Norman Fucking Rockwell Review: Surfing The Digital Spectrum of Existential Blue To A Burning Summer

Sunday, September 08, 2019


Norman Fucking Rockwell (NFR) is a dynamically hopeful yet yearning representation of exactly what it feels like to live in the 21st century - in a world where America is burning, but perhaps people don't really care so much because they're distracted by another live stream.

We cruise with Del Rey through an anthology of complex self-actualisation intertwined with coloured anecdotes of a Californian life lived with spiritual rawness and surging emotional courage that perseveres through tumultuous romances and societal uncertainty.

NFR frames like a Monét at noon, and a Dali at twilight. Del Rey paints this narrative in way that is so layered with nuanced self allusions and rock n' roll intertextuality that we really feel as if our own stories have been woven into the historiographic fabric of late 20th century American pop culture - and we are inner circle.



The central tension of the album rests on the apathy of life in the Digital Age imposed against a nostalgia for the glory days of American Exceptionalism.

Del Rey takes us as listeners on a long-winding summery West-Coast drive that is loomed over by the smokey shadow cast by the gradual attrition (or evolution) of America to the state it is in today - where 'the culture is lit'.

This is most epitomised in the coda of 'the greatest' that reads like an apocalyptic eulogy of a dying world. "Hawaii just missed a fireball", in early 2019 an erroneous nuclear warning in Hawaii gave us the 21st century's version of a glimmer of the hysteria of the Cold War. "LA's burning, it's getting hot" - a comment about the widespread wildfires in Los Angeles in 2019 and increasingly alarming global warming. "Kanye West is Blonde and gone", Del Rey calls out West for his vocal support for Trump, calling it a "loss for culture". "Life on Mars ain't just a song" - it is a unusual time when we are actually discussing the colonisation of Mars. It is also not happenstance that this ode to Bowie is in regards to a song that details the narrative of a protagonist who utilises cinema as a form of escapism, but ultimately resolves to the fact that this cannot be pure escapism, because in a way, all art is a representation of reality too.



Despite the lament, Del Rey is not necessarily posturing that modern life is altogether bad, or good, but that the "times are a changin" and we as characters of Dylan's self-fulfilled prophecy of America can ride along the spectrum of a digital blue to a burning summer, with either a dangerous hope and/or with exclamatory dismay.

To be continued ...

You Might Also Like

2 comments

What did you think?