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The 5 Best Songs From Lana Del Rey's 'Norman F****** Rockwell'

When listeners could finally access Lana Del Rey's latest album, an interesting thing happened: Everyone declaring love and admiration, it seemed, had a different favorite track.
Courtesy of the artist
When listeners could finally access Lana Del Rey's latest album, an interesting thing happened: Everyone declaring love and admiration, it seemed, had a different favorite track.

Every single released before Lana Del Rey's Norman F****** Rockwell! came out in August felt like a new peak climbed, the sign of an artist coming into her greatness. When listeners could finally access the entire album, an interesting thing happened: Everyone declaring love and admiration, it seemed, had a different favorite track. This is highly unusual: the sign of a masterpiece. We enlisted five notable critics who reviewed Norman F****** Rockwell! to argue for the songs they think are the most indelible. —Ann Powers


"Mariners Apartment Complex"

A great song builds a suspension bridge between the personal and the universal. This one begins as a murmur to a lover, kind but firm. I ain't no candle in the wind. Lana will be herself. Her self grows along with the resonance of piano buoyed by strings crashing into a choir that is her own voice. She moves beyond one identity. I'm your man. A beacon, a goddess of the harbor. The lyric turns; her warmth extends to any needful listener. Take in the sweetness, she whispers as salt foam rolls over her labor of love. Are you ready for it? Yes, the lover, anyone, responds; your whisper is an anthem. I am carried, safe above the breaking waves. —Ann Powers


"The greatest"

The ultimate California apocalypse song: Lana scrolls through personal loss, cultural litness, social-media burnout, environmental disasters, as if it's all the same to her. It's the kind of scenario where hearing "Kokomo" on the jukebox when you're in the mood for "Life on Mars?" is indistinguishable from any other catastrophe. —Rob Sheffield


"Venice Bitch"

The longest song on Norman F****** Rockwell! is also the one that travels furthest in terms of attitude — from being "fresh out of f**** forever," as Del Rey claims to be at the top of this nearly 10-minute psych-folk ballad, to longing tenderly for "Hallmark: one dream, one life, one lover." Or is that so great a distance after all? In an era of poisoned American dreaming, the idea that "Venice Bitch" seems to want us to ponder — amid a soundscape littered with references to Dr. Dre, "Crimson and Clover" and Graham Nash's homey ode to living with Joni Mitchell — is that stability is just another word for nothing left to prove. —Mikael Wood


"hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it"

In a world still overrun with male violence, a woman's survival sometimes depends upon her learning how to fashion weapons from materials other than brute force. Love can work, as can art, or ridicule (at some point on NFR!, Lana Del Rey tries any and all of these three) but the all-powerful quantity she conjures on NFR!'s closing track is hope. "I have it, yeah I have it," she warns in the waning moments of this unforgettable song, which by its end has become nothing short of an incantation: In just under six minutes, she has transformed optimism into something as sharp as a switchblade. —Lindsay Zoladz


"California"

"California" feels like the steady-beating heart of NFR! to me. Maybe it's how her voice wells into this gorgeous teardrop warble. Maybe it's the shock of hearing her sing so plainly about lurking someone's outbox, someone who is troubled, becoming determined to help. "California" is so delicate, but her confessions are dangerous: You don't have to be strong. You don't have to be fast. It threatens the conventional logic of masculinity. Even in Lana's promised land of California, you can't escape the mess of being a person. —Jenn Pelly


Bonus Question: Best Opening Lyric Ever?

"Norman F****** Rockwell"

Before Lana Del Rey wrote this song, the best first couplet in pop was from Mitchell's "A Case of You":

"Just before our love got lost you said, I am as constant as a northern star/And I said, Constantly in the darkness, where's that at? If you want me I'll be in the bar."

Now that tender slap has a rival.

Goddamn, man child/You f***** me so good I almost said, I love you.

Touche, Lana. Leonard Cohen's laughing somewhere. —Ann Powers

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