It’s been two years since Lana Del Rey’s last new album release, and she’s back and better than ever with 2023’s Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.
Her last album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, released in 2021, was met with universal acclaim, but Chemtrails was slow and dreamy, which is nothing Del Rey fans aren’t used to. In fact, one of the main criticisms Del Rey has faced is the lack of range and variety when it comes to her songs. Her fans’ annoyance with this is expertly detailed in the The Tab’s article: “Is it Me, or Do All of Lana Del Rey’s Songs Sound the Same?”
But with ..Ocean Blvd, she’s back to prove everyone wrong. The lead single, which shares the same name as the album, was released on December 7th of 2022, but the standout single, “A&W,” was released on Valentine’s Day earlier in 2023. The title of the single serves as a double entendre; the “A&W” stands for “American Whore.” It’s also a reference to the popular soda drink and fast-food conglomerate of the same name, which is a callback to the themes of consumerism she’s explored in her previous works. The swift piano-playing underneath the rich guitar makes the song sound just as haunting as it does hopeful. The disorienting, cacophonous transition in the middle of the song gives way to a dazzling, upbeat riff that’s dripping with opulence. Laden with a syrup-thick trap beat, Motown-like background vocals, and Lana’s sonorous singing, “A&W” is on track to become Lana’s most experimental song ever. Even Pitchfork called it a “chimeric folk-trap ballad” (which are four words we’d never thought we’d see together in the same sentence.)
The song itself, whose chorus ends with the powerful line “…This is the experience of bein’ an American whore…” explores the difficulty with possessing sexuality in a misogynistic society. In the song, she brings up assault, and follows it with the lines, “Do you really think that anybody would think I didn’t ask for it? I didn’t ask for it. I won’t testify, I already fucked up my story.” Her nonchalant approach to the issue is poignant and visceral, and mirrors the apprehension many women have faced when it comes to speaking out against sexual violence.
Lana ends the song even stronger than she started it. The breakdown in the song “A&W“ is reminiscent of Del Rey’s earlier hits, like Diet Mountain Dew, especially with its upbeat bubblegum pop baseline (and its reference to sickly sweet soda brands). Some fans are even calling it a “return to form,” happy to hear the classic Del Rey sound that we all know and love. In fact, “A&W” has become Del Rey’s second most popular song on the music streaming service Spotify, surpassing well known hits like Young & Beautiful. Entertainment magazine Billboard even ranked the song as the best track on the album.
Lana Del Rey’s new album makes a strong impact on this week’s singles chart, with “A&W” holding at number 8, “The Grants” rising to number 15 and two debuts: “Peppers” featuring Tommy Genesis at number 25 and “Candy Necklace” featuring Jon Batiste at number 40. pic.twitter.com/UOeF56xQkw
— The Week on Repeat Charts (@WeekOnRepeat) March 26, 2023
But …Ocean Blvd Isn’t all about “being an American Whore”. The album also explores themes of consumerism, religion, and 60s-70s counterculture; the nearly 5 minute long interlude is a sermon from Megachurch pastor, Judah Smith. In the background, you can hear Del Rey stifling giggles, and both agreeing & disagreeing with the preacher’s words. But it has some fans asking, “why?”
Lana baby what is Judah smith interlude lmao it’s giving conversion therapy cult leader pic.twitter.com/0egLS0XABE
— ? (@heyjaeee) March 24, 2023
Despite the division it’s themes has caused, …Ocean Blvd has a more subdued vibe than her previous albums, Born To Die: Paradise Edition, and Ultraviolence. Despite its shoegaze-y melodies and psychedelic vibes, it’s still an amalgamation of all the albums that came before it. Her fascination with death is still present, yet is less angsty and sophomoric than it has been in the past. Instead of lyrics like “Choose your last words, this is the last time, ‘Cause you and I—we were born to die”, instead she takes a more elevated, metaphysical approach in songs like ‘Fingertips,’ where she solemnly sings, “… if I take my life, Find your astral body, put it into my arms… I’ll give you a blanket. Your spirit can sit and watch TV by my side”
Songs like “Sweet” showcase Del Rey’s powerful and resonate vocals, and lines like “Lately, we’ve been makin’ out a lot, Not talkin’ ’bout the stuff that’s at the very heart of things” and “Sweet in bare feet, You can find me where no one will be” showcase the idyllic fantasy of rural seclusion. Because Del Rey’s previous albums like Born To Die and Lust For Life focus on the dichotomy between city and suburban life, Ocean Blvd’s focus on quiet towns with small populations is a minute but welcome change.
Ocean Blvd might just be her most controversial album yet, but Del Rey’s fresh approach to her classic Americana aesthetic has us all wanting more. So baby, put on heart-shaped sunglasses, we’re gonna take a ride!
Top album art from LanaDelRey.com