Review of Lana Del Rey’s Album “Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd”

Nicole Martin, Senior Copy Editor

On March 24, singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey released her ninth studio album, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.” Following her previous release, “Blue Banisters” back in 2022, this album takes a deeper, honest and raw approach to Del Rey’s life — an exploration into her family, death, the idea of an afterlife, a past lover, sexuality and mental illness, among other underlying themes. “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” explores themes and melodic chord progressions similar to that of past albums and offers the audience a view that goes past the surface persona Del Rey crafted back in her 2012 debut “Born to Die,” and into the self-discovery and ballads of her real identity, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Grant.

The album features 16 songs, with seven featuring artists and two preludes, totaling one hour and 17 minutes. The opening track, “The Grants” follows a ballad detailing Del Rey’s religious faith and her family bloodline. Del Rey opens the song with an excerpt of a chorus, sung by prior backing vocalists to Whitney Houston, Melodye Perry and Pattie Horward: “I’m gonna take mine of you with me/Like Rocky Mountain High/The way John Denver sings.” Del Rey repeats this line further throughout the song. At the start of the chorus it evidently mixes up the lyric, but the mistake proved the genius of Del Rey’s album. Del Rey recalled the mistake’s “naturalness” and “symbolism” in an interview for BBC Radio 1’s Hottest Record. Moreover, Del Rey references singer John Denver’s song “Rocky Mountain High” through its themes of death, loss and promises to still love and remember someone after death. In “The Grants,” Del Rey makes a similar promise to her sister and her sister’s child, while simultaneously referencing the afterlife and her faith: “Do you think about heaven?/Oh-oh do you think about me?/My pastor told me (I’ll do it, I’ll do it)/When you leave, all you take (I did it, I did it)/Oh-oh is your memories/…My sister’s first born-child/I’m gonna take that too with me…”

The following two songs are “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” and “Sweet.” Following the album’s name, the single “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” references the abandoned California tunnel, Jergins Tunnel, and singer-songwriter Harry Nilson in a metaphorical allegory to themes of loneliness, self-esteem, isolation and heartbreak. On the other hand, “Sweet,” a soft ballad, recalls a past lover in conjunction with Del Rey’s worries about her future, both in terms of conventional aspects such as marriage and children, as well as existential, like her contemplation of life and the existence of a God.

“A&W,” the fourth track on the album, and one of Del Rey’s most notable, reflects her stream-of-consciousness in a seven-minute anecdote on her childhood and her rising sexuality moving towards adulthood. At the beginning of the song, Del Rey mentions her childhood and her mother’s abandonment, which largely impacted her life. References to Del Rey’s experience with body shaming in 2022, identifying as “the other woman” in a relationship, feeling unloved and her relationship with social media are all evident in the song. I personally loved how this track implemented hauntingly beautiful melodies and lyrics reminiscent to that of the Americana vibe that became popularized by Del Rey, to a completely different musical style in the latter half of the song — a musical journey as Del Rey shifts from soft, melancholic vocals to a different genre and overpowering vocals. However, the song still stays true to her experiences and emotions. 

Ocean Blvd tackles the recurring themes of death and family, which surface in the tracks, “Kintsugi,” “Fingertips” and “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep sea fishing.” “Kintsugi” portrays a heartbreakingly beautiful ballad reflecting on the death of Del Rey’s grandmother, showing the toils of grief and the loss of a loved one. The tile, Kintsugi, refers to a style of Japanese pottery art, which involves putting together broken pottery pieces with gold to create something new and beautiful by letting “the light in”— an embrace of one’s flaws and imperfections, and the notion that a broken heart does not always have to stay broken. Similar themes found in “Kintsugi” can also be found in the 12th album track, “Let the Light In.” Moreover, “Fingertips” also reflects this stream-of-consciousness prevalent within this album. Similar to that of “The Grants,” “Kintsugi” and “A&W,” “Fingertips” looks at Del Rey’s emotional toil and baggage as a product of past heartbreak, both from boyfriends and family along with an introspective look into how she envisions her future. On the theme of family and death, “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep sea fishing” reflects Del Rey’s hope for someone to look down upon her, sending signs — butterflies — to guide her.

Despite the album generating an overall slower, intimate sound and feel, the album considerably picks up the pace and uplifts the overall mood with the songs, “Peppers” and “Taco x VB.” For me, the shift between the two songs came as an unexpected, but nice surprise. It broke up any melodic repetitiveness in the album and was purely a fun listen that stemmed away from the album’s heavier, richer themes.

Of all the tracks on the album, “Paris, Texas” featuring guest artist SYML was by far my favorite song on the album. This song was unlike any other song from Del Rey’s discography, and beautifully portrayed a poetic ballad about Del Rey coming to terms with leaving a bad situation and learning to view life in a new light. This song felt whimsical as if it was pulled straight out of the film, “Coraline.” Moreover, listening to this song made me feel almost as if I were walking through a flowery meadow, or gazing at a night sky. Del Rey encapsulated the feeling of new beginnings, life’s beauties, and wanderlust in a breathy lullaby in 3 minutes and 26 seconds, and I honestly wish it was longer.

Overall, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” surpassed my expectations, and has climbed up on my list of favorite albums by Del Rey. This album was a heavy-hitting album, filled with multiple deeper themes like death and religious faith that weighed the album but was done gracefully and intimately. This album truly served as a love letter to Del Rey’s love for music, family, and how far she has come since her debut.