Michael Recommends “Norman Fucking Rockwell” by Lana Del Rey

It’s that smile that wells in your face when you drop him off at the train station. You’re driving home, thinking of your next time together in two days. It’s that feeling when the song comes on again–you’ve been listening to the album on repeat–and you want to know where your other half is, if this song is a connection you’re sharing right now. It’s a feeling that’s too complex to comprehend in an instant, that leaves you chewing on it for days and days.

It’s winter break. We have weeks off after the first semester in our MFA program. By chance, my boyfriend is the only other Rhode Islander in our program, and we spend a lot of time in cars, visiting each other, meeting for coffee, yoga, movies in Providence on January nights, driving to state parks to enjoy rainy views and Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!dazzles from start to finish. Its titular track in particular stokes the sweetness of nostalgia and affection. She calls out the camp and cliché of American dreams, which, cast against the sugar of romance, seem to give the indulgence of these feelings an excuse. If we listen to her self-aware songs every day we spend together, maybe we’re self-aware too. It gives us a pass to profess such bald, proud affection. The dreamy piano contrasts with the lyrics–you’re just a man, that’s what you do, you make me blue. Listening, I feel my unabashed smiles turning up, the desire to kiss, hold hands, and swoon.

Because maybe Lana’s juxtapositions convey with full nuance how it feels to live in America this year. Because maybe we’re still two men dating in North Carolina and even have to remember that in Rhode Island, in New York too. Maybe that means that everything is two things at once–holding hands is political, is really only about us.

(Song recommendation by Michael Colbert)