Lana Del Rey has made her triumphant return with her latest album, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard? With a gloomy, grey aesthetic and lyrics more conversational than ever, it’s a thrilling new step in Del Rey’s career, made all the better by revisiting the magic of her extensive discography.
Born to Die
The unassuming Elizabeth Grant stepped into the Lana Del Rey persona for her major label debut, Born to Die, crafting a myth out of an ordinary woman. A Hollywood caricature adorned in an American flag, singing the nation’s timeless anthems of love, money and drugs, Lana unexpectedly became an online musical icon. Infusing trap and hip-hop beats with jazzy balladry, Born To Die’s sound is unmatched. It undoubtedly transformed the world of excessive party pop into one of darkness and bizzarity for the decade to come. Highlights include chart-topper ‘Summertime Sadness’, as well as groovy fan favourites ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ and ‘Off to the Races’ which showcase her inimitable vocal style.
Expanding on the universe Born to Die so carefully crafted, Paradise is a compelling collection of slower, moodier tracks made largely in support of Lana’s short film Tropico. From Lana’s haunting cover of American classic ‘Blue Velvet’ to the high satire of ‘Cola’, there’s never a dull moment across Paradise. But its standout moment is the career high ‘Ride’, where she rides a motorcycle across the desert and infamously declares herself “f***king crazy”, but “free”.
Cult classic Ultraviolence turned away from Born To Die’s moody trip-pop to instead dive headfirst into soft alternative rock. Thematically, Lana grew darker than ever, musing over toxic relationships, addictions, infidelity and the perils of conventional womanhood. Even the beachier tracks ‘West Coast’ and ‘Brooklyn Baby’ seemed to mask a deeper sadness only Lana’s mournful voice could truly convey. After all, Ultraviolence saw her as the first to admit “I’m pretty when I cry”.
Never one to make the same record twice, Lana reimagined herself as an angelic jazz singer for the underrated Honeymoon. This album abandoned upbeat choruses in favour of murky, mystifying slow baroque pop. Dreamy and dark, Lana’s sultry writing is at its best on numbers like ‘Freak’ and ‘Music to Watch Boys To’. But it’s her closing cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ that reminds you she is all too aware of the mounting criticisms against her work. Honeymoon is a prelude to the notion that Lana Del Rey is more poised for defence than her distance from celebrity life would lead us to believe.
Lust for Life
Blending hip-hop with folky jazz, Lust for Life’s album cover presented Lana Del Rey for the first time smiling from ear to ear. Once the voice of a miserable internet generation, Lana now harkened back to the days of 70s peace and love. She moves “out of the black and into the blue” on romantic tracks such as ‘Love’ and ‘Coachella – Woodstock in my Mind’. The album also saw her immerse herself in collaboration, featuring unlikely and impressive names from The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky to Sean Ono and Stevie Knicks. Despite its polarising reputation amongst fans, Lust For Life also offered up two of Lana’s undeniable best, in the simmering duo of ‘Heroin’ and ‘Cherry’.
Norman F***ing Rockwell!
Marking the beginning of a fruitful relationship with producer Jack Antonoff, Norman F***ing Rockwell! is frequently regarded as Lana’s magnum opus. Its stripped-back sound highlights the lyrics above all else, which paint a brutal picture of a politically strained modern America. ‘Venice Bitch’ serves up an expansive, experimental offering early on the album, whilst late entries ‘The Greatest’ and ‘hope is a dangerous thing…’ delve into the overlapping horrors of gender, technology and sense of self in suitably emotive fashion. There is no doubt that Norman F***ing Rockwell is the most important album in Lana’s career so far.
Chemtrails Over The Country Club
Chemtrails Over The Country Club opens with the country shimmer and Lana’s newfound breathy, pained falsetto on the impressive opener ‘White Dress’. This album is hyperaware of its privilege. Adorned in jewels and relaxing amidst upper class suburbia, Lana muses over the political hardships of the modern world, admitting that happiness is only attainable when she can detach from the news. “While the whole world is crazy, we’re getting high in the parking lot”, she sighs, through twisting guitars and shadowy drums. It’s a mission statement for a serene folk record which explores Lana’s personal world more closely than ever before.
Recently, Lana informed Rolling Stone she didn’t want anyone to listen to Blue Banisters. Yet with no promotion or public discussion from the woman herself, the album is an absolute career high. Blue Banisters destroys the Lana Del Rey character once and for all in favour of sharing an incredibly vulnerable insight into the life of Elizabeth Grant. The collection features the moving ode to family ‘Sweet Carolina’, the heartbreaker ‘Blue Banisters’, and several previously leaked fan favourites such as ‘Nectar of the Gods’ and ‘Cherry Blossom’. Blue Banisters rewards attentive listeners with a defensive album answering all the questions the world has demanded of Lana Del Rey for many years.
Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard?
Over a decade into her career, Lana Del Rey is still going strong with her dramatic and highly experimental latest album. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard? is essentially pure poetry over everchanging instrumentation, fluttering between trap, hip-hop, folk and country to draw together every genre Lana has touched. Her lyrics move between silly and satirical to arrestingly intimate, from the gritty ‘A&W’ split into two contradicting halves, to the self-referential beauties ‘Fishtail’ and ‘Candy Necklace’. It’s an album that shows Lana at her most experimental, her most expressive, and truly her most fearless.