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Lana Del Rey skillfully traverses melancholia in ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’

Artist’s ninth studio album delivers powerful lyricism, unexpected creative choices

<p>Though many of the songs are indistinguishable from one another at first listen, Del Rey’s unpredictability adds an interesting dimension to the somber album. </p><p>Courtesy of Harmony Gerber.</p><p><br/></p>

Though many of the songs are indistinguishable from one another at first listen, Del Rey’s unpredictability adds an interesting dimension to the somber album. 

Courtesy of Harmony Gerber.

Lana Del Rey first garnered attention in the 2010s with music that evoked images of Americana grandeur. But in her more recent albums, Del Rey has ventured into slower, more somber territory. Her newest album “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd,” released March 24, strays perhaps too far into this territory. Filled with mournful ballads and melancholic lyrics, the album occasionally risks becoming too dense with sad anthems. But one of Del Rey’s strongest musical qualities is her unpredictability, and she fills her latest release with unexpected creative twists that rejuvenate an otherwise monotonous tracklist.

The album begins with “The Grants,” first released as a single March 14. Through angelic vocals, Del Rey, whose real name is Elizabeth Grant, reflects on family memories she will take with her when she dies. The sentimental nature of the song makes it feel like a goodbye, creating a strange yet powerful introduction to the rest of the album. 

The album’s next song, and namesake, was released as a single Dec. 7. In “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd,” Del Rey references the Jergins Tunnel, which was used as a pedestrian passageway to Long Beach, California in the mid-20th century before being sealed off in 1967. Begging listeners repeatedly, “Don’t forget me / like the tunnel under Ocean Boulevard,” Del Rey uses the forgotten tunnel as a metaphor for being discarded after the peak of her fame has passed. But while the meaning behind the song offers creative insight into Del Rey’s insecurities, its slow pace struggles to keep listeners engaged.

“Sweet,” the album’s third track, only builds on this boredom. While it conveys a meaningful narrative of the singer waiting for a lover while simultaneously refusing to change herself to appease them, “Sweet” does little to keep listeners enthralled.


The record’s dreadful lethargy is finally broken with “A&W,” the tracklist’s strangest song both lyrically and musically. “A&W” opens with a heart-wrenching tale about being unlovable and throwing one’s life away. But halfway through, the song pivots, adding energy to an initially dull album. On top of an electronic beat, Del Rey repeatedly declares, “Jimmy only love me when he wanna get high.” The song’s redirection into a more upbeat and chaotic tone symbolizes the narrator’s belief that she can only abandon her sorrows under the influence of drugs.

This high is cut off with “Judah Smith Interlude,” which features a sermon from celebrity megachurch pastor Judah Smith preaching against abandoning traditional family values and succumbing to lust. Smith’s feature on the album sparked controversy among Del Rey’s fans due to his past homophobic comments. In the background of the sermon, Del Rey can be heard laughing, though it is unclear whether she is laughing in mockery of or in agreement with Smith's message. The interlude adds a compelling dimension to the album, which focuses heavily on “immoral” themes that run counter to Smith’s conservative values. Still, the decision to boldly print Smith’s name on the album’s cover feels dangerously out of touch.

The interlude is followed by “Candy Necklace,” which features Grammy Award-winning artist Jon Batiste on piano and backing vocals. The wistful song blends into “Jon Batiste Interlude,” which gives Batiste yet another opportunity to let his piano skills shine.

Moody piano defines tracks “Kintsugi” and “Fingertips.” In both songs, Del Rey reflects on grieving the deaths of her family members. The album’s momentum quickens slightly in “Paris, Texas” featuring SYML, where Del Rey’s delicate vocals and the fast-paced piano melody contrast the song’s heavier theme of growing sick of one’s current life and leaving home.

Del Rey continues exploring familial themes in “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing,” which features RIOPY. Typical for the album, the song starts slow but builds after the second verse. Despite its odd title, the song proves to be an enthralling and bittersweet illustration of the way Del Rey’s background has influenced her as a person. 

In one of the most beautiful songs on the album, “Let The Light In,” Del Rey abandons the piano for a guitar and harmonizes masterfully with Father John Misty. The song provides an authentic narration of the ups and downs of being in love. The next song, “Margaret,” is written about music producer Jack Antonoff’s romance with his fiance Margaret Qualley. Antonoff, whose band Bleachers is featured on the track, has worked with Del Rey on her previous albums “Norman F*cking  Rockwell!” (2019) and “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” (2021).

“Fishtail,” a haunting track about an unhealthy relationship, features a standout beat drop that helps set it apart from the album’s otherwise dreary tone. “Peppers,” featuring Tommy Genesis, continues this mood shift with a sample of Genesis’s hip-hop track “Angelina.” Del Rey does an excellent job of complimenting Genesis’s verse with her own unique vocal style. The song’s suggestiveness and quirky lyrics are welcomed diversions from the rest of the album, revealing that the record would have benefited from incorporating more of Del Rey’s funky personality.

The album closes with “Taco Truck x VB,” where the second half of the song transitions into a remix of “Venice B*tch,” a track from “Norman F*cking Rockwell!” Del Rey’s decision to close out an album of self-reflection with her previous discography is effective and poignant. 

Though melodically tiresome at times, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” is one of Del Rey’s most emotionally compelling pieces of work. Her talents as a songwriter come to light in an album that proves simultaneously subtler and more gripping than past records.


Daphne Dluzniewski

Daphne is an Arts & Culture writer from Austin, Texas. She is planning on studying International and Public Affairs. Her passions include cats, running and Phoebe Bridgers.

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