Suffering, grieving, desolate. The usual – winner – Lana: the review of the new album.
Reviewed Mar 26, 2023 by
The usual wool. Suffering, grieving, desolate. Over the years, at least, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant has managed to build a powerful, distinguishable aesthetic all of her own, which has also influenced subsequent generations of pop stars. Of that aesthetic there, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” is the most up-to-date synthesis. In the new unreleased album, the eighth of her career if we don’t consider the transposition of the book of poems “Violent bent backwards over the grass”, Lana Del Rey is careful not to overturn the style that made her iconic, a champion of another (and “high”) pop than the one that dominates the charts.
Songs elaborated in the arrangements, with astonishing vocal boldness, ultra-classical melodies sung with that characteristic theatrical and airy voice, hypnotic choirs, vintage ambitions, references in the lyrics to past eras: “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” is so for 77, very long minutes.
The tunnel of the title of the record – and of the single that anticipated its release – really exists, in Long Beach, California: it was once an underpass that allowed tourists to access the beach, before it was closed to the public at the end from the 60s.
It is there that the 37-year-old American singer-songwriter dreams of taking refuge, to escape the contemporary world. After all, the retropia of her music is a sort of psychological lair in which Lana reclaims her diversity, with her songs as a girl torn by desires, part Hollywood diva, part Lolita (here she also questions the theme of motherhood, among other things: “Will the baby be alright / Will I have one of mine / Can I handle it even if I do?”, sings in the orchestral piece “Fingertips”): “Ora che Doja Cat, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé hit number one on the charts with songs celebrating being sexy, not wearing clothes, about cheating, can I please come back singing about feeling beautiful in a relationship even if it’s not perfect, about women who likes to dance for money, without being crucified and without someone accusing me of glamorizing abuse?” truth – to romanticize relationships to ssiche.
The album has an epic sound.
Since the piece that opens it, “The grants”, with a nice emotional crescendo, emphasized by the presence of a gospel choir singing along with Lana Del Rey. The singer-songwriter worked on the album together with Jack Antonoff and Zach Dawes, one of her most trusted collaborators. “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” is an alternative album compared to the high-ranking pop of these years also in the number of musicians involved in the sessions: forty in all (if we don’t also consider the twenty-seven technicians). Among others, the 80-year-old Jim Keltner – a legend: he has played with Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Barbra Streisand, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Ry Cooder – embellishes the title track with his magic touch (no doubt among the most successful songs on the album), Charlie Bisharat – already alongside Elton John, the Rolling Stgones and Aerosmith – plays the violin in the same “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” and in “Sweet”, Carla Azar – collaborator of Jack White – sets the pace in “Peppers”, the Oscar winner Jon Batiste adds beautiful to beautiful in “Candy Necklace” and in an interlude that bears his name as the title.
In over an hour and a quarter of music, Lana Del Rey ranges from jazz to classical songs on the piano, passing through gospel and even experiments between soul and hip hop. Confirming herself once again as the bravest, boldest and most fearless pop star of her generation.