Metro Weekly

Lana Del Rey’s ‘Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel…’ Review

No stranger to asking big questions, Lana Del Rey gets more existential than ever before on her ninth album.

Lana Del Rey -- Photo: Neil Krug
Lana Del Rey — Photo: Neil Krug

Excavating, studying and ultimately mythologizing the self has long been Lana Del Rey’s M.O. To accuse her of self-indulgence would be to miss the point, when she has spent the better part of her career making an art of it.

At her best, she is a compelling main character, constantly analyzing and revealing the contents of her mind. She readily embraces what she is quick to identify as her flaws, rarely interested in presenting a sanitized image of herself. Her sprawling ninth album, Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (★★★☆☆) deliberately carries her preoccupation with herself almost to the level of an obsession.

Already no stranger to asking big questions, or at least the profoundly angst-inducing ones, Del Rey gets perhaps more existential than ever before on Ocean Blvd. Reflecting on the loss of her grandmother, she finds herself wondering not just about death and what comes after, but about what it means to live a good life here and now.

The role of faith in her life is reflected in the gospel choirs and soaring harmonies of the opener, and in the Father John Misty feature “Let The Light In,” which dwells on love and romance.

Sometimes that focus on spirituality lands quite bluntly, as in “Judah Smith interlude,” an unadulterated, cloyingly Protestant sermon on the pitfalls of lust from the eponymous influencer-pastor.

This interlude arrives somewhat awkwardly, coming immediately after the sprawling, standout track “A&W,” her stark, incisive send-up of the American culture’s disdain for femininity — as she puts it, “the experience of bein’ an American whore.”

Lana Del Rey: Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
Lana Del Rey: Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

Whatever her purpose in including the sermon in her album, allowing her pastor to stand firmly in the spotlight is conceptually interesting as a nod to the external forces that have challenged and formed her thinking, something she returns to a few times on Ocean Blvd.

Her recognition that the person she is now has been shaped in profound ways by the people around her feels more overt and her explorations of often-troubled family ties and tragedies on tracks like “The Grants” and “Fingertips” feels intimate and nuanced.

That shift is there, but it is a subtle one. Del Rey is still profoundly introverted and introspective as an artist. She turns ideas over and over, only moving on once she is satisfied that she has explored it to its conclusion, whether she has reached an answer or not.

As songs like “Margaret” and “Kintsugi” continue on past the point you might expect them to end, it’s hard not to get the feeling that we are meant to linger in place so the point she’s making can really sink in. With this in mind, the sticky pacing of the nearly-80-minute album is likely a feature, rather than a bug.

To her credit, Ocean Blvd rewards a listener’s patience when it picks up steam in its last stretch. After drifting for a while, she delivers some of its most exciting tracks, beginning with the SYML feature “Paris, Texas,” which announces a dramatic shift in tone.

Lana Del Rey -- Photo: Neil Krug
Lana Del Rey — Photo: Neil Krug

“Fishtail” abruptly brings in an echoey vocoder to shake up an otherwise, serving as a handy reminder that the album’s most consistent strength is its production. Even when she meanders, as she often does, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the rich, languid atmosphere she and her co-producers wrap the album in. Ocean Blvd may lag at many points, but it never feels like a slog.

Lana Del Rey has long insisted that she is exactly who she says she is, sometimes pointedly rejecting suggestions that she is writing from a perspective other than her own, or, God forbid, crafting a stage persona. She has never offered a reason not to take her at her word, and her complicated but inarguable authenticity goes a long way towards making this album a solid offering, even if it lacks some of the focus and punchiness of Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Whether or not that authenticity is ultimately compelling is up to the listener, but Ocean Blvd promises to take you through some beautiful soundscapes while you make up your mind.

Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd is available to stream and purchase on all major platforms. Visit

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