Pop

Is Lana Del Rey About To Have A Moment?

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Toward the end of 2018, our doe-eyed lady of the lowlands, one Lana Del Rey, released the most unusual single of her already eccentric career. “Venice B*tch” started out simply enough for the first two minutes, a sweet, beachy ballad about falling in love on the west side of LA, before it devolves into a fuzzed-out, extended jam session complete with burbling synthesizers and lyric fragments that stretch and linger on for close to ten minutes. Radio-friendly it is not, and as an advanced single, it’s a pretty bold departure — even for Lana.

“Well, end of summer, some people just wanna drive around for 10 minutes get lost in some electric guitar,” Lana told Zane Lowe when the single premiered on his Beats1 radio show, explaining that her managers weren’t too keen on the track as an introduction to her sixth studio album, Norman F*cking Rockwell.

It’s likely her managers were just as concerned when, about a month later, she shut down Kanye’s support of Trump with an Instagram comment heard ‘round the music world. “Trump becoming our president was a loss for the country but your support of him is a loss for the culture,” Lana commented on one of Ye’s many posts praising Trump, echoing the sentiments of a huge portion of his fanbase, who had always admired the Chicago legend specifically for speaking truth to power and corruption. Her experimental new single, and the surprising, powerful political statement in response to Kanye signaled that Lana was coming into a new sense of herself — and that newfound confidence seems to have only grown throughout the rest of the leadup to her latest record.

Norman F*cking Rockwell is out this coming Friday, and we’ve already heard a whopping six tracks off the album, including “Mariners Apartment Complex,” which was released ahead of “Venice B*tch” by about a week, and “Doin’ Time,” a Sublime cover prominently featured in a new documentary about the band. Lana has a thing for soundtracks, and often incorporates the music she records for film into her albums, too. Actually, “Doin’ Time” is probably one of the most accessible tracks Lana has dropped so far, as most of the material she’s shared with fans off Rockwell is subdued and strange, littered with references to California, her relationship with fame, and a newfound love.

And despite the lack of pop production or any real uptempo singles, the reaction to Lana’s slower “Cat Power phase” has been beyond positive. Instead of engaging with old Hollywood glamour and living in the past, or creating a new fantasy world to live in — two songwriting styles she is very skilled at performing inside of — the songs on Rockwell are decidedly present, and come off as genuine personal reflections from the inner workings of her mind. While plenty of pop stars have leaned into sharing intimate details from their lives to help add to the narrative around their art, Lana has famously played her cards close to the chest when it comes to her private life.

This isn’t surprising, since her interviews sometimes turn controversial, like the 2014 kerfuffle where her meditations on life and existence were blown out of proportion into a death wish, or that same year when she responded that feminism is boring to one of the male journalists who routinely asked her about feminism instead of, say, the cosmos. If more general subjects like her attempt to engage in existential dialogue, or point out the inherent sexism of being forced to sound off about feminism at every turn led to intense backlash, then getting personal in her songwriting could be even riskier. Or, it could lead to one of the most celebrated albums of her tenure as the most serene pop star of our era.

Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have, but I have it,” she proclaimed on her next song, going babycase to show solidarity with sticking it to the man, and using a sentence-long title to convey the song’s full message to those who were skimming headlines or tracklists. “Hello it’s the most famous woman you know on the iPad,” she sings, highlighting the strange tension between public and private life that celebrities navigate, particularly when it comes to the way personal relationships are now mediated by technology.” By digging into these surreal complexities instead of writing about legends from the past, Lana is, consciously or unconsciously, building her own mythology bigger than ever.

If expectations for this album were already high, when Lana released two additional singles this past Friday in “F*ck It I Love You” and “The Greatest” — along with another viral interview snippet about talking sh*t at Starbucks in her spare time — anticipation was stoked even further. The conversational style of the songwriting on both of these tracks doubles down on the intimate nature of Rockwell, as she sings about moving to LA to try to find herself and unrequited love on the former, and fears about the end of the world, space exploration, and the 2018 Woolsey fire on the latter.

Considering we’ve already heard more than a third of the record, six songs of the fourteen tracks, it’s hard to imagine Lana’s next album will be a disappointment. The material that she’s shared is some of the strongest she’s ever written, and with titles like “Love Song,” the title track, and “The Next Best American Record,” it sounds like she has a lot more to stay. If the rest of the record stays within the same off-the-cuff, philosophical and no-f*cks-given vein, then this might be the universally-acclaimed, critically adored album that she has long deserved but never achieved. Either way, Lana Del Rey is about to have a moment, and since this record is one of the most anticipated pop albums of the year, Friday can’t come quickly enough.

Norman F*cking Rockwell is out 8/30. Pre-order it here.

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