The 8 Best Songs On Lana Del Rey's 'Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd'
From “The Grants,” to the masterful meta-mythology of “Taco Truck x VB.”
Over a decade into her career Lana Del Rey is still showing sides to her that we haven’t seen. The singer has released her ninth studio album, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, and as the gleaming stack of early critic reviews show, it’s a triumph — a stupendous effort that continues to build upon her songwriting, vision, and ever-expanding self-mythology.
Over 16 distinct songs, she preaches on love, family, death, loneliness, being a woman in the American sociopolitical landscape, with the help from a slew of features including Jack Antonoff, Father John Misty, Tommy Genesis, John Batiste, SYML, RIOPY and preacher Judah Smith. Her sonic palette touches on trap, classical, gospel, gritty pop, and everything in-between. But what ultimately stands out is the brilliance of her songwriting, which is as sharp as its ever been, as she finds new angles to chip at ideas we’ve seemingly heard before.
From the dazzling “The Grants,” to the masterful meta-mythology of “Taco Truck x VB” — here are the eight best songs which capture the brilliance of the record.
My mom has a saying that photos aren’t for the current you, they’re for the future you. When you’re older, they become the visual landmarks of your life that prove that you were here, did things, lived life, loved people. I can’t quite explain it, but listening to Lana Del Rey’s “The Grants” evokes that same feeling in me, but instead of my own, I’m rifling through her life’s photobook. The sweeping, grandiose opener to her stunning new album isn’t about photos, but it is about memories, or the pieces people leave on you that you take along with you through the rest of your life and, eventually, into death. Given the slightly macabre subject matter, “The Grants” is oddly one of the most touching, moving, and wholesome cuts of Del Rey’s catalog, dotted with astounding, beyond-her-years lines — “So many mountains too high to climb/ So many rivers so long, but I'm/ Doin' the hard stuff, I'm doin' my time/ I'm doin' it for us, for our family line” — and gut-punching ones too: “My sister's first-born child/ I'm gonna take that too with me/ My grandmother's last smile/ I'm gonna take that too with me.” —Steffanee Wang, music editor
Lana's brilliance as a songwriter is multi-layered; her work is at once sweeping and cinematic as it is succinct and biting. On “Sweet,” this moment is when she announces that she's a different kind of woman: “If you want some basic bitch, go to the Beverly Center and find her.” But the song is aptly-titled; guided by violins, “Sweet” gently blooms opens, and Lana is there with her heart on her sleeve. “I've got things to do, like nothing at all/ I wanna do them with you,” she sings. “Do you wanna do them with me?” —Layla Halabian, culture editor
It’s been over four weeks since “A&W” was released but it still blows my mind every time I listen to it. There’s something about a drastic beat change in the middle of a long song (think “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean) that makes my brain immediately, rabidly froth. Lana’s beat change on “A&W” is peak sublime, as it melts from rich, buttery instrumentals to gritty, tight trap effortlessly, without you even realizing. Add in her lyricism, a story about growing up and into a woman unloved by men, society, and her own mother, a woman who’s surrendered to the tides of life and the “experience of being an American whore” — and “A&W” feels like the tightest encapsulation of all the themes Lana has been writing about since the beginning of her career. And then, she adds this golden nugget of a lyric on top: “Your mom called, I told her you're f*cking up big time.” —SW
Lana is our greatest living songwriter, one with an unparalleled skill in dissolving any and all boundaries of what a song should look like. “Fingertips” is stream-of-consciousness poetry, a love letter to her family, and rigorous self-inventory all at once. Our “Sunbather, moon chaser” (a remix of the “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” hook, “My Cancer is sun and my Leo is moon,” of course) has seen and felt it all, expansive emotions that are washed away in two seconds, that keep her heart open to more. —LH
“Paris, Texas” (feat. SYML)
“Paris, Texas” is a strange inclusion on Ocean Blvd. It’s short; traditionally structured; lyrically vague, and impersonal. It samples the entire instrumental and melody of SYML’s “I Wanted To Leave,” telling a story about leaving home, and feeling alone, drifting to one small city to the next, in constant limbo. The quirk is that it’s built around all the weird little towns that have another more famous city as its name: Paris, Texas; Venice, California; Florence, Alabama. It’s cute because it sheds some light on Del Rey’s more authorly side; it’s rare because there’s not another song quite like it in her whole catalog. —SW
“Let The Light In (feat. Father John Misty)”
Throughout Ocean Blvd, Lana plays around with her own lore; it's self-referential and sentimental, and not to mention, a treat for fans. On “Let The Light In,” Lana and Father John Misty — who is a natural collaborator — are tender and wistful about how even the best love can still take work. It's not new territory for Lana. On the Norman Fucking Rockwell! track “Love Song,” her life is a love song, and four years later, that's still the case. “Therе's so much ridin'/ On this life and how we write a lovе song,” she sings, in the exact same cadence. —LH
“Peppers (feat. Tommy Genesis)”
Peppers is like the second half of “A&W” — the sultry, secret after-party that comes after the performance of self-mythologizing. And it's a party that's got everything: She samples Tommy Genesis’ 2015 track “Angelina,” (“Hands on your knees, I'm Angelina Jolie”) references the Red Hot Chili Peppers, makes light of Covid noncompliance, and interpolates a surf rock song in this banger that’s as stunning and surreal as the haze in a Southern California sky after a forest fire. —Sophia June, staff writer
“Taco Truck x VB”
Lanita is a master of songwriting, which is proven again on this album in the first verse of “Taco Truck x VB,” which captures everything there is to know about modern American malaise: “Met my boyfriend down at the taco truck/ Pass me my vape, I'm feelin' sick, I need to take a puff/ Imagine if we actually gave a f*ck.” But not even Lana could come up with the word to describe the euphoria of realizing that “VB” refers to “Venice Bitch.” Ocean Blvd is Lana’s most self-mythologizing album yet, and she drives this point home in the album’s last minutes, singing “Before you talk let me stop what you say/ I know, I know, I know that you hate me,” before taking her final bow — a trap remix of her best song to date. —SJ