The songwriter’s ninth album is heavy and disarmingly truthful, yet widens its close lens thanks to her wide-ranging, alluring aesthetic looseness
You could describe Lana Del Rey’s career thus far as a Benjamin Button-type situation: the more hushed, insular, formally experimental and self-referential her music gets, the more popular she seems to become. Last year, she collaborated with Taylor Swift as the only featured artist on her 10th album, Midnights; every other week, a new song from 2014’s Ultraviolence or 2019’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! (NFR!) goes viral. Pop’s new generation seems to look to her as a guiding light, perhaps more than any other star; her impact on culture is outsized, evidenced by a recent artist-on-artist interview in which Billie Eilish gushes about Del Rey, revealing that a photo of her was the background on her first ever phone.
Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, her ninth album, fits Del Rey’s curious career arc: it is her quietest, most wilfully inscrutable record in a long time, perhaps since 2015’s glacially paced, rebelliously quiet Honeymoon. Many of the songs here don’t have choruses or hooks, and instead feel like the result of Del Rey simply standing in front of a microphone and vibing out. As on 2021’s Blue Banisters, her usual US iconography has been largely replaced with specifics from her own life – the names of her siblings recur; one song is named for Margaret Qualley, the actor girlfriend of Del Rey’s producer, Jack Antonoff; five songs were written with Mike Hermosa, an ex-boyfriend. Del Rey’s artistic universe has long been a closed feedback loop, and in Ocean Blvd’s most dramatic, dynamic moments – the jaw-dropping A&W and hazy closer Taco Truck x VB – she outright samples herself, reusing elements of two NFR! songs to create a psychedelic, unexpected time warp.Continue reading...