5 reasons to listen to Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!

FADER staffers offer their take on the pop goddess’ latest.

September 03, 2019
5 reasons to listen to Lana Del Rey’s <i>Norman Fucking Rockwell!</i>

Last week, Lana Del Rey's heavily anticipated new album Norman Fucking Rockwell! saw release. The FADER's staff, naturally, has some opinions. Read on for our staffers' takes.

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Lana Del Rey, the self-proclaimed "most famous woman you know on the iPad," offers up dispatches from a luxurious form of apocalyptic malaise on her latest album. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is a world in which "the culture is lit" and "Kanye is blonde and gone," reflective of a time when we all airbrush our immediate memories as if to ignore the shifting tides beneath us. The album works better in individual moments, rather than as a collective statement; the lolling melodies on "Fuck It, I Love You" are sublime, while the spirits of Laurel Canyon icons Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell are present throughout standouts "The greatest" and beautifully gauzy "Venice Bitch." However, the elegiac pacing of the record is concave in a way that enlarges whatever you wish to see in it, perhaps betraying Del Rey's keen sense of humor. This is an album which literally features a Sublime cover and the career-ending putdown, “Your poetry’s bad and you blame the news." It's these playful elements I enjoy the most on Norman Fucking Rockwell!, which glides throughout but truly soars when it feels like part of a world and not just adjacent to a mood. -- David Renshaw

Here’s how Lana Del Rey closes out “The greatest,” one of the most salient songs on her new album Norman Fucking Rockwell!: “If this is it, I'm signing off / Miss doing nothin' the most of all / Hawaii just missed that fireball / L.A. is in flames‚ it's getting hot / Kanye West is blond and gone / "Life on Mars" ain't just a song / I hope the live stream's almost on.” There’s a certain, specific understanding Lana Del Rey has of the current cultural climate. She writes in a way that’s witty and specific, allowing her to speak to large, indefinable 2019 themes like “dystopia” or “late-capitalism.” And NFM! is her most actualized work yet, in which she’s dialed in on her thesis statement as an artist and delivers something so perfectly Lana Del Rey that the only way you can define it is by shrugging, saying things like, “Look… It’s just Lana, you know what I mean?” The world is burning and Lana continues to float above us all, playing the piano and laughing at all the inside jokes she’s created. -- Eric Sundermann

I am a little Venice Bitch — and if I’m not, then I want to be. That’s always been the magic of Lana Del Rey: She has an uncanny ability to craft a world of adventure that somehow feels entirely within your grasp, if only you’d snuck out on the right night or met the right grifter. She’s a woman who loves to spin a tale, and Norman Fucking Rockwell! is her best-told epic to date. Everything about it makes me want to douse myself in rose water and spend hours lamenting on days I wished to run away with former lovers. The Lana I love has always gotten carried away on a bridge, but her cover of Sublime's “Doin’ Time” and other tracks show a new level of restraint, a sense of concision that brings her fantasies back to Earth. It's the puzzle piece that's completed her image as a songwriter, a subtle but important moment of growth — but despite that maturation, Lana is still the messy self-described basic bitch we need and deserve as the voice of a generation. She sings heartbreak into a dream with fearlessness, always saying the things we’re afraid to: “God damn man child/ You fucked me so good that I almost said ‘I love you’.” Lana’s poetic realism is what gives us the feeling that she is truly each and every one of us, attempting to navigate love in this near-apocalyptic world while trying to hold on to the dreams worth having. -- Nalae White

Across her discography, distance has always been one of Lana Del Rey’s greatest and most isolating assets, but on Norman Fucking Rockwell!, she feels closer than ever. The album feels lived-in, like it was scrawled in the great American songbook decades ago. Perhaps this is due to its extended rollout: “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “Venice Bitch” were released almost a year ago, and nearly every other song has been either released or heavily previewed on Lana’s Instagram in the time since. It’s a remarkable feat, then, that these ballads still manage to feel so momentous as part of a whole, with proper sequencing. Throughout it all she repeatedly maintains she’s not sad — she’s been colored blue, her feelings displaced from context. With this framework, and critical respect finally circling back in her favor, perhaps Norman Fucking Rockwell! will illuminate the rest of her catalog. -- Salvatore Maicki

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After a decade of slow ascendance to pop iconography's throne, Lana Del Rey has finally cut through the haze. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is a work of at-times bracing clarity, its front-and-center-ness all the more highlighted by the various vibes she's expertly curated in her discography thus far. Credit to collaborator Jack Antonoff for knowing when to apply some gas — a theremin here, a scuzzy guitar there — and when to simply back away and let these songs, easily the finest collection of work she's put together to date, shine with the grace they possess. Still digesting this one, and I imagine I'll be doing so for quite some time. -- Larry Fitzmaurice

5 reasons to listen to Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!