“Thank you. I feel like being happy is the ultimate [goal], so I did it,” Lana Del Rey said in her acceptance speech for the Billboard Women in Music Visionary Award. For many longtime Lana Del Rey fans, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” feels like the light at the end of a metaphorical tunnel, as the singer-songwriter reexamines the heavy themes of her past from a happier, more stable point of view.
Upon listening to the album, it is clear that Del Rey’s lyrical genius rivals that of “Norman F***ing Rockwell!,” but she seems to undertake a more unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness style with her ambling, wordy verses. She reflects on how and where love appears in her life — in family and spirituality, past lovers and ultimately the self.
Followers of the singer know that she holds her brother Charlie, sister Chuck and father Rob dear to her heart and reveres family as one of the central pillars of her life. She establishes this in the opening track, “The Grants,” where she yearns to remember her family after death, singing gracefully over the gospel tones of her background singers. She continues this sentiment into the title track, where she wishes for her legacy to not be forgotten like the literal tunnel under Ocean Blvd.
“My pastor told me, when you leave, all you take is your memories, and I’m gonna take mine of you with me,” she sings on the first track. “I’m doing it for us, for our family line,” she continues in a swelling crescendo.
She maintains the same creeping tempo over a hypnotic, piano-based backing through the majority of the album, exemplified in “Candy Necklace” and “Sweet.” The epitome of this style arrives halfway through the album, which provides some of the most profound lyrics of her career. She has matured past catering to the masses. Instead, she prioritizes the poetry and lets the melody chase after it.
The epitome of this comes in “Fingertips,” where, according to Genius, producer Drew Erickson assembled her voice note fragments into a coherent song with minimal instrumentals. The song has no consistent rhythm structure or chorus, mimicking the nonlinear manner in which Del Rey processes her traumatic past. She lilts through hard-hitting lyrics, once again discussing death and its impact on her. She ponders her identity in a series of desperate questions, referencing her familial love and past struggles with addiction and self-harm.
“Will I die? Or will I get to that ten-year mark? / Where I beat the extinction of telomeres? / And if I do, will you be there with me, Father, Sister, Brother? // Charlie, stop smoking, / Caroline, will you be with me? / Will the baby be alright? / Will I have one of mine? / Can I handle it even if I do?,” Del Rey sings.
After a seemingly infinite dirge of emotionally taxing lyrics backed by droning piano, Del Rey provides a much-needed release in a happy ending through the latter half of the album.
“Let The Light In” features a happier tune accompanied by a tranquil acoustic guitar and Father John Misty’s cool rasp. “Margaret” is a beautiful ode to producer and friend Jack Antonoff’s love for his fiance Margaret Qualley.
She advises the audience that “when you know, you know” that you love someone. The song deepened in significance when Billboard announced her engagement to manager Evan Winiker, which came as a surprise to even the most dedicated fans. In her final three songs, Del Rey returns to the superficial — paying homage to her younger, more gaudy self with trap beats reminiscent of her “Lust for Life” era. She samples “Angelina” by Tommy Genesis on “Peppers” and remixes her own song “Venice B****” for fans on “Taco Truck x VB.” Del Rey has the unique ability to sing with earth-shattering profundity in one verse and cause listeners to cringe by calling herself “Lanita” in the next one, but this is why she retains such a cult following.
“But it’s also a perfect distillation of the duality that makes Del Rey’s 21st-century siren songs so singular,” the New York Times wrote. “Nine albums into her career, she has become a musical mermaid, capable of breathing as easily on the surface as she can in the ocean’s darkest depths.”
If you were expecting to listen to “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” and find the glamorous melancholy and grungy noir of Lana Del Rey’s older works, you would be terribly mistaken. She has matured boundlessly since her debut album “Born To Die,” and her sound has matured alongside her.
Although some of the songs grow repetitive behind the constant backdrop of piano, the album retains masterful lyricism, beautiful vocals and a few catchy hits. “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’’ can be found on all streaming platforms and is available for purchase on vinyl in various locations.