Lana Del Rey – ‘Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ Review: Excellent, Still

LA artist’s ninth album – among her most revealing works yet – continues to expand modern icon’s artistry

‘Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’ begins with a mistake. As a trio of backing singers conduct through a burst of “The Grants” central chorus line, they slip away. In “I’m gonna take care of you with me,” they sing of “mind” instead of “mine.” They halted, trained through corrections and restarts, but you can still hear a false ‘D’ replacing the ‘E’, in the next two rounds.

Other artists may have cleaned up that faux pas and replaced it with something correct and polished, but not Lana Del Rey. That error reflects how she portrays the world and life in her music – imperfect, sometimes messy. In many ways, she is a documentary capturing angles that aren’t just bright and beautiful.

Her ninth studio album is another testament to that approach. On ‘…Ocean Blvd’, she opens up about her life now, ponders big questions and reflects on family, home and her future. The songs cross-reference each other, looping back to earlier thoughts and feelings, making it feel like you’re with her day in and day out as she reflects on these weighty topics.

Specifically, the record tackles the questions and doubts that haunt even the most non-traditional of women as they journey into their thirties (Del Rey is now 37) — until you have the answers. Till then the society bothers you. After scolding his brother for stopping smoking and asking his sister if she will stay with him as he faints on ‘Fingertips’, a barrage of pressing questions ensues. “Will the baby be okay? / Can I have the one? / Can I handle it?” she asks softly. Earlier, on the grand piano-led ‘Sweet’, Del Rey introduces a potential partner to “things challenges to talk about”: “Do you want children? / do you want marry me? / Do you want to run the Long Beach Oceanside Marathon?

Working out what direction you want your life to take and what traditional commitments to the world you want for yourself is not a scientific path. It is one that twists and turns, bounds through peaks and troughs. “When will it be my turn?” Lana LaLasa is on the title track. While it’s not clear who he’s singing about, it could easily apply to those big things in life—one true love, his own family. On ‘A&W’ – a track that starts off dark and lowly before fizzing into an addictive, bass-y outro joined by flimsy, quotable lyrics – he defines yearning emotion. . “It’s not about having someone to love me anymore,” she declared. “Did you know a singer can still be / A side-piece at 33?” She grumbles, defying the agenda of marriage and settling down, with a gentle yet powerful force.

‘…the other big narrative of Ocean Blvd is family – both the blood and the chosen. The record contains call-outs to his siblings, father, grandparents and others. The title of the opening song ‘The Grants’ alludes to their terrace, and as it is being pierced with light from the sad and maudlin, Del Rey promises to take her memories – “My sister’s first child”, ” my grandmother’s eyes” – which are close to her “with me”. Amidst God’s call to himself, ‘Grandfather, please stay on my father’s frieze while he is deep-sea fishing’ – which includes the French pianist Riopi – he asks his grandmother to rescue his father from the other side. calls for for.

‘Margaret’ – one of the most beautiful and evocative songs on the record – features Jack Antonoff of the Grant clan’s Outside Blickers and actor Margaret Kweli focused on scenes from the story of their romance. “He met Margaret on a rooftop / She was dressed in white and was like / ‘I could be in trouble’ / He had a glimpse of the good life / He was like, ‘Should I jump off this building now Or do it?” Double?’,” she sings in the first verse, mirroring the tumbling idiosyncrasies Antonoff often expresses himself in in his songs.

Although ‘…Ocean Blvd’ doesn’t largely answer any of its big questions, ‘Margaret’ looks like a solution. “When you know, you know,” shares Del Rey, returning to a sentiment from an earlier ‘Paris, Texas’. Later, in a gentle spoken-word line, she says: “So if you don’t know, don’t give up ’cause you never know what a new day will bring.”

As she ventures into new lyrical territory here, Lana enters a new sonic world as well. Her ninth album blends the soulful, classic, timeless sounds of a singer-songwriter from a distant past and the vocal melodies and techniques of an Old Hollywood starlet (it’s not hard to imagine Audrey Hepburn’s choice of vocal parts on songs like ‘Sweet’ ) with trap beats, speaker-wobbling bass and spoken word tracks edited with a sense of Warholian spirit.

The ‘Judah Smith Interlude’ represents the latter, a four-and-a-half-minute rendition of one of Churchom’s pastor’s sermons set to piano waves and soft electric guitar. Occasionally, giggles and muttering from Del Rey cuts in over the top, crackling like the audio from the Factory movie. Another interlude, led by Grammy-winning jazz and R&B writer Jon Batiste, centers around a piano line that swells and swells as the voices cavort.

Elsewhere, Del Rey uses old songs from other artists and her own catalog to invent something new. On “Papers,” she samples Tommy Genesis’ “Angelina” to create a slim, cool cut that harnesses a wandering stream-of-consciousness about a relationship. Some songs are more successful at setting the mood, while others are bound to raise eyebrows: “My boyfriend tested positive for COVID, it doesn’t matter,” she sings at one point. “We’re kissing so whatever he has, I have / I can’t cry.”

Meanwhile, album closer ‘Taco Truck X VB’ boasts a twist that’s obvious when you know it’s coming but stops you in your tracks on first listen. After a lilting calypso-tinged opening section, it melts into woozy instrumentation that segues into the original, unreleased take of her 2018 single ‘Venice Bitch’ – darker, grittier and even better than the version we’re familiar with.

It’s a fitting end to an album that echoes back and forth throughout the rest of the record, from the past, present and future, both musically and from the life of its creator. It’s also a reminder that ‘…Ocean Blvd’ may tackle some major existential questions, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had and Del Rey’s status as one of modern music’s most intriguing songwriters. strengthens.


  • Record label: Polydor Records
  • Release date: March 24, 2023

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