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Review: Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

Content Warning: Sexual Abuse and Self Harm 

I didn’t, but now I do.”

In a 2019 interview for KIIS FM with JoJo Wright, Lana Del Rey said, “I think I have a little bit of a connection with young women … There’s like a very thoughtful group of people who are, you know, the kind of people who read between the lines.” Del Rey’s fanbase is certainly dominated by young women drawn to the artist's mystical allure, unique voice, and desire for freedom (don’t get me started on the “Ride” monologue). Her latest album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, has been highly anticipated since its announcement nearing the end of last year – and it does not disappoint.

Each of Lana’s albums are captivating for different reasons: Norman Fucking Rockwell, for its raw vulnerability behind delicate piano notes; Ultraviolence, for its mystery and darkness especially encapsulated in the eponymous title track; and Born To Die, for its absolutely iconic tracks that ultimately propelled Del Rey to become the globally renowned artist she is today – only to name a few. As well as songwriting, Lana published a collection of poems in 2020, Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, which further exemplifies her talent for deriving emotion and relatability from her consumers. 

Recently, upon accepting Billboard’s Visionary Award, Lana passed on a message: “If you were wondering for my fans, I don’t exactly have a long-term vision at all. But if you were curious, I am very, very happy.” She goes on to explain how the music industry has reached a point where being a female singer is a “wonderful” experience, which is very different to when she released her first album fourteen years ago – “the waters were not quite as warm.” She felt, at that time, she could not express herself. 

Indeed, when Lana released “Video Games” followed by her debut album, Born To Die, in 2012, the sour criticism she received was immense. She later told a journalist that she wished she was dead. Whilst many did not understand the artist, her fanbase has grown dramatically over the years, and she is finally getting the recognition she so rightfully deserves. Lana ends her Visionary Award speech reiterating that “being happy is the ultimate goal.” Fans were delighted to hear this. 

Her ninth studio album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, is produced by Jack Antonoff and Del Rey herself, alongside others. It is notably different from her other albums, especially with the addition of the two “Interludes” featuring Judah Smith and Jon Batiste. The album is raw and confessional, exploring things that Lana has previously been through as well as her current position. It leaves listeners with a sense of clarity and optimism for the future. 

It’s clear that the album has been revised and thought through incredibly; there are references to her own and other artists’ music, and even songs within the album are noticeably intertwined. Collaborators that feature on the album include Jon Batiste, SYML, Father John Misty, Bleachers, and Tommy Genesis. 

On March 23rd, 2023, listening events for the new album were held globally. In Town Hall, Sydney, Red Eye Records opened its doors to a huge turnout of fans, including myself. Unfortunately, some were turned away. The album was played once, and the atmosphere was incredibly wholesome. Everyone sat on the floor, carefully listening to new lyrics and melodies. When we heard the “Venice Bitch” remix at the end of “Taco Truck x VB”, the energy was ecstatic. The next day, the album was released on streaming platforms. 

Many of the songs on this album are very vulnerable, and Lana hints at things she has been through in the past. “A&W” is one of these songs. She tells listeners, “I haven’t seen my mother in a long, long time.” This has been brought up in many of her previous songs, notably in “Wildflower Wildfire”: “My father never stepped in / When his wife would rage at me / So I ended up awkward but sweet.”

“A&W” continues to reiterate the song’s message, “It’s not about having someone to love me anymore / This is the experience of bein’ an American whore.” Listeners are then confronted with the disturbing reality of society’s justice system: “I mean, look at my hair / Look at the length of it and the shape of my body / If I told you that I was raped / Do you really think that anybody would think I didn’t ask for it.”

Throughout the album, there are references to death, which is not new in Lana’s music. “Kintsugi'' offers a suggestion for why this topic is close to Del Rey: “When you see someone dyin’, you see all your days / Flash in front of you.” “Kintsugi” is a heartfelt song about the titular Japanese concept of filling in the cracks of broken pottery with gold. “That’s how the light gets in,” Del Rey writes.

Suicide is another prominent theme in the album regarding herself and others. “Candy Necklace” begins its second verse with, “Sittin’ on the sofa, feelin’ super suicidal,” and “Fingertips” mentions, “Dave / Who hung himself real high.” It also has a potential suicide reference when she sings, “call me ‘Aphrodite’ as they bow down to me.” Aphrodite was born from the sea – Lana was ‘reborn’ from the sea after she tried to drown herself at 15. 

The album also welcomes the future. Lana asks a number of questions concerning her future, almost as if she is preparing for it. She keeps her best interest of herself in her new or old relationships, so she feels clarity in letting things go that do not serve her anymore. In “Paris, Texas,” for example, she repeats the lines, “I had to leave / Knew they wouldn’t understand,” and “When you know, you know / It’s time, it’s time to go.”

The line, “When you know, you know,” is carried into “Margaret.” “Candy Necklace” and “Fishtail” have similar messages: “You’re the best, but, baby, you’ve been bringing me down” and “you wanted me sadder.” These lines all link to the idea of self-worth, and given a lot of Lana’s previous music has been about men who have mistreated her, it’s nice to see her acknowledging what she deserves. 

Overall, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd is a true lyrical masterpiece. Only Lana Del Rey could get away with having the lines, “Open me up, tell me you like it / Fuck me to death, love me until I love myself” and “Pass me my vape, I’m feeling sick / I need to take a puff,” in the same album. Enchanting as ever.


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