Lana Del Rey | Norman F*****g Rockwell!

 In CD Reviews

8/10 F*****g sublime

In case you were wondering, Norman Percevel Rockwell – 1894-1978 – was an American author, painter and illustrator whose works focused on images of the idyllic American dream. For an artist who has based her career on the celebration and subversion of those ideals, Lana Del Rey couldn’t have picked a better subject matter for this, her magical fifth album – the inserted expletive clearly intended as a giant ‘screw you’ to the unattainable.

Anyone who’s been keeping an ear out since 2010’s self-titled debut will recognize the usual themes of money, power, beauty, glory, excess and loss – all wrapped up in her gorgeous songwriting and seductive vocals. The skeletal trap-pop trip-hop vibes of “Honeymoon” remain in part, but here on “NFR!” there’s more of an emphasis on piano-based ballads and quiet folk. “Oh, be my once in a lifetime/Lyin’ on your chest in my party dress/I’m a f****n’ mess” she coos on the exquisite “Love Song” over soft chords that are barely there. “California” is an equally muted meditation on the disparity between the promised land of L.A. and it’s broken-dreams reality.

Elsewhere the funky Sublime redo of “Doin’ Time” takes on a whole new perspective (“Dance to the rhythm/It gets harder”), while closing lament “Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – But I Have It” cements Del Rey’s reputation as a Sylvia Plath for the millennial generation: “Don’t ask if I’m happy/You know that I’m not/But at best, I can say I’m not sad,” she whispers wearily.

Never mind “The Next Best American Record” (track 10) – this is the work of the next best American songwriter. No question..

Dan Ashcroft

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