On her ninth album, the American singer Lana Del Rey goes further in revealing her intimacy, in particular concerning her family, while once again jealously guarding her secrets.
Lana Del Rey is a pop star like no other. She is not one of those whose next hits we are watching, but of those, rare today in an industry of the well-calibrated single-king, whose albums we are waiting for. Because as the queen of songwriting, she takes us on a walk each time through the meanders of her memories, her torments and her ramshackle psyche – offering along the way some elements of the puzzle of today’s America.
With Lana Del Rey, we have learned that over time since her dazzling debut in 2011 with Video Games, let yourself be carried away above all, bewitched. But it is also necessary, over the immodest and touching sentimental stories that make the salt of her songs, to avoid overinterpreting the personal clues, often painful, that she sows like small pebbles, not to seek at all costs to unravel the true fake so as not to deny him the right to fantasy and fiction.
However, this exercise in distancing proves to be particularly difficult for the listener on his ninth album. The singer in fact indulges more than ever, revealing a large part of her intimacy on Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. Her words are more precise, less allusive, in particular with regard to her family and those around her, at the heart of this album: she names the people, addresses them directly and regularly gives the listener the impression of turn the pages of a diary.
The family and its loved ones, major theme of the disc
From the opening title, The Grantswhich refers to her real last name, she promises to take with her”the last smile“of his grandmother and”the firstborn” of her sister Caroline. She reflects on the death of her recently deceased grandmother on Kintsugiand evokes that of his grandfather on Grandfather Please Stand on the Shoulder of my Father, whom she asks to send her a sign from beyond, in the form of three white butterflies. In this same song, Lana Del Rey recalls with bitterness the rumors denouncing an entirely fabricated singer which accompanied the first times of her advent twelve years ago.
To shut up his detractors and show the substance of his painful experience, we must look at the very revealing fingertips. In this particularly rich and poignant song, she questions her father, her sister and her brother (will you be there with me?), before claiming a mausoleum in Rhode Island where she would rest with her father, grandparents and uncle Dave”who hanged himself at the age of 61, in the summer of 2016. A visibly badly extinguished mourning: when she heard the news, Lana Del Rey was on tour in Europe and was to play “in front of the Prince of Monaco two hours later”she sings, and did not agree “only two minutes to cry”“sitting in the shower”. In this same song, the most explicit on the album, she also questions motherhood: “Would I have a child?”“Can I take care of it?”before, later, evoking the badly digested attitude of her own mother, with whom she has been in delicacy for a long time.
Beyond the family, it is also a question of the entourage. So, Margaret was written for actress Margaret Qualley, the fiancée of its producer and collaborator Jack Antonoff (who sings here under the pseudonym Bleachers), with the aim of possibly being played at their future wedding. Because if it is often a question of her dear departed, but also of the sentimental torments to which she has accustomed us, this album is generally peaceful – there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Lana Del Rey walks her melancholy and her metaphysical questions with delicacy, as if animated by a new philosophy of life – “Don’t give up, cause you never know what the new day might bring” (“don’t give up, cause you never know what the new day might bring“), she sings on Margaret.
A measured musical audacity
Musically, this album shows a certain audacity, but less than the masterful second single would suggest. A&W released in mid-February for Valentine’s Day. Divided into two parts, with a folk opening that unexpectedly evolves into a trap rhythm and an almost rap phrasing, this provocative ballad in which she assumes her sexuality as an unillusioned lover – “It’s not about havin’ someone to love me anymore / This is the experience of an american whore“-, is a song already listed at the top of his discography.
The album, which mixes majestic orchestrations and austerity (adorable simplicity on the piano of ParisTexas Or candy necklace), gospel, folk and pop incursions, contains other small experimental surprises, in particular towards the end of the album, with a verse by Canadian rapper Tommy Genesis (peppers), and a new version of Venice Bitch closing (Taco Truck x VB). Not to mention the playful vocal prowess she gratifies us throughout.
This disc has only one defect: it is long -16 songs and more than 77 minutes -, too long to hope to equal the flawless Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019). However, we would be hard pressed, we admit, to determine what we would have removed from it that was superfluous, except for the 4-minute sermon on fidelity by the controversial pastor Judah Smith. She who sings as she breathes – “Music is like a little bird that’s always on my shoulder“, she says – did not know how to choose. In any case, we close this diary admiring Lana Del Rey’s stripping exercise, a dance of the seven veils more than a large striptease, who once again manages to preserve the mysteries of the real Elizabeth Woolridge Grant.
“Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” (Universal) was released Friday, March 24, 2023