‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’: hidden depths behind an image


Provided by Pitchfork

The official album cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.”

Saanvi Arora, Staff Writer

Finding hidden messages in Lana Del Rey’s eighth studio album, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd., seems to be easier than finding the tunnel under Ocean Boulevard. On March 23, Del Rey released a new album filled with many themes masked by melancholic tones about her thoughts and feelings in which she has never discussed before. 

Over her nearly decade-long career, Del Rey has forged an entirely new genre in the music industry. She doesn’t quite fit into the predetermined molds, so she makes new ones for herself. Throughout all of her pieces, Del Rey has a way of transporting you back to Old Hollywood, walking you dreamily through her melancholic voice and orchestral instrumentals. 

Many of her previous albums were lyrically based on emotionally and physically abusive relationships. However, with her recently debuted album, Del Rey shifts from that familiar storytelling narrative to insightful songs about her innermost thoughts and feelings. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd utilizes piano and string instruments as a backdrop for Del Rey’s dreamy voice, just like the majority of her discography. Lyrically, however, this album is arguably the most vulnerable the singer has released. 

Throughout the entire album, listeners are engulfed in the heavy topics Del Rey sings about such as the afterlife, the presence of God, fate, family connections and memories, the adjustment to married life and motherhood, and most of all, the image that society has deemed for her and wanting real love in her relationships. This is an intense change in direction from the thematics of previous albums; now, fans get a glimpse of who Lana Del Rey truly is. 

The album’s opening track, “The Grants”, starts off the album with hope in the form of a gospel choir. This is the first time that Del Rey has incorporated this style of music into her own; however, it ties in with the themes of religion that are prevalent throughout the album. 

A song that stuck out to me was “Paris, Texas”. This track is seemingly about Del Rey running away from a relationship to different locations around the country. With staccato piano instrumentals and the repetitive lines in the chorus, you can feel Del Rey convincing herself that this was the best decision for her to make. This song is based on an instrumental track from indie composer SYML, and it is something completely different from what Del Rey usually does. This was one of my favorite tracks, due to its composition, the lyrics, and overall being able to feel what Del Rey was feeling in that moment. 

“A&W” is one of the most interesting tracks on the album. At around seven minutes long, the song touches upon the perceptions that society has created for Del Rey, and how she feels unheard due to this persona she is forced to have. She discusses never being truly loved due to these perceptions. Then as the song progresses, it becomes more fast-paced with quick and repetitive lyrics. The switch from a slower to faster pace was very unique and an interesting addition. 

There are pieces of Del Rey’s previous songs incorporated into several of the tracks, one example being “Taco Truck x VB”. The song is about how no matter how hard Del Rey tries, she will still fall back into her old habits. The shift from her new lyrics to a snippet of one of her previous songs “Venice B**ch” (released August 30, 2019) hammered in the message of her falling into bad patterns. This track was a sad ending to the album, as it showed that no matter how much Del Rey has been talking about improving and wanting real love in her relationships, she will inevitably revert back to her old ways. Additionally, it directly contrasted the feelings of hope that were depicted in the beginning of the album.

One part of the album that I did not like were the interludes, “Judah Smith Interlude” and “Jon Batiste Interlude”. In the past, when Del Rey has included interludes into her albums, I enjoyed them. These, however, were recordings of people yelling sermons with Del Rey muttering agreements in the background. In my opinion, they were not as well incorporated into the album as it has been in the past, and I felt that they significantly took away from the album as a whole. 

Though the album has a very quick pace and almost scattered feel to it, the thematic connections between songs and the smooth composition of the tracks made it feel cohesive. This feels like one of Del Rey’s most daring and bold albums to date, as it was very experimental with big risks taken. I can understand why some may not have enjoyed the album, as it is quite different from her previous works. However, I really loved it. It felt like a personal collection of letters sent from Del Rey, and it was a new side to her that I have not seen in her music thus far. 

I would recommend this album to anyone that has liked previous Lana Del Rey albums, but additionally, listeners of The Weeknd, Lorde, and Billie Eilish would also enjoy this album.