therе's so much ridin' / On this life and how we write a lovе song
Lastly, something very hard to catch that I could identify was A&W, the 4th and longest track on the album, which is split into two parts. The track was released on Valentine's Day, with heavy lyrics talking about assault, sex addiction, and references to her not having a good relationship with her mother.
Do you really think that anybody would think / I didn't ask for it? I didn't ask for it / I won't testify, I already fucked up my story / On top of this, so many other things you can't believe / Did you know a singer can still be / Looking like a sidepiece at thirty-three?
The song samples Norman Fucking Rockwell, the title and opening track of NFR. The strings and piano that we hear when she sings the word "blue" on Norman Fucking Rockwell are audible in part 2 of A&W.
Lana Del Rey samples the strings and piano from the title track of Norman fucking Rockwell for A&W pic.twitter.com/F0UycShEWq— Lana Del Rey Analyses (@DecodingLDR) February 14, 2023
Why is it Personal?
Not only is it the lyrics where she goes deep into her relationship with her family members, but even the production reflects that this project is close to her heart. This can be seen from the collaborators on this album.
They are people she has admired and worked with, the most striking being a song for her friend's fiancee, and the fact that she has included raw conversations and things she wants to convey on the album through the two interludes on the album as well as random conversations in the middle of songs like on Peppers ft. Tommy Genesis and the voicenote of Margaret on Taco Truck x VB.
Criticism and Ranking
One thing that most fans did not like was the two interludes on the album. They seem to be random, and while not a single song on the album is a skip for me, the interludes disrupted the flow, which I did not like. However, this might have been intentional because Lana mentioned that her manager told her she had created an album with no skips, so in classic Lana fashion she added the interludes. While they seem random, they're meaningful for her and her values and that adds to the personal quality of the album.
A few songs, like Kintsugi and Fingertips, lack structure in the production. While I still enjoy them, it may be hard to keep track and listen to these songs from beginning to end. Kinstugi is especially beautiful as it is about the Japanese concept of mending broken pottery using gold.
It uses this metaphor to see imperfections and "brokenness" as opportunities for the "light to get in". These songs redeem themselves through conceptual and lyrical excellence, but may not be for everyone if you focus less on lyrics and more on sound.
kintsugi, japanese for 'golden joinery', my mother told me, is when you mend the broken parts of something back together, a dazzling shimmer of gold where its cracks once were. people were like this too—beautiful things with unknown histories in their scars.— ً (@kreophagos) April 27, 2023
Overall, this album is a masterpiece and many have predicted that it would get Grammy nominations and would finally win, which is something Lana has deserved since the beginning. Personally, I found the second half to be more engaging than the first, but I love the flow of the album and arrangement of all the songs. People have also said that the album sounds exactly like a tunnel, with the beginning and end having lighter, more positive songs, and the middle being heavier lyrically and production wise. Nevertheless, here is my personal ranking excluding the interludes:
- Taco Truck x VB
- Margaret ft. The Bleachers
- Paris, Texas ft. SYML
- Let The Light In ft. Father Jon Misty
- Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing
- Peppers ft. Tommy Genesis
- Candy Necklace ft. Jon Batiste
- Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd
- The Grants