April 21, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Carlee Castillo

Since the age of 11, Lana Del Rey has done irreparable damage to my psyche.

As a preteen, Del Rey provided me, and many others, with a rose-tinted channel for angst and taboo emotions. Her music echoed off the walls of my middle school girl’s restroom as my friends and I cried about boys. Still, her lyrics ring out in my car on rainy days. Nostalgic, melancholic, and inarguably toxic, Del Rey has long held a tight grasp on the aesthetic of sadness.

Del Rey’s career kickstarted in 2010 following the release of her first several albums under the name Lizzy Grant. Dismissed as superficial, or  “a groupie incognito posing as a real singer,” as Del Rey herself would put it in her 2012 song “Gods & Monsters,” Lizzy Grant did not see much success. With a new name, Del Rey then released “Born to Die” in 2012. Still, she was derided by critics until around 2019, upon the arrival of her album “Norman Fucking Rockwell.”

With this album, the public consensus of Del Rey’s aesthetic persona shifted from phony to insightful. Similarly, her most recent album “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard?” focuses on authenticity and reflection. Categorized by sweeping instrumentals and choral vocals, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard?” is what I believe to be Lana Del Rey’s most meaningful and exciting album yet.

Rather than glamorizing depression or substance abuse, she handles difficult topics with care and genuine attention. For example, Del Rey writes the song “A&W” not only to grapple with her own sexual assault, but also to dissect America’s overall derogatory and accusatory relationship to survivors.

She also reflects on her deeply personal desires and struggles with death and the uncertainty that accompanies wanting her own children and not knowing if she will ever get them in songs such as “The Grants”and “Grandfather Please Stand on the Shoulders of my Father While He’s Deep-Sea Fishing” (a comically long name that uncovers immensely individualized experiences).

Not only does Del Rey dig deeper in this album than ever before, but she also emphasizes the importance of finding joy amidst sadness.“Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard?”was released over spring break while I was on a family vacation in Ireland. The trip started out picturesque. Dublin’s cobblestone roads were filled with delicious food, experiences, and rich history. The coastal countryside offered rolling hills and the greenest pastures I’ve ever seen. Everything was perfect, until my mom received a call about one of our dogs back at home.

Lucy has been a part of my family since I was five years old. Barreling down the stairs on a long-ago Christmas day, I found her under the tree, inconceivably small and fuzzy-pawed. She has moved with us from house to house. She experienced every tragedy and triumph. I confided in her all of my secrets as she wagged away my tears with the trademark swivel of her fluffy tail.

Lucy got sick while my family was an ocean away and passed a few days after our return home. The sadness of losing a childhood pet and best friend was and is inconceivable. Initially, loss tainted my time in Ireland, and I only remembered the tremble of my mother’s voice and sinking of my stomach.

I only paid attention to the saddest lyrics of Del Rey’s newest album while on the plane ride home. But as I grapple with grief, I remember that tragedy and beauty can coexist. “Let the Light In” is incredibly poignant to me now, as the motif of the song encourages us to look for happiness even in the worst of times.

Although I can’t see or smell Lucy anymore, I still feel her all around: in the warmth of the sleepy summer sun, the joy in the kitchen while cooking breakfast. Perhaps the joy and immense sadness that I experienced over spring break are why I adore Del Rey’s new album so much. Lucy loved to lounge and eat. Even though missing her feels so heavy, I see her in the slow-moving clouds that float across an Irish sky and think about her when I remember eating delicious food in the best of company.

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