Publishing date: Mar, 24, 2023
Happy Lana Day, to those who celebrate. Today, Lana Del Rey releases Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, a 77-minute project, where she solidifies herself as the mature and disarmingly truthful Hollywood-starlet-meets-Disney-princess, giving us the swooning ballads we all need. This record merges her classic soulful sound and songwriting, with intense interludes, trap beats, and spoken word. While some might find a lengthy album like this daunting, Lana fans have likely prepped for days worth of loops, cocooning us while we stare blankly at our popcorn ceilings as if we’re teenagers again. Did you know… is Lana Del Rey’s ninth studio album, following 2021’s double release of Chemtrails Over The Country Club and Blue Banisters.
Across her career, Lana Del Rey has built a repertoire of iconography and thematic schemes that are so precisely linked to her and her inclination to American melancholia—cherry cola, gritty dive bars, and of course, wastrel past partners. Did you know… offers a well-packaged collection of songs that feel reflective of her robust discography. “Candy Necklace”, an interlude led by Grammy-winning jazz and R&B artist Jon Batiste, centers around a piano and references her hit “Video Games”. Meanwhile, “Fingertips” is giving NFR!’s “Bartender” vibes, and “Fishtail” begins like a soft ballad reminiscent of Chemtrails Over The Country Club, before shifting to a brasher beat, where she admits “I’m not that smart / But I’ve got things to say.” And that she does. Did you know… has songs for fans holding onto any one specific Lana era, if you can resist the trance-like way the album carries you through all 16 tracks.
Through my lens—one that has been through more than a decade of Lana-isms—I can see an evolution in her powerful lyricism and melodies, remaining dreamy and whimsical sonically but more matter-of-fact in her conviction. The juxtaposition is plain to see, flowing from the grand piano and soft strings of “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” to the blunt lyricism of “Sweet” as she taunts, “If you want some basic bitch, go to the Beverly Center and find her,” with a boastful attitude that would fit at home on Born to Die. I think all Lana listeners would agree that her poeticism is hyper-specific, yet enchantingly abstract, enough so for all of us to hold onto her words as if they were delivered from our psyches themselves. This mysticism of LDR is only a small working in a larger machination of what makes her one of the best songwriters of our time.
In classic Lana fashion, a lot of the record seems to be musings about love, of course. On “Let The Light In”, her third collaboration with Father John Misty, she bellows pleas to revive a roundabout dead-end affair, she coos, “’Cause I love to love, to love, to love, to love you / I hate to hate, to hate, to hate, to hate you,” immediately giving me second-hand heartbreak. More notably, “Margaret” resembles somewhat of a happy ending and panacea for her unsettled existential burdens. Unfortunately, this song isn’t about LDR herself but was written for her producer Jack Antonoff and his fiancée Margaret Qualley. Whereas energetic “Peppers”, which samples Tommy Genesis’ “Angelina”, tells us a story about a time she was in love, reminiscing in captivating opening lyrics, “Me and my boyfriend listen to the Chill Peppers / We write hit songs without trying like all the time, all the time.”
Leaning on her philosophical roots, she gravitates toward a weighty existential matter, grappling with big questions arising in her womanhood of legacy, time, and death. In “Kintsugi” she reminds us of the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending breakage with gold, which declared to Rolling Stone UK, is a metaphor that doesn’t need to be over-explained, clearly alluding to the idea of falling apart and putting yourself back together. Whereas “Fingertips” and “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing”—ironically, one of the shortest songs on the album, not reflective of its lengthy title—are heavily inspired by her family, where she vulnerably wonders when it will be her turn to have a family of her own. I think she might have forgotten that we are all her children, but I understand the distinction. Stepping into a new lyrical territory, Lana is coming face to face with queries and doubts, and as any philosopher will tell you, rumination will often lead you to more questions but rarely the answers. Though this synopsis sounds heavy by nature, I can assure you that it somehow is still a fun ride, and feels as if Lana Del Rey stood in that studio in front of the microphone and just vibed the hell out.
For all those reckoning with the blurred lines of what age is considered, now, to be emerging adulthood, imposing fickle time-sensitive pressures of what traditional trajectories align with us, which don’t, and when to do them, Did you know… might just be what you need to not feel so alienated and burdened by it all. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is an alluring and charming project that encompasses everything quintessential Lana Del Rey for you to sink your hopes, dreams, and sorrows into.