Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Review: Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd? • Lana Del Rey

Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard? Lana Del Rey did. It’s one of the many fragments of information she reveals extemporaneously on her record of the same name. But there’s actually a tunnel under two different corridors that could qualify as the tunnel under Ocean Boulevard: One in Long Beach, California, and one in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In California, the tunnel is a sealed time capsule of 1920s art deco tile work that connected a downtown building to the beach. In Myrtle Beach, it’s a gauche ‘80s kaleidoscope of aquatic murals that connects parts of a beachside resort. It’s common knowledge by now which one inspired this record, but which one’s imagery better exemplifies Lana Del Rey depends on perspective.

In some ways, Did you know? is the elegant, up-close love letter to legacy, tradition, and her family that Blue Banisters prefaced: The opening number bares her surname, acting as a supercut of her life’s memories with her father, grandmother, and siblings, while “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing” is a gentle plea for her family’s (and her own) peace and safety. But in so many other ways, the album channels the chaotically charming Myrtle Beach variant of its namesake tunnel in its delivery: It’s truly whatever goes. “My boyfriend tested positive for COVID. It don’t matter. We’ve been kissing, so whatever he has, I have,” she declares casually on “Peppers,” which also interpolates a Tommy Genesis song about blowjobs into its hook. A sermon from a celebrity cult preacher was recorded on an iPhone and declared an interlude next to “A&W,” a seven-minute, two-part epic profiling the mindset of a self-proclaimed American whore.

“A&W,” maybe the most impressively sprawling epic in her catalog aside from 2019’s “Venice Bitch,” swings from an alluring guitar ballad to a trap callback to her first few records with a nonsensical riff about a bum who’s “fucking up big time.” Amid the dark ballets that her upper register and piano tracks perform on “Candy Necklace” and “Paris, Texas,” the sarcastic reminder of the alleged floozy and her loser boyfriend feels like a necessity, as do the touching – and perhaps among her career-best – love songs “Let the Light In” and “Margaret.” The brighter moments on the record, despite how opposite they may be, remind us that this is not the Lana Del Rey we thought we knew. This is Lana Del Rey making music that reflects peace for the first time since she declared we were born to die. Maybe, it seems, we were born to live – and to feel, to explore, and to learn – after all.

Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd? is available now under Interscope Records.

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