Lana Del Rey releases heartbreaking ninth studio album

Photo credit: Beatriz Alvani, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lana Del Rey’s “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” is not just another album — It’s one hour and 17 minutes of unadulterated musical mastery.

Released on March 24,, Del Rey dropped this album about a year and a half after her last album “Blue Banisters.” In just a short amount of time, the “Summertime Sadness” singer has created one of the most heart-wrenching and meaningful albums of the year so far.

Del Rey opens the 16-track masterpiece with “The Grants,” a song which starts with an a capella chorus “rehearsing” lines that reappear later in the song. Without any instrumental backing, the raw vulnerability of the voices in this introduction reflect the emotional vulnerability in Del Rey’s lyrics throughout the rest of the song.

This song straddles the line between happy and sad, settling on nostalgic. Del Rey reflects on which memories will stay with her forever (even, as she implies, into the afterlife), like those of “my sister’s first-born child” and “my grandmother’s last smile.” This song is extremely intimate and an indicative precursor to the tracks to come.

The second and title track “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” reflects a deep longing to remain visible. The tunnel that she references throughout was originally constructed in the early 1900s as a pedestrian walkway in Long Beach, California., but was closed in the 1960s and forgotten.

As the song goes on, Del Rey makes it clear that she doesn’t want to fade into the shadows of the past like that long forgotten tunnel. The song gradually crescendos near the end, with the singer pleading “Don’t forget me, like the tunnel under Ocean Blvd.”

The fourth track “A&W” is almost overwhelming with all the different themes mentioned. The main theme, however, is abuse and power in sexual relationships. The song describes the experience of being the “other woman,” and a resignation that she isn’t worthy of love (or so she feels).

The bridge describes how if she did experience sexual violence, she wouldn’t bother telling anybody because she feels that her appearance would preclude her from getting justice.

“I’m invisible, I’m invisible,” Del Rey sings. She essentially surrenders to her reality of disappointing and violent men, a critical media and a society in which she doesn’t feel safe.

Embed from Getty Images

The “Young and Beautiful” singer also included “Judah Smith Interlude” in this unique collection of songs. This track superimposes a recording of Churchome mega-church preacher Judah Smith seemingly captured by Del Rey herself, who can be heard reacting to his statements throughout.

Judah Smith has faced significant controversy for his anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion views. That aside, I think this track serves two interesting purposes. As it immediately follows “A&W,” a song which describes the commodification of women, this track comments on the commodification of religion.

Smith has amassed an immense social media following, and Churchome hosts celebrities including Justin Bieber, Kourtney Kardashian and more. The church earns millions of dollars in revenue each year and Smith behaves like an online influencer online, collecting supporters and their money. Like countless televangelists, Smith has seemingly warped religion into a business.

The last line, “I’ve discovered my preaching is mostly about me,” fulfills the second purpose – to show that Del Rey is no longer writing songs to please the masses. The instrumental background underscores this line, emphasizing the implication that the heavily-criticized singer is refusing to write meaningless songs.

Moving on, “Candy Necklace” ft. Jon Batiste is one of my favorites. The song opens with a strong, undulating piano. During the pre chorus, the piano plays deep, darker notes contrasting with Del Rey’s signature falsetto. The piano then shifts up and drives the chorus forward, with an almost insistent quickened pace.

In addition to playing the piano on this track, Batiste demonstrates his silky smooth bass in a call and response to Del Rey at the end. “Jon Batiste Interlude” features more of his intoxicating piano and his rich, enchanting voice.

The thirteenth track “Margaret” ft. Bleachers is a rare happy song presumably written about Margaret Qualley, the fiancé of co-writer and Bleachers singer Jack Antonoff. Although this is Antonoff’s only feature, he has six writing credits and 10 production credits on this album.

Of all these credits, “Margaret” is the most characteristically Antonoff. The four-time Grammy Award winner has collaborated with stars like Taylor Swift, The 1975 and Lorde. His lyrics often feel like a conversation — not overly poetic, yet still meaningful.

The album is provocative, emotionally driven and quintessentially Lana Del Rey. Taken as a whole, it’s a near cinematic experience with a variety of sounds, themes, and contemporary relevance. Definitely a must-listen.