REVIEW: Lana Del Rey taps into dark emotions on “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd”

File:Lana Del Rey at KROQ Weenie Roast 2017 (cropped).jpg by Harmony Gerber is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“File:Lana Del Rey at KROQ Weenie Roast 2017 (cropped).jpg” by Harmony Gerber is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Lana Del Rey released her long-awaited ninth studio album titled “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” this past Friday. Although for me nothing will ever top her 2019 “Norman F****** Rockwell!” masterpiece, this album came dangerously close. This is her first album since her 2021 project titled “Blue Banisters.”

The album includes an array of talented collaborators. One of the most notable being Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff. Antonoff has worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Lorde and worked with Del Rey many times in the past. It also features Antonoff’s band Bleachers, 2022 Album of the Year winner Jon Batiste and surprisingly, a pastor. Her previous albums have had very few features, so it’s nice to see her expand them on this album.

For me, Del Rey’s music doesn’t immediately click. Her poetic storytelling contains metaphors and hidden meanings that require deeper listening. Although I appreciate her artistry, sometimes her complicated lyrics keep her fan base small since her songs require listeners to concentrate in order to understand them. Her songs also sometimes lack flow and rhythm because of their poetic nature, but her soft instrumentals allow her lyricism to stand out.

This album is no different from her others in her breathy vocals and classic production. However, Del Rey taps into different subjects and emotions that we haven’t seen from her before. We get to see more of Elizabeth Grant. Like the rest of her newer work, I think this album does a great job of combining her old style with a her current maturity. On the first track titled “The Grants,” she discusses her family (hence the title) and introduces a recurring theme in her music: death. This theme continues on throughout the whole album.

“The Grants” was one of three singles released from the project, the other two being the title track and “A&W.” These songs were very good choices to give a good glimpse into the themes showcased on the album. On fan-favorite track “A&W,” she discusses her flawed relationship with her family and the changes she’s gone through as an adult.

Two additions that I thought were slightly out of place were “Judah Smith Interlude” and “Jon Batiste Interlude.” I appreciated the latter since he was already featured on another song, but the Judah Smith feature seemed very out of touch. Smith is a pastor that preaches at a mega church called Churchome. His organization has come under scrutiny for wage issues and Smith himself has iffy views on the LGBTQ+ community. With a large younger fanbase, I think it was a bad decision to include the song on the album and it could reflect negatively on Del Rey.

One song that also stood out to me was “Paris, Texas” featuring SYML. The song features Del Rey’s vocals over SYML’s instrumental song “I Wanted to Leave.” I love the original version of the song, but Del Rey’s vocals sound unnatural over the track. Specifically in the chorus the added lyrics sound very forced. I would’ve preferred an actual collaboration from them rather than what we got.

Some of my favorite tracks on the project are “Candy Necklace,” “Taco Truck X VB,” “Fishtail” and “Margaret” with Bleachers. I love the piano tune on “Candy Necklace” and the real story behind “Margaret.” “Taco Truck X VB” is a mashup with Del Rey’s song “Venice B****.” I enjoyed the hip hop beats on this album that we rarely get to see from Del Rey.

One thing she never falls short on is her beautiful breathy voice and the equally as beautiful production on all of her songs. Although some tracks are weaker than others, I think every song adds to the overall story of the album and makes it extremely cohesive. It definitely includes a handful of songs that I’ll be adding to my playlist, and it’s worth checking out if you have the time to listen and digest.