Lana Del Rey – NFR
Before this release I knew little to nothing about Lana Del Rey. I just wrote her off as another pop artist making sub par music for the masses, so when I heard a buzz about this album I was not only surprised but also super skeptical. I then got the CD and proceeded to listen to it on a long carried. The first song “Normal Fucking Rockwell” started off as expected. A piano ballad laced with long and drawn out strings underneath Lana’s fragile voice. One thing that took me off guard though was that despite the simplistic “this is a sad pop song” structure I actually really enjoyed it. Actually the first 3 songs on this album are GOLD. Each one is a fantastic story about love and hopelessness. Also, the guitar solos on “Mariners Apartment Complex” & “Venice Bitch” are to die for. The guitar work on this album is on the same level of ROBERT FRIPP. Jesus I just need a minute to say that the guitarist who played on this album gave these songs so much life.
With that being said, this album is extremely top heavy. Tracks 4-6 are somewhat hard to listen to and Lanas cover of “Doin’ Time” by Sublime I did not enjoy at all. (I have to note that I don’t enjoy the original song at all either and the fact that this song is the biggest hit off of the album… its disappointing.) These songs are not bad but to me they just lack substance, and they just end up sounding like generic piano ballads. Again I have to say that they’re not bad, and in terms of pop songs I would actually say that they’re above average songs BUT after listening to the nine minute “Venice Bitch” its very clear that Lana is punching under her weight.
The song 7th song “Cinnamon Girl” kicks things back into gear. This song is about as good as the first 3 and it helps bring the album back end of the album up to snuff with the others. The hook on this song is superb and the reverby drums work super well. I also have to say that this song puts the producer into the spotlight. The outro on this track is absolutely astonishing and everything in the mix sounds so clean and pristine. Later down the line there are many other moments where the production is spot on but I think that the last 30 seconds or so of “Cinnamon Girl” is a prime example of how talented the producer for this album is.
“How To Disappear” & “California” are both good additions to the album but neither of them do anything stellar. Each song has a wonderful chorus but Lana has this nasty habit of making all of her verses sound the same for the rest of the songs on this album. I swear almost every song from 8-14 uses the “piano chords and singing with reverb” technique. Then the rest of the instruments come in at the chorus. What’s weird is that the choruses for almost every song on this album are great, but its just that the verses are so similar and boring that its hard for me to say that the rest of these songs are worth listening to. I understand that the vocals are meant to be the highlight of this album but after coming through with songs such as “Mariners Apartment Complex” there is NO reason that Lana can’t write a good verse.
I also have to mention that most of the words on this album are generic sad girl tunes but there are times when the words can hit hard. My favorite part on the album is during “Venice Bitch” where Lana sings about growing up and change.
/ Back, back in the garden /
/ We’re getting high now because we’re older /
The words on some of these songs hit hard. There are other good moments especially on the first three tracks, and on the last one, but aside from that most of her lyrics could be substantially better.
Despite having its weak moments, Normal Fucking Rockwell is a staple of 2019. This album has some gems and I think I can safely say that it’s a modern classic. In 2019 influx of sad pop music and I think that Lana Del Rey does the best job out of all of her contemparires… *cough* *cough* Billie Eilish… this album does undoubtedly have its fair share of flaws but its great moments shine through. If you’re not sure if this one is worth your time id recommend listening to the first half at the most. Overall though this album gets the Bryce stamp of approval 🙂