So good that I've been dissociating all day!
Lana Del Rey’s ninth studio album is a blessing. It’s magical, subtly sensitive, and has been universally praised as one of her best works yet! There are so many different highlights for me: reminders of her Lizzy Grant sound in ‘Peppers’, sick beats in the latter half of ‘A&W’, and most excitingly, features from Father John Misty, Jon Batiste, and SYML.
Two years ago I wrote a grief-stricken review of Del Rey’s ‘Blue Banisters‘. The 2021 album solidified the idea that the depressed Born To Die era of Lana was over and never coming back. I was missing the grand strings of her early albums and the Americana imagery. I couldn’t quite come to terms with the trading in of Hollywood horror to a quiet life in the American suburbs – but what I’ve come to realise is that Del Rey has grown as a songwriter. It’s very clear that sophistication has come with the establishment of herself in the music industry, where she no longer has to be concerned with record sales, but instead can just write the music she wants to.
In December I listened to the lead single of the same name, ‘Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd‘, and I loved it. The single gave me an exciting insight into what this album could be. It was dreamy and emotional, and very niche! This is something Del Rey has become known for; oddly specific song titles. A great example of this is taken from this very album, a song entitled ‘Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing’. I can’t quite decide if this title is absolutely hilarious and takes away the meaning of the song, or whether this creates beautiful imagery of the love Del Rey has for her family. Regardless of this, the two songs are a beautiful, calming listen.
In the latter song, Lana recalls her early career, comparing herself to Frankenstein in an effort to address how people saw her as a manufactured artist with no real substance. She goes on to write that she has good intentions and can produce meaningful work whether she’s singing blues, jazz, folk etc. She also calls on her Grandfather to protect her dad (who we previously thought gave Lana daddy issues, until ‘Blue Banisters‘ taught us it was the mother all along!!!)
Family has been a big topic in the Lana-verse for a few years now, with her sister, Chuck, being featured heavily in the storytelling. ‘The Grants’ opens the album beautifully, telling the story of Del Rey’s most precious memories such as her neice, Phoenix, and her grandmother’s last smile. The song also introduces us to the religious conceit that’s interlaced throughout the album. The song is very heavily inspired by gospel musicality, making the song super catchy and perfectly written. Lana is supported by a beautiful hymn-like choir as she sings the beautiful chorus: “My pastor told me / When you leave, all you take / Is your memories / And I want to take mine of you with me”. It is personal and emotional, but I cant help but feel that the ethereal ending means this song would have been better off closing the album. At the end of DYKTTATUOB (sorry but can you believe the album title is that long!!!! Iconic) is instead a remix of my favourite Lana song, ‘Venice Bitch’ from Norman Fucking Rockwell, so I guess I can’t complain.
The second single off the album is ‘A&W’, referencing the lyrics “It’s not about having someone to love anymore / This is the experience of being an american whore”. In a similar vein to ‘Venice Bitch’, ‘A&W’ is a long one at 7 minutes, but it’s a great seven minutes! At first I hated this song, I thought it was weird and boring, but the more I’ve listened the more I love it. Tbh that’s been my experience with Lana for a few years now, having to listen a lot to fully appreciate the music. This made me concerned that DYKTTATUOB would be a grower, but actually, I loved the album from my first listen.
Currently we have no music videos for the album, but Lana has teased one for ‘Candy Necklace’ on her Instagram. This song has been hailed a ‘masterpiece’ from fans, so it would be an absolute treat to see Lana’s visualisation of this song. I must say, Candy Necklace is one of my faves from the album. It features Grammy nominated artist Jon Batiste (although barely!) and seems very Norman Fucking Rockwell in lyrics, referencing the taste of Cinnamon (like in ‘Cinnamon Girl’) and telling the story of a somewhat dangerous relationship. The piano melody is very euphoric and relaxing, although sometimes deep and menacing, creating the perfect blend of vibes!
Another stand out song which is up there with the greats is a collaboration with Father John Misty who featured in the ‘Freak’ music video from Honeymoon. Last year, the two got together for ‘Buddy’s Rendezvous’ which has become one of my most listened to Lana songs – I can tell ‘Let The Light In’ will follow suit. The song features a melodic merger of the acoustic guitar and piano, which compliments the two’s bewitching vocals. The song references a previous track, ‘Kintsugi’, both about heartbreak and pain making you stronger. It’s a wonderful message and would be a great song to put on at afters and drunk dance to with your besties!
In truth, all the songs are wonderful and it’s hard to pick my favourites because they all stand out as beautiful. There are some memorable choruses, melodies, and interludes on this album, and I can absolutely see why images of people crying at the listening parties circulated online. The album is so dreamy, chilled, and heart-wrenchingly honest. If you’re missing the old Lana, just get over it mate, because she’s all grown up now and making beautiful music for herself and her fans. What a wonderful listen this is!
‘Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ is out now via Interscope/Polydor. You can listen to ‘Candy Necklace’ here: