I’m going to be completely honest, Lana Del Rey is an artist I have never paid a ton of attention to or followed much until very recently. Out of all of the major Pop stars from the last 15 years, she might be the one I know the least about and have listened to the least. Of course, I have heard all of her major hits; as a big music fan it would have been impossible for me to have not heard songs like ‘Summertime Sadness,’ ‘Young and Beautiful,’ ‘West Coast,’ or ‘Born to Die.’ But until late last year, I had never listened to a full album of Lana Del Rey’s. I have always heard she’s a phenomenal storyteller and that she paints a super vivid image with her records, and I finally wanted to experience this for myself. The first full Lana Del Rey record I decided to check out was the critically acclaimed NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL! After listening to this record, I immediately understood why she is so beloved. This record is beautiful and diverse sonically and lyrically; it is truly a Pop masterpiece. After listening to NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL! I had to check out Lana Del Rey’s two 2021 albums(which I stupidly skipped at the time) Chemtrails Over the Country Club and Blue Bannisters. In my opinion, they are not on the level of NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL!, but they are still excellent examples of Americana Folk and Pop music. Lana Del Rey has now returned with her newest record which is called Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd. Here is my opinion on this new record from Lana Del Rey. Please let me know in the comments Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd and also comment on what your favorite songs from the album are.
Lana Del Rey starts off the record with ‘The Grants.’ I have to say, this is a very powerful opening. The song begins with what sounds like a small choir singing the chorus. About a minute into the song, a slow and warm piano riff comes in to provide the melody; this piano riff is complimented by various synths that sound like an organ(there could actually be an organ in the mix, I can not actually tell). Lana’s vocals on this song are so bright and warm; paired with this melody, her vocals give the song an all-encompassing and glorious feeling. Lana’s vocals are added to by background vocals that come in and out. At the end of the song, the choir comes back in, giving the song a grand climax. In ‘The Grants,’ Lana Del Rey is contemplating her existence and shows love to the people she has held most dear to her in life. ‘The Grants’ is a track that immediately has me drawn in by this record. ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’ has a somewhat similar instrumental style to the opener. The title track is also mainly driven by a piano riff with synths in the background to give it depth. There are definitely a few more elements to this instrumental, though. About a quarter of the way through the song, a light drum beat kicks in; about halfway through the song, a violin comes in and gives the melody even more life. ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’ does not feel as warm as the one that precedes it. Instead, the melody for this track is somber. Lana Del Rey’s vocals are not as warm on this song, either. They remind me more of the melancholy kind of tone she is typically known for. Lana shows off her range a bit in this song, which i enjoy a lot. On ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd,’ Lana sings about how lonely and sad she is while making references to 70s music. ‘Sweet’ is another one with an instrumental that is solely driven by a piano riff and synths. It is even more simple sounding than the opener, because there are no extra singers to give an extra layer to the song. The aforementioned melody on this track is light and hopeful sounding. It is the kind of melody that reminds me of a sunset during a wedding. Because the song is so simple, it puts the focus pretty much solely on Lana Del Rey’s voice. This is a great thing, as ‘Sweet’ has my favorite vocal performance of Lana’s out of the first three tracks. Her range on this song is excellent, and her tone is beautiful. On ‘Sweet,’ Lana is singing to a new lover of hers and trying to figure out if they want the same things in life as she does as they both age. ‘A&W’ is the first track on the record with a bit of a different kind of instrumental than the ones that precede it. The first half of the song’s instrumental is driven by a piano riff, but instead of synths, it is complemented by a guitar(or maybe even guitars, as it sounds like there could be more than one at some points). This song has a darker and more gruff tone than any of the first three songs. There is something about the melody that makes me think of old Western Folk and Country music. Lana Del Rey’s vocal performance in this section is more akin to what most of her fans are used to from her. Her voice sounds very ethereal and angelic. About halfway through the song, the instrumental switches. Heavy synths come in to provide the melody, and a beat kicks in that gives the song a lo-fi Hip Hop sound. As the instrumental progress, more and more distortion appears on the track, giving the song a weird and cool Electronic Hip Hop sound. During this section of the song, Lana Del Rey goes with a sing-rap flow that I have never heard from her. It is super cool to hear her try a different kind of vocal delivery like this. On the first half of ‘A&W,’ Lana Del Rey sings about the innocence of her childhood. On the second half, she sings about the promiscuity of her adulthood. She highlights how much of a contrast her upbringing was compared to who she is now.
The best way I can describe ‘Judah Smith Interlude’ is that it is jarring. The song consists of a sermon being recited by celebrity pastor Judah Smith over a cheerful piano riff. The nature of which Judah Smith recites this sermon is very intense; it provides a heavy variance from the melody. This sermon by Judah Smith compares love and lust; he is trying to get his listeners to focus on love and building relationships rather than sex. It is apparent from the last couple of tracks that this is something that Lana Del Rey seems to struggle with, and it makes sense why she would pick this sermon for this interlude. ‘Candy Necklace,’ which features Jon Batiste, has the most simple instrumental on the project yet. This song solely consists of a piano melody; there are no synths in the background that add to the melody. The piano riff is mixed and edited with rehab in a way to make the riff echo and sound atmospheric. At the end of the song, the song string instrumental come in with a very faded sound that adds to the otherworldly feeling of the song. ‘Candy Necklace’ has a very gloomy and dark melody; this piano riff makes me think of a cloudy day in the autumn. Lana Del Rey sings very softly on this song. Her vocal performance does not stand out as some of her other ones do, but it does fit the song well. On ‘Candy Necklace,’ Lana is comparing someone receiving little treats to make them feel better to her relationship. She is saying that instead of talking about the issues in her relationship, her significant other will give her little doses of extreme affection every once in a while to shut her up. ‘Jon Batiste Interlude’ feels like an extension of the song that precedes it. This track carries the same melody as ‘Candy Necklaces.’ It almost seems like we are listening into the recording session of the song. ‘Jon Batiste Interlude’ consists of Lana Del Rey and Jon Batiste having a spirited conversation over this melody. This conversation sounds like they are talking about the song they are creating, but it also sounds like they are talking about sex. It is an interesting cut, and its lyrical ambiguity goes well with the theme of this album. ‘Kintsugi’ stylistically is not too different than the song that precedes it. This track is solely driven by a piano riff as well. Instead of being gloomy and dark, however, ‘Kintsugi’ has a soft and sunny sound. After the more intense nature of the last few tracks, this kind of melody is nice to hear. This melody is actually an interpolation of Leonard Cohen’s track ‘Anthem.’ Unfortunately, though, this is the first track on the record that underwhelms me a bit. Lana Del Rey’s vocal performance on ‘Kintsugi’ is good, but it does overshadow the fact that the song is not super engaging. On ‘Kintsugi,’ Lana talks about a lot of things in her recent past that have given her grief, such as deaths in her family, failed relationships, and instances where her actions tarnished her public image. There are also a lot of references to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ in these lyrics. This track feels like a dive into Lana Del Rey’s inner thoughts and insecurities.
After how low-key and subtle the last few instrumentals were, I appreciate how ‘Fingertips’ has a bit more full of an instrumental. This is the first track where the piano riff is not the main thing that drives the melody. Instead, a string section provides most of the depth of the melody. There is a light and slow piano melody that plays over this string section(and there are sections of the track where the string section fades), but the thing that drives the melody the most is that string section. The melody of this song is solemn yet hopeful. Somehow this track feels happy and sad at the same time. Lana Del Rey’s vocal performance is so dreamy on this track. Paired with this instrumental, her vocals make me feel like I am floating when I hear ‘Fingertips.’ Compared to some of the songs at the beginning of the album, this track does not have a ton of power, but it does feel powerful and important compared to the one that precedes in. Similar to the previous song, Lana Del Rey just invites the listeners deep into her mind on ‘Fingertips.’ She sings about her insecurities, failed relationships, and uncertainty about her future. ‘Paris, Texas’ which features SYML, injects a bit more energy into the album. The last several songs have been very slow and calm, and the fact that this track has a bit of a faster riff makes it feel so much more lively. Instrumentally, this song is not complicated; in fact, it is probably more simple than the one on ‘Fingertips.’ This track is driven by a piano riff that is complimented by light synths and chime sounds, and a guitar riff that gets louder and louder as the song progresses(until it fades out at the end). As I stated, the piano riff on this track is quite a bit faster than most of the rest of the melodies on this record, and this makes it feel more dynamic to me. The melody of ‘Paris, Texas’ feels shadowy and anxious. Lana Del Rey’s vocal performance is cool and collected, which helps calm the sad nature of the melody. I enjoy the contrast between her vocals and the instrumental’s tone. On ‘Paris, Texas,’ Lana Del Rey is singing about a road trip she took through the south and how she appreciates the small country towns that she traveled through. “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing, which features RIOPY(hell of a song title, by the way), keeps the more lively feeling that the last song had going. It is also the biggest and most grand song on the album to this point. Compared to almost every other song, it sounds so full. The track is driven by a joyous and elegant melody provided by a piano, and it is complimented by multiple spring instruments and synths. “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing” is one of the only songs on the record with a drum beat; even though it is a very soft beat, it still helps give the song emphasis. I really love Lana Del Rey’s vocal performance on this song. Her range on the track is excellent, and she uses a different timbre than we are used to hearing from her that makes the performance stick out. In “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing,’ Lana is talking about many things, such as not letting your ego or passions keep you from seeing reality and how sometimes becoming broken can lead to beautiful outcomes. ‘Let The Light In,’ which features Father John Misty, has a completely different sound from the rest of the album. Instead of being piano driven Acoustic Pop music, this is more of a traditional retro Country or Folk song. The instrumental is driven by a soothing and charming guitar riff which is complimented by various string instruments. Apart from ‘A&W,’ ‘Let The Light In’ has the most pronounced beat out of anything else on the record. Because of this style of instrumental, this almost feels like a Father John Misty featuring Lana track even though Lana is the primary vocalist. Speaking of the vocals, I love the harmonies between Lana Del Rey and Father John Misty on this track. They sound so good together, as their tones complement each others awesomely. Overall, this is easily one of my highlights of the record, not only for its quality but also for how much it sticks out. On ‘Let The Light In,’ Lana is singing about her lover who is having an affair with his significant other, and how she wants more from him but knows she can not have more.
‘Margaret,’ which features Bleachers, is sonically closer to the song that precedes it than anything else. Unlike that track, ‘Margaret’ is driven by a piano riff, but the style riff in this one feels a lot closer to Country and Traditional Folk than most of the rest of the album. The piano melody is added to by an acoustic guitar and light drum beat that fill out the instrumental nicely. Similar to the song that precedes it, ‘Margaret’ has a stand out vocal performance. The chemistry between Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff of the Bleachers is palpable. Lana’s range on this song is excellent as well. On ‘Margaret,’ Lana and Jack are singing about how much they adore Jack’s fiance Margaret Qualley. ‘Fishtail’ is the kind of song I would have never expected to hear from Lana Del Rey. The song starts out with a quaint piano melody that is pleasant and celestial. When the song starts, I assumed it was another acoustic Pop track, which I welcomed after the major switch up in the last couple of songs. But shortly after the song starts, the instrumental drastically changes. The melody becomes dominated by highly distorted and almost funky sounding synths, and a Post-Dubstep beat comes in. This makes the instrumental remind me of experimental Electronic artists like SBTRKT or Jamie XX. Lana’s vocals are highly edited on this track, which is surprising as she usually goes with such pure vocal mixes. The way the vocals are edited are perfect for the track though, as they build on the already otherworldly sound of the instrumental. On ‘Fishtail,’ Lana Del Rey is calling out her lover for not showing her the amount of affection she needs. ‘Peppers,’ which features Tommy Genesis(which is a feature I would never expect on a Lana Del Rey album as she is an eccentric Alternative Hip Hop artist), also has a sound that I would never expect to hear from Lana. The instrumental is equally as weird and cool as the one in the previous song. This instrumental constantly morphs back and forth as the song moves along. The sections of the song where that have Lana’s vocals and the sections that have Tommy’s vocals are exclusive from each other. The way the song is mixed makes these transitions so smooth, though, which helps the instrumental feel natural as it is changing. The instrumental during Lana’s sections has a modern Alternative Country-Folk sound, and the instrumental during Tommy’s sections has an Alternative Country Hip Hop sound. Both parts of the instrumental are equally unique and stand out in their own ways. Both of the vocal performances in this song are great. Lana uses a sing-rap flow that is similar to what she did on ‘A&W,’ and Tommy uses one of her signature quirky rap flows she is known for(which fits so well on this track). On ‘Peppers,’ Lana and Tommy Genesis are rapping about getting freaky with their partner. ‘Peppers’ is my favorite track on the project so far; in fact, it is one of my favorite tracks of 2023 as a whole. Lana closes out the record with the song ‘Taco Truck x VB.’ This song is split up into two sections. The first half starts out with a traditional Folk sound which is solely driven by a desolate guitar riff. About a minute in, however, the instrumental is taken over by distorted synths displaying this same melody and a lo-fi Trap beat. It gives the song an alien Alternative Hip Hop sound that is very interesting. The second half starts about halfway through the 6-minute track. It has a similar sound to the first half but does have distinct differences. The beat is louder and faster, and different, and higher-pitched synths kick in which add a hopeful feeling to the melody. This instrumental is so captivating because it has so many layers; it keeps drawing the listener in because you do not know what is coming. Instead of using a sing-rap flow, she sings with a flow/cadence that one would expect from her. The contrast between the instrumental and her vocal delivery is fresh and captivating. On ‘Taco Truck x VB,’ sings about themes that have rang true throughout the record, such as her feelings about the controversies surrounding her life and her relationship with her lover. This in an invigorating way the end the record, and it closes the record with a bang.
The first thing I want to talk about in this closing paragraph is the lyricism on this record(since I didn’t highlight it a ton through the review). Lana has always been known as a great lyricist, and on Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd she continues that trend. Truth be told, I feel like she even expands upon that on this record. Lana draws the listener into her mind so vividly. She portrays things such her insecurities and her desires is such a palpable way. On Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, makes music for her fans of her older, calmer music as well as trying new sounds and showing how diverse of an artist she can be. She takes the perfect amount of risks on this record, and nails those risks every single time. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is a truly excellent record that once again shows why Lana Del Rey is one of the best Pop artists of this generation. It is is the best album of 2023 so far, and I would be highly surprised if much music comes out after this in 2023 that is better than Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.