LH Album Review: Ocean Blvd

Singer Lana Del Rey is back with her long-awaited 9th studio album.

LH Album Review: Ocean Blvd

Esther Puderbaugh, A&E Editor and Opinion Co-Editor

Content Warning: Brief mentions of sexual assault and self-harm

On Friday, March 24th, listeners once again stepped into Lana Del Rey’s complex musical world with the release of her ninth studio album Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.

Ocean Blvd showcases the most authentic version of Del Rey yet. Her anxieties were explored in her 2019 album, Norman F****** Rockwell. Yet here they are further explored. That, along with her musings on loneliness, the existence of a god, death, the afterlife, fame, and her classic commentary on America (a given at this point in her work), makes Ocean Blvd a touching yet harrowing experience for the listener. 

The album from the start examines Del Rey’s personal philosophy. This isn’t surprising given that Del Rey holds a degree in philosophy from Fordham University. Starting with the opening track, The Grants (one of many musical homages to her family on the album), Del Rey muses on the afterlife with the chorus “My pastor told me, ‘When you leave, all you take/Uh-huh, is your memories.’/And I’m gonna take mine of you with me”. With references to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High, Del Rey also reflects on the circle of life in her own family with the lyric “My sister’s firstborn child/I’m gonna take that too with me/My grandmother’s last smile/I’m gonna take that too with me”. These familial references feel like a natural continuation of the themes of Cherry Blossom and Sweet Carolina, the last two songs off of Del Rey’s most recent album, Blue Banisters.

One of the highlights of the album, A&W, is a horror. A&W is a winding meditation on Del Rey’s life starting out with a folksy guitar production courtesy of Jack Antonoff, and the lyrics “I haven’t done a cartwheel since I was nine/I haven’t seen my mother in a long, long time”. The song also touches on rape culture with the lyric “If I told you that I was raped/Do you really think that anybody would think/I didn’t ask for it?” sung in an almost whisper. In the second half of the song, we take a turn into a trap-inspired melody and production which interpolates lyrics from the 1959 song Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop. The harrowing, 7 minute-long song is a highlight not just of the album but of Del Rey’s career. 

Del Rey continues this reflective mood with Kintsugi, which interpolates the Leonard Cohen lyric “That’s how the light gets in”. According to Del Rey, the song features her “innermost thoughts”. One of the themes explored in this song is mortality with the lyrics “And I just can’t stop cryin’ ‘cause of all of the ways/When you see someone dyin’/You see all your days flash in front you” and “I’m probably runnin’ away from the feelin’s I get/When I think all the things about them/Daddy, I miss them”. The song’s title is a reference to Kintsugi which is the Japanese tradition of repairing cracked or broken pottery with golden or metallic lacquer, a metaphor that Del Rey uses for herself and her pain being a part of her and not something kept hidden. 

The rambling Fingertips is the emotional centerpiece of Ocean Blvd. Del Rey shares her anxieties about the future with the lyrics “Will I die?/…/And if I do, will you be there with me, Father, Sister, Brother?” and “Will the baby be alright?/Will I have one of mine?/Can I handle it even if I do?/You said that my mind/It’s not fit, or so they said, to carry a child”. Del Rey once again references deaths in her family in this song. “Give me a mausoleum in Rhode Island with Dad, Grandma, Grandpa/And Dave, who hung himself real high/In the National Park sky, it’s a shame, and I’m crying right now” Del Rey sings of the deaths of her grandma, grandpa, and uncle. Del Rey touches on the tragic death of a loved one from her hometown with the lyrics “All I wanted to do was kiss Aaron Greene and sit by the lake/…/Aaron ended up dead and not me”.

A personal favorite on the album is Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing. In this song, Del Rey croons after God with her signature ethereal falsetto to send her signs. “God, if you’re near me, send me three white butterflies/Or an owl to know you’re listening” Del Rey sings. The song also addresses the public perception of Del Rey: a topic touched on throughout her career. Del Rey is reiterating her good intentions with the lyric “But I have good intentions even if I’m one of the last ones/If you don’t believe me, my poetry, or my melodies/Feel it in your bones/I have good intentions even if I’m one of the last ones”. 

Songs like Sweet, Let The Light In, and Paris, Texas provide a necessary rhythm to the album and showcase a classic stripped back “Lana” way of song-making. Many of the songs on the album feature artists other than Del Rey. However, these featured artists fit into her work and style incredibly seamlessly.

The album ends on a somewhat lighter note with Peppers (feat. Tommy Genesis) and Taco Truck x VB. Taco Truck is a treat for fans at the end of the album as it’s an original version of one of Del Rey’s fan favorite songs: Venice B****. As Taco Truck transitions into a modified, higher energy version of Venice B****, I can feel the smiles on the faces of Del Rey’s fans. 

The 16 song, over hour-long album successfully incorporates elements of Del Rey’s past work while stepping in a brand new, somewhat hazy direction forward in her discography. This new direction in Del Rey’s career is going to be incredibly exciting and fascinating as Ocean Blvd is her most daring work yet.