Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd proves Lana Del Rey’s ability to continue crafting engaging albums so far into her career

For the majority of her career, Lana Del Rey has come across as an individual who was almost on the verge of being swallowed by her persona. The imagery of her in 1950s dresses, flying the American flag and smoking copious amounts of cigarettes could sometimes feel like it was used as a crutch for her music when it sometimes didn’t have much substance. However, Lana Del Rey, similar to swathes of listeners, seemed to tire of these presentations- a decision marked with the release of the album Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019). Even down to the album title she showed a clear removal from these aesthetics – that she could no longer dwell in a falsified Americana and had to find a new voice for herself.

‘Judah Smith Interlude’ is mostly a nearly five-minute sermon 

However, this is not just a transformation she has restricted to the singular album but weaved throughout the following releases and is even more explicit on Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd. Throughout the album, she displays her old persona as a falsified ideal that she is no longer able to associate with. The track ‘Judah Smith Interlude’ is mostly a nearly five-minute sermon from conservative preacher Judah Smith with only slight interjections of Lana and her friends laughing. Smith’s strong religious convictions, laced with bigotry, were part of the undercurrent of Lana Del Rey’s old aesthetic. Whilst she never stated anything as potent as the words of Judah Smith, the Americana aesthetics that marked most of her earlier career did have these beliefs attached to them. It wasn’t just flowing dresses and Coca-Cola that Lana was associating herself with, but also with these belief systems.

It is hard to imagine two songs like ‘Fingertips’ and ‘Peppers’ existing on the same album

Of course, Lana Del Rey is not only moving away from these aesthetics by mocking the bigoted figures at its centre but also the approach she takes to her music more widely. ‘A&W’ (an abbreviated version of American Whore) is a perfect example of this. The first half is an earnest and yearning plea for recognition as she delivers the lines “If I told you that I was raped/ Do you really think that anybody would think I didn’t ask for it? /I didn’t ask for it/I won’t testify, I already fucked up my story” in her typical style before transitioning into a stuttering drum beat and droning bass as she sings the line “Jimmy only love me when he wanna get high” over and over. This is the new Lana Del Rey, the one she lays bare throughout the album- someone who is using her music to demonstrate the hardships she’s struggled through during her life but not being above simply enjoying herself and indulging in the pleasures around her. It’s likely why the sound of her vaping is so common on the album she should give a sleeve note credit to whatever brand she uses.

This divide, a characteristic that is key to the recent work of Lana Del Rey, is something that is present throughout the album. It is hard to imagine two songs like ‘Fingertips’ and ‘Peppers’ existing on the same album and yet Lana Del Rey manages it. The former is a heart-wrenching piano ballad in which Lana Del Rey details her innermost thoughts about her family alongside her own fears about maternity and sobriety. In stark contrast, ‘Peppers’ is a light-hearted song where she and Canadian rapper Tommy Genesis sing the line “hands on your knees, I’m Angelina Jolie” in a reference to having sex with her boyfriend and adopts a genuinely carefree attitude throughout the song as “my boyfriend tested positive for COVID, it don’t matter/ We’ve been kissing so whatever he has I have”.

Whilst there are some moments where the album can feel a bit too long, throughout Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, Lana Del Rey, aided by her frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff (who appears to be on a quest to produce every major artist possible) is able to express her true experiences and an artful distance from the Americana persona that coloured her earlier career output. From the choir that opens ‘The Grants’ to the closing song, ‘Taco Truck x VB’ which incorporates some of the sprawling song ‘Venice bitch’ from Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana Del Rey is able to craft an interesting, raw and engaging album even nine albums into her career.




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