Album Review: DId You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
Review by: Laurel Wang
Artist: Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey’s ninth studio album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, begins with a restart. At a choir’s count, listeners begin a meditation through the 37-year-old’s career, as we follow Del Rey, “say[ing] it again” and again.
Featuring fourteen tracks and two interludes, Ocean Blvd encompasses the scale of a sprawling career. By the end of the album’s 77-minute runtime, Del Rey has revealed a shatteringly-clear vision of herself.
More than a decade into her career, Lana Del Rey has moved from the persona of Americana to make an album unmistakably about herself. On the opening track, “The Grants”, Del Rey sheds her stage name to return to Elizabeth Grant. Her plea, “don’t forget me,” on the title track is delivered like a fleeting memory, threaded throughout the album in desperate confessional (“Will I die? / And if I do, will you be there with me, Father, Sister, Brother?”)
Arguably, a significant part of Del Rey’s career has been shaped out of controversy. The singer first made headlines over an infamous debut on Saturday Night Live in 2012. Throughout Ocean Blvd, Del Rey fleetingly touches her many career controversies, this time with acceptance. From industry plant accusations (“I know they think that it took thousands of people/To put me together again like an experiment”) to questionable masking during the COVID-19 pandemic and accusations of racism, Del Rey acknowledges each in turn, yet makes little commitment beyond a few awkward lines (“I’m blue, I’m green, regrettably also a white woman/But I have good intentions even if I’m one of the last ones.”)
Still, having weathered a tumultuous decade, Del Rey is no longer beholden to critics. On “Taco Truck x VB”, she waves off anyone who might object to her playful self-reference as “Lanita”, getting “down like bonita” with “Before you talk, let me stop what you’re saying/I know, I know, I know that you hate me”. The track then transitions into a gritty trap rendition of “Venice *****”, from her 2019 album Norman ******* Rockwell! As the album’s closer, the track fades off again into the past, hinting that we aren’t quite done with its ghosts.
One of the most eccentric tracks, “Judah Smith Interlude”, features the aforementioned L.A. pastor delivering an impassioned sermon. Smith’s final admission reveals insight into Del Rey’s vision; “I used to think my preaching was mostly about you/…I’ve discovered that my preaching is mostly about me.”
Indeed, Lana Del Rey has taken off the heart-shaped sunglasses to deliver a deeply intimate reflection on her past. A haunting yet dynamic offering, Ocean Blvd is among Del Rey’s most complex, presenting us with a delicate view of the singer on the verge.