Arts and Entertainment

The Coming-of-Age of Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey’s most recent project marks an enormous leap in her songwriting ability and solidifies her place as one of the greatest songwriters of our generation.

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By Sophie Poget

Lana Del Rey, like so many others, has built her career on the bedroom pop indie-girl aesthetic. With vanilla lyrics and the rather hackneyed “I’m original and quirky” vibe, Del Rey has garnered a large and loyal following by being uniquely generic. She projected this persona throughout her first couple albums, with the soft and bland lyrics and production across projects like “Born to Die” (2011) and “Lust for Life” (2017). For example, in “Blue Jeans” from “Born to Die,” Lana sings, “I will love you 'til the end of time / I would wait a million years / Promise you'll remember that you're mine,” reminiscent of mawkish high school poetry.

As she advanced through her career, Del Rey gradually added depth to her music, giving us glimpses of the more gritty, honest songwriting she is capable of. In the song “Pretty When You Cry” on her 2014 LP “Ultraviolence,” Del Rey sings in a haunting, ghostly tone, “Don't come through, babe, you never do / because I'm pretty when I cry.” But despite these traces of genuine, sophisticated songwriting as the years progressed, it wasn’t enough to overshadow the vanilla poetry and production that surrounded Del Rey’s image.

This all changed last year with the release of her sixth studio album, “Norman F****** Rockwell.” Right from the start, we drastically see more depth in her lyrics, with the first track opening with the lines, “Goddamn, man-child / You f****d me so good that I almost said ‘I love you.’” This continues throughout the track with songs like “Happiness Is a Butterfly” with the lyrics, “If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst / That can happen to a girl who’s already hurt? / I’m already hurt.” On “F*** it I Love You,” Del Rey sings, “So I moved to California / But it’s just a state of mind / It turns out everywhere you go, you take yourself / That’s not a lie.” These lyrics are indicative of a more mature Del Rey, one closely in touch with her emotions and both observant and insightful about her relationships and vulnerability.

The enormously honest, poetic, and sophisticated lyricism off of “Norman F****** Rockwell” came not only as a surprise to critics who have doubted her artistic ability in the past, but also as a vindication for loyal fans who have been preaching her artistic prowess and potential for years. Strikingly, the same sad-quirky aesthetic that critics have disdained since the beginning of her career is evident in her most recent project. Given this, perhaps her particular brand of off-beat melancholy is not as calculated or inauthentic as critics have suggested.

“Norman F****** Rockwell” will stand as one of the most important projects Del Rey has ever produced. It will be remembered as the counterpart to Tyler the Creator’s “IGOR,” Lorde’s “Melodrama,” and Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener” as an album that marks an artist’s coming-of-age and maturity. Throughout her career, Del Rey has undergone an enormous personal transformation, evidently becoming more self-aware and in tune with her emotions. We have seen this gradual personal progression throughout her projects, beginning with vanilla high school poetry and culminating in the raw, honest, and uncensored “Norman F****** Rockwell.” The beautiful poetry in Del Rey’s most recent project will forever solidify her as one of the most powerful, sophisticated, and artistic songwriters of our generation, and I look forward to future projects of a similar caliber.