This was going to be just a basic review of Lana Del Rey’s new record Did You Know There’s a Tunnel under Ocean Boulevard? (2023), only, I went to look for her back catalog to see how it fit in and found out there were eight whole records to listen to. Eight! They are, in order: Lana Del Rey (2010), Born to Die (2012), Ultraviolence (2014), Honeymoon (2015), Lust for Life (2017), Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019), Chemtrails over the Country Club (2021), and Blue Banisters (2021). So I felt like I had to expand to encompass a more comprehensive consideration of her canon.
Now, having spent the last couple of weeks immersed in her oeuvre, I can now tell you that Did You Know There’s a Tunnel under Ocean Boulevard?, is very much Del Rey in her traditional form: dreamy, seductive, glamorous, confessional, and the kind of thing that would make you text your friends are you okay??? if they seemed to be listening to it on endless repeat.
It’s not easy listening, but it is easy to listen to; I have it on my Data Entry playlist because it occupies the part of my brain that can’t hold still and needs something to chew on while I’m engaged in repetitive tasks. I routinely listen to it straight through, no skips except for one, and that is “Judah Smith Interlude” which I deleted from my Spotify library immediately because I will put up with a lot of things but I will not subject myself to over four minutes of evangelical rambling both repeatedly and potentially at random.
Overall the record is more introspective than brash, bratty, or sexy (all personas she has worn), more, perhaps . . . adult? Perhaps.
Here’s the title track:
Other notes on the journey:
- I didn’t listen to her back catalog in order, so I can’t really comment on progression over time, but: I did go straight from the new record to the first record, or at least the first one available on streaming (Born to Die (2012)) and I was repeatedly struck by the difference in . . . maybe not tone, since her voice is (mostly) consistent throughout, but perhaps in weight? It might just be differences in production across time and producers, but the opening moments of Born to Die (song not record) felt bigger and heavier than all of the songs on Did You Know There’s a Tunnel under Ocean Boulevard?
- I say mostly consistent because there were times in Chemtrails over the Country Club and Blue Banisters where she climbed into her upper range and got a little breathy and thin, verging upon shrill.
- I got stuck on Born to Die (record not song) for a while, mired not in memory but the dream of a memory, oscillating between wistful contemplation of a boy who was terrible (but I loved him anyway, until I didn’t), and longing for a scene I was never part of, and for time when everything hurt slightly less.
- Love, from Lust for Life (2017) may be one of the purest distillations of Del Rey’s overall Vibe, and is one of the three that I have added to my regular driving playlist. (The other two are Video Games and National Anthem, from Born to Die.)
- Del Rey periodically drops lyrics that anchor a song in a very specific time, and the second verse of Sweet Carolina on Blue Banisters is one of my favorites: You name your babe Lilac Heaven / After your iPhone 11 / “Crypto forever,” screams your stupid boyfriend / Fuck you, Kevin.
- Things I found myself absentmindedly cataloging as I was listening: the number of times she refers to Coney Island (several); the way certain words and phrases repeat (bodies are always going downtown, people are cool or coolest, etc).
- Finally: Pop is nothing if not a deep well of songs about the romance of running away, blowing this invariably small town, we can live on love alone, etc etc and so on. Lucky Ones, from Born to Die, is Lana Del Rey’s contribution to the genre, and it is a banger: