Review #321: Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey

Karla Clifton
4 min readOct 10, 2022

#321: Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey

This is the official end of Karla Clifton censoring her swears, as my parents mostly don’t read these anymore. (I just can’t get them to care about Lana Del Rey.)

That’s called “growth,” and it’s just one of the manyways that I’ve grown over the course of writing these reviews. As a former scene kid, I was trained to be allergic to girl singer-songwriters. I’ve learned to love them, from Joni to T. Swift, but I really, genuinely did not expect to ever conquer my bias against Lana Del Rey. From her easy-to-make-fun-of SNL appearance to some of the dumber things she’s said, I just didn’t think it was worth it.

But Elton John loves her, and my boyfriend says that he is a “former Lana Stan,” so I was finally willing to give her a shot.

And what can I say? I adored NFR, maybe because I was tearing across America on yet another musical road trip, and this was so different from what I’d heard so far.

A record named after American artist Norman Rockwell was the perfect soundtrack to a trek across America. Maybe it seems a little silly, to pair graceful Americana queen Lana with someone who made much homey, slice-of-life art. But he makes total sense as the record’s patron saint. Title song “Norman fucking Rockwell” just works perfectly as a picture of a goddamn man child who blames his bad poetry on the news. No offense to Mr. Rockwell. More like it’s a Norman Rockwell painting.

I was never a huge fan of Lana’s voice, but listening this time around, I was completely enchanted. Her voice isn’t classically impressive, but she does such artistic things with it that it hardly matters. The breathy falsetto on the chorus of “Fuck it I love you” is straight-up astonishing. (By the way, did you know Chad Smith of RHCP plays on that one?) Then on the chorus of “Happiness is a butterfly,” she takes her most frank voice and yells, Don’t be a jerk/ Don’t call me a taxi. She doesn’t sound all that powerful, but she does sound like she means it.

Lana was born in New York City, but this album is all about California. I love when transplants write about places — they try to include it all. I think the best example of this is how she directly interprets other Cali artists songs, like her cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time,” and her version of “California” is a direct response to Joni Mitchell’s. My favorite Cali song was “Venice Bitch,” a nine-minute meditation on loneliness built around a play-on-words where she softly calls herself American-made.

The thing that surprised me more than anything, though? Some of her poetry knocked me out. “Cinnamon Girl,” which isn’t a Neil Young cover but more like a Neil Young homage, has Del Rey sing in her most delicate whistle-tones, There’s things I want to say to you/ But I’ll just let you live. “The greatest” has (along with fifty California references, and a reference to her beef with Kanye West) the line I miss New York and I miss music/ Me and my friends, we miss rock and roll. That’s a bold line on a California-themed electro-pop record.

Del Rey really does have a great poetic mind, and when she’s at her best, she showcases feelings that are hard to articulate, like the feeling that “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but I have it.” She talks about being obsessed with writing “The Next Best American Record,” which sounds pretty close to thoughts I’ve had in my most grandiose moments. And the moody “Bartender,” where a sober Del Rey happily closes down a bar buying Cherry Cokes, is maybe my new theme song.

Not all of her poetry landed for me. “Mariners Apartment Complex” is beautiful to listen to but made me roll my eyes: I’m the kinda girl who’s gonna make you wonder who you are and who you been. Yeah.

Then again, the last critic who dared to say something critical about Lana had the pleasure of getting doxxed by her. Lana Del Rey won’t care about little old Karla Clifton… will she?

Well, in any case, I’m having trouble writing this review because I can’t stop singing along. I guess I relate to Lana Del Rey, after all.

Dare I?? Least Favorite Songs: “Love song” and “How to disappear.” Don’t dox me, Lana Del Rey!

Unfun Fact: I had no idea her hard drive was leaked in 2013, and a bunch of unreleased music of hers was put out! Apparently it’s great, too. What a shame — she should have had the opportunity to release it herself.

Review #320: Los Angeles, X

Review #322: From Elvis in Memphis, Elvis Presley

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