Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd
Lana Del Rey has mastered the art of carefully constructed, high-concept alt-pop records that bask in—and steadily amplify—her own mythology; with each album we become more enamoured by, and yet less sure of, who she is. This is, of course, part of her magic and the source of much of her artistic power. Her records bid you to worry less about parsing fact from fiction and, instead, free-fall into her theatrical aesthetic—a mix of gloomy Americana, Laurel Canyon nostalgia and Hollywood noir that was once dismissed as calculation and is now revered as performance art. Up until now, these slippery, surrealist albums have made it difficult to separate artist from art. But on her introspective ninth album, something seems to shift: She appears to let us in a little. She appears to let down her guard. The opening track is called “The Grants”—a nod to her actual family name. Through unusually revealing, stream-of-conscious songs that feel like the most poetic voice notes you’ve ever heard, she chastises her siblings, wonders about marriage and imagines what might come with motherhood and midlife. “Do you want children?/Do you wanna marry me?” she sings on “Sweet”. “Do you wanna run marathons in Long Beach by the sea?” This is relatively new lyrical territory for Del Rey, who has generally tended to steer around personal details, and the songs themselves feel looser and more off-the-cuff (they were mostly produced with long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff). It could be that Lana has finally decided to start peeling back a few layers, but for an artist whose entire catalogue is rooted in clever imagery, it’s best to leave room for imagination. The only clue might be in the album’s single piece of promo, a now-infamous billboard in Tulsa, Oklahoma, her ex-boyfriend’s hometown. She settled the point fairly quickly on Instagram. “It’s personal,” she wrote.