Lana Del Rey’s new album is tragic, magical and unapologetically sincere. Comparing the experience of listening to “Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” to that of listening to other contemporary music is akin to comparing apples to oranges. I firmly believe that not only is Lana Del Rey one of, if not the, best current musical artists working today, she is on the forefront of what American art in the 21st century is.
Referring to her album as a musical story, though on the surface true, would ultimately be a juvenile misrepresentation. It’s a transcendent and transfixing movement through a swirl of life and emotion. The songs are permeated with dark moments, both of desire and despair. It’s beautiful and tragic. It can be jarring, but in an intentional and measured way, a way that challenges you and yet remains coherent and addicting.
The lyricism is on par with poetry, as every word, every phrase and every breath meticulously serves the emotional purpose of the song. It sucks you in. The music permeates your very pores, seeping into your soul. It grabs hold and refuses to let go as it envelops you in an embrace of despair.
And yet, there are moments of hope and there are moments of life. The abstract is, in turn, contained by honesty. It is there to pull you out of the darker moments, to provide a context as to which to navigate with. The questions Del Rey raises about herself and the world go unanswered, but that’s okay. It’s not meant to provide answers, but rather to explore possibilities.
If you’ve come to this album for the sense of comfort music can bring you, then I must turn you away. It can deeply unsettle. And while, deceptively, it can musically soothe, it simultaneously fills one with an oppressive sense of hopelessness, only to break into cathartic relief as the album nears a close.
Of course, the lead single “A&W” and the titular track “Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” are fantastic, but it almost seems too disingenuous to try to pull any one song from the pack. They all work together, flow together. It is an album meant to be experienced, not merely listened to.
I understand that this album may not be for everyone. But for those of us who have fallen in love with Lana Del Rey’s music, it’s yet another transcendent step in her musical journey. I genuinely cannot recommend it enough.