Lana Del Rey’s Most Gut Wrenching Album
Written by Gina Silva Yanez on October 11, 2023
If you hold me without hurting me, you’ll be the first who ever did– Cinnamon Girl by Lana Del Rey
With Lana del Rey’s increased spike in popularity, I find myself revisiting her sixth studio album, Norman Fucking Rockwell! Fans and critics alike consider this album as one of her best. From the title of the album to her lyricism, Del Rey perfectly captures the inner turmoil of womanhood and the realities of wanting to be loved. She named this album and the opening song after Norman Rockwell, an American painter whose artwork is famously known for capturing what it meant to be an American.
Reviewing this album without also acknowledging the past criticism Del Rey received would be difficult. Similar to Rockwell, Del Rey pays homage to a patriotic, “American-made” aesthetic through her previous work. However, while she was praised for unifying people with this work, she is heavily criticized for romanticizing abusive relationships and promoting the idea of women basing their entire self worth on a man.
In the opening song of the album, she acknowledges the irony of wanting to be loved by a “man-child” who has continually disappointed her. She attributes all the pain and trauma he’s put her through to his gender explaining that he’s “just a man, it’s just what [they] do.” With her second song “Mariners Apartment Complex” she continues the theme of gender and the influence it has on how one expresses their love. She makes the point that men attribute a woman’s kindness and optimism to a mistaken weakness.
In the following songs, Del Rey continues to acknowledge that men will disappoint her and how knowing this fact doesn’t soothe her or make it any easier to move on. She depicts the idea that loving someone who has continually disappointed us will “kill us slowly,” the same way not being able to have them hold us or call us theirs anymore will. In the midst of navigating this complex, heartbreaking love, we also lose our character. We often forget that we “don’t ever have to be stronger than [we] really are” because loving someone ultimately shouldn’t hurt this much.
The sixth song on this album “Love Song” follows the war one has with themselves while trying to survive this concept of “love.” She compares herself to “a star that is burning through [him],” conveying his inability to understand her, to love her in his fullest capacity. This also begs the question “if it is safe for [us] to be who [we] are” in a relationship that lacks stability. It is plaguing to be in a relationship with someone who you love so much, who you want to “be your once in a lifetime” but doesn’t fully understand you. In the grand conclusion of this raw-written album, Del Rey details how fleeting love and optimism are by comparing them to a butterfly.
Finally, reaching my favorite song in this album, “happiness is a butterfly” is where Lana Del Rey invokes the most emotion. She still depicts the idea that love is deadly. Despite all the hurt one has experienced in the past, we are still reaching out to be loved by that “serial killer,” that one person who can be our final demise. Having optimism comes with a certain danger. Again, it is seen as a weakness by men who can easily take advantage of it. Allowing ourselves to be optimistic also allows us to be susceptible to debilitating, heart wrenching pain.
However, knowing this won’t keep us from loving that “man-child,” this narcissist who loved us than we could’ve ever imagined. This further explains the last title in this album, “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it.”
Lana Del Rey redefined herself with this album. She explores the raw themes of love and how unachievable and outdated this “perfect American life” concept that Norman Rockwell presents in his work actually is. As women, we accept the love that we are given. Despite having such defining characteristics, we allow ourselves to be loved by someone doesn’t who truly understand our complexities. With Del Rey’s ability to write and explore about the turbulent experience that is being in love, this album is not only some of her best work, but it has also fermented itself as one of the greatest albums ever written.