Lana Del Rey’s new sound, growth

Megan Schlief, Contributing Writer

Which was more culturally significant, the Renaissance or the “Born to Die” music video? When I was 12 years old, Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” music video fundamentally altered my prepubescent brain. Who wouldn’t want to be an Americana princess on the back of an older man’s bike riding through the American desert? Probably most people whose prefrontal cortex was fully developed when the music video came out.

Del Rey’s newest album, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd,” channels this same old-Hollywood Americana energy with a hint of pop flare and undertones of childhood nostalgia.

Matthew Tate

Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, who goes by the stage name Lana Del Rey, opens the album with the song “The Grants.” It is an ode to family love and loss, simultaneously conveying sentimentality for adolescent innocence and the emotion that comes with carrying these family relationships into her adulthood. She ties her past and present together with the lyrics “Yeah, I’m gonna take mine of you with me. Like ‘Rocky Mountain High,’ the way John Denver sings.” This is a reference to John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” a song that ignites nostalgia for uniquely American memories and evokes feelings similar to those of a calm summer afternoon.

Del Rey released the fourth song on her album, “A&W,” early as a teaser for the new album. The song exemplifies all the best aspects of her discography, including melancholy vocals, acoustic guitar and a synth outro. “A&W” opens with the powerful lyrics, “I haven’t done a cartwheel since I was nine. I haven’t seen my mother in a long, long time,” tying in the theme of childhood reminiscence with a darker perspective of lost innocence and severed family ties.

One of the last tracks on the album, “Fishtail,” diverges from a lot of her other work in the sense that it is done in a primarily pop style. Although her explorations in the pop genre are often successfully paired with her overall melancholy tones, I did not enjoy this song. It reminded me of music from artists such as Melanie Martinez which I find to have very little substance and lack vocal and instrumental range like that of Del Rey’s. I would like to have words with whoever decided to autotune Del Rey’s voice so heavily in this song, seeing as her unadulterated voice sets her apart from other artists.

“Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” is a phenomenal example of Del Rey’s progression as an artist. The song showcases all of the most adored aspects of her work including vocals, instrumentals and lyrics. All of this ties together to create a holistic listening experience that explores more personal topics in her lyrics. Her experimentation with featured artists in various genres is last seen on her “Lust for Life” album and works to enhance her musical stylings. Her choice to pull from her collection of unreleased music shows her growth in confidence as an artist. 

Seeing as her earlier work was highly influential to my younger self, this album allowed for an interesting practice of introspection when comparing the development of her music and its themes to my own personal development.

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