Below Ocean Blvd and into the Mind: Del Rey Guides Us Through Her World on Latest Album

“When you’re good, it’s gold,” Lana Del Rey reminds us on the track “Margaret” from her ninth studio album Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, released on Friday, March 24. The singer-songwriter Del Rey’s ability to convert singular, diaristic stories into beautiful folk-pop melodies — and some surprise hip-hop-influenced tracks harkening back to her Born to Die era — underwrites this proposition: When Lana is good, emotionally and spiritually, she’s gold. 

Del Rey’s early albums, too, felt like a storybook, but one that was ultimately a deliberate creation. Listeners became accustomed to her tales of  “facin’ time again at Rikers Island” in Born to Die (2012) and “dying by the hands of a foreign man” on Honeymoon (2015). Yet, since her critically acclaimed 2019 album Norman F*****g Rockwell, there has increasingly been a convergence between “Lana Del Rey” and Elizabeth (Lizzy) Grant, the real life New York-raised artist who caught fame at the dawn of the Instagram era. 

Her latest release marks their long-awaited unification. She directly addresses her now decade-long struggle of managing both the public’s and her own perception of herself on tracks such as “A&W” and “Grandfather Please Stand on the Shoulders of my Father While He’s Deep-Sea Fishing” (yes, that’s the full title).

Spinning Singles: Lana Del Rey, “Lust For Life”

Lana Del Rey’s new song “Lust For Life” debuted on BBC1 on April 19.   The song is the titular track off her upcoming album. It features rich vocals and a collaboration between Lana and the singer Abel Tesfaye of The Weeknd. The track opens with Lana Del Rey’s seductively saying “Climb up the H of the Hollywood sign, in these stolen moments, the world is mine.”  These sultry lyrics are followed by “we’re the  masters of our own fate.”  Lana’s vocals proved to be just as mellifluous as usual, and her performance gave off similar vibes to her first album Born to Die.  

I felt that the collaboration between Lana Del Rey and Abel Tesfaye was disappointing.

Spinning Singles: Lana Del Rey, “Freak”

In the self-directed music video for “Freak,” from her album Honeymoon, Lana Del Rey invites you into her oversaturated, trippy vision of California. Featuring Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), the video is supposedly inspired by his experience dropping acid at a Taylor Swift concert. “Freak” opens with Tillman and Del Rey walking in the desert before she presses a tab of acid on Tillman’s tongue, cuing the hushed chorus “Baby if you wanna leave /Come to California/ Be a freak like me too.”

Sun-drenched and hazy, the rest of the track unfolds lazily like a dream with shots of Tillman surrounded by young women in white and a surreal close-up of Kool Aid gushing down Del Rey’s chin as she drinks. A sequence of the couple slow dancing in a thick fog marks the end of the song “Freak.” The dance continues in silence for a few seconds before switching to an underwater shot and the opening notes of Debussy’s “Claire de lune.” In the rest of the 11-minute track, Del Rey, Tillman, and the young women glide in this glittering underwater place, in a continuation of a scene from her previous video for “Music To Watch Boys To.”

Those who complain about her inauthenticity forget that Lana Del Rey is a purposeful, carefully created persona that produces pop music too weird for the mainstream. Her goal is aesthetic pleasure, and in her self-aware, at times self-mocking art, she achieves it.