Norman Fucking Rockwell! is the sixth studio album from sadcore superstar Lana Del Rey. Beginning by boldly proclaiming ‘Goddamn manchild’, Del Rey demands your attention to her striking album that ebbs and flows between whimsical, relatable, heartfelt and in some places, surprisingly uplifting.

With six tracks released as singles, ‘Fuck It I Love You’ and ‘The Greatest’ combined with a double video, NFR! cements Del Rey’s position as a talented album artist, without compromising her ability to create impactful stand-alone tracks. Perhaps her most down to earth album yet, Del Rey is candid about heartbreak and longing in the lyrics of ‘Happiness is a Butterfly’: ‘If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst / That can happen to a girl who’s already hurt?’

This record proudly exhibits Del Rey’s breadth and versatility, from the trip-hop closing bars of ‘Cinnamon Girl’ to the nine minute odyssey of ‘Venice Bitch’ with instrumentals reminiscent of The Doors but with more synth. 70s rock references are scattered throughout NFR!, especially in the poetic tune ‘Bartender’. Stand-out tracks include the album’s first single, piano ballad ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ and ‘Doin’ Time’, a cover of ska punk band Sublime’s 1996 track. Just like ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ on Lana’s fourth studio album Honeymoon and ‘Blue Velvet’ on her Paradise album, Del Rey covers a song which assimilates effortlessly into an album of otherwise original songs. It’s hard to believe ‘Oh take this veil from off my eyes / My burning sun will someday rise’, was not written by Del Rey.

 More complex than the muted optimism of her last release Lust for Life, NFR! revives the grandeur of Del Rey’s early work—think Born to Die and Ultraviolence. Despite her ever-changing styles, one thing that has remained constant throughout Del Rey’s entire discography is her intricate, poetic lyrics capable of creating unique and vivid experiences with each song. Del Rey makes the listener feel nostalgic for lost loves and Californian adventures, even if they have never experienced these things. Lyrics like ‘We didn’t know that we had it all / But nobody warns you before the fall’ invoke sentimentality even to the most detached listener.

It is hard to identify a weak link within the 14-song track list. Del Rey’s ability to cross genres and reinvent herself with each record is something which sets her apart. A melting pot of emotions and experience, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, could well be Lana Del Rey’s best work.

 4 stars. 

Image: Polydor Records / Interscope Records

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