After a relatively silent year, many fans were shocked by rumors that Lana Del Rey would drop a new single in December, and in the elusive artist’s usual long-winded form, the track’s title is a journey all on its own.
Despite releasing two full-length records in 2021, Del Rey has been unusually quiet in 2022. Perhaps this is what allows a certain thoughtfulness to emerge in “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd,” released Dec. 7. Set to be the lead single on her forthcoming record of the same name, the track shimmers with promise; if it is any indication, her upcoming LP will be one of her best to date.
The track begins with a soft orchestral arrangement, growing and becoming more complex with every beat and immediately surrounding the listener in a beautiful wash of strings and piano. Hovering over this captivating composition is Del Rey, her breath heard before her velvety voice. She exhales deeply as if she is exhaling the music itself — as if it flows from deep within her and creates a new world of harmonic bliss, all from the air in her lungs alone. Then, her voice descends onto the track with clear emotional delicacy, lying there for the entirety of the first verse as the orchestra responds to her lyrical pleas.
The chorus finds Del Rey at her most vulnerable, earnestly begging her muse, “F—k me to death, love me until I love myself.” While there is certainly some tongue-in-cheek element to her lyrics, there’s also a nakedness to the way in which she writes about herself that is often overlooked, and it defines “Ocean Blvd” as one of the most transparent portraits of Del Rey that audiences have ever seen. Even the title expresses an extremely intimate feeling, one of loneliness and a fundamental fear of being forgotten.
The way in which Del Rey conveys these feelings calls back to 2015’s Honeymoon, which was praised by critics for its stunning orchestral arrangements and beautifully soft vocal mixing. However, there is a quality that didn’t exist in Honeymoon or many of Del Rey’s past works, though it has been prevalent in her most recent LPs: openness. This is what makes “Ocean Blvd” an undeniable outlier in her discography. By combining some of her best production with moving lyrics akin to Blue Banisters and Chemtrails over the Country Club, Del Rey cultivates a track that glimmers with understated, yet poignant, intensity.
Towards the end of “Ocean Blvd” the strings and percussion crescendo, their effect compounded by exquisite backing vocals and a touching lyrical climax. “Don’t forget me,” Del Rey repeats in a final emotional plea for her own existence and one which fulfills every desire planted by the song’s slow beginning. The track grows and grows until it can no longer sustain itself, devolving back into Del Rey alone with the strings that surround her, and which seem to be her last comfort as the quiet grows into an all-encompassing nothingness.
In some ways, “Ocean Blvd” is a return to form for Del Rey, whose previous record lacked the polish one comes to expect from an artist of her caliber. Here, she is at her most potent state, commanding her music with a voice that emotes in the most perfectly delicate way. Del Rey’s ninth studio album is one to look forward to, and “Ocean Blvd” is a satisfying treat to have on repeat until then.