The Queen of Nostalgia, California Surf Rock, and Pop returns.
Our generous queen Lana del Rey has released two more songs from her upcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell as part of a single video this past Monday. “Fuck It I Love You” and “The Greatest” backed a nine-minute video directed by Rich Lee, the filmmaker responsible for the “Love,” “Lust for Life,” and “White Mustang” videos.
The long-awaited NFR album, set to drop on August 30, features a number of released singles, like “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it,” “Venice Bitch,” “Mariners Apartment Complex,” and “Doin’ Time.” In this new double video, Lana revisits the core of her music: nostalgia, love, loss, and an undercurrent of some metaphorical dream whose paradise we spend our lives trying to find.
Such a paradise is what Rich Lee creates in this double feature. Lana is a happy, fresh-faced sixties surfer girl riding skateboards between houses and singing against the tropical backdrop of a wood-panelled dive bar where she plays pool. Lana positions her own tracks in the jukebox catalogue alongside Bon Iver, the National, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Jeff Buckley.
Each of Lana’s eras create new universes; during “Ride,” we were roadies of a bike gang clad in leather; in the Born to Die era, we were American socialites and cursed royalty; in Tropico, dark and doomed desperados in a modern-day Garden of Eden; in “Lust for Life,” young and golden youth discovering Hollywood for the first time. The dream world of a Californian Xanadu extends into this most recent video, presenting a video like one extended sepia-toned postcard of a coastal surf town during the late sixties.
But the dream is sullied when we wake up not in that Golden State utopia, but in a present-day rundown version of it, where the amusement park excitement is replaced with a dive bar full of aged hippies, Lana smoking a vape, and a name drop of a very twenty-first-century icon, Kanye West. It feels like we’ve lost something along the way rather than gained it; that even though it is true that “Life on Mars” is no longer just a song, but also a reality, that the dream of it back in Bowie’s 1971 was more appealing than whatever discoveries we have made since then.
She references the devastating California wildfires and Hawaii accidental national alert crisis, fracturing the constructed idyllic tropic images that she had built for the past nine minutes. In this world, Dennis does not stop at the Long Beach bar before Kokomo; in this world, Dennis has been long deceased, as is David Bowie.
In true Lana del Rey fashion, she creates and then destroys a world of which we have no experience yet still are somehow missing, nostalgic for such a romantic reality. The artist said to Billboard in a feature that dropped the same day as the video, “I have never taken a shortcut – and I don’t think that’s going to stop now.” It must be working out for her; the upward trend of her happiness in her music peaks in her full-frontal smiles throughout the two songs as she sings, “Turns out everywhere you go / You take yourself. That’s not a lie.”
We’re glad she did.