You’ve got to climb the hill behind the Chateau Marmont to get to the office where I’m meeting Lana Del Rey, which feels appropriately on the nose on this early-August day: The hotel is Hollywood’s ultimate nexus of glamour and doom, the keeper of 90 years of celebrity secrets that touch everyone from Bette Davis to Britney Spears. It shows up in the homemade visuals for Del Rey’s breakout single “Video Games” and in the lyrics of songs like “Off to the Races.” She lived here while writing her Paradise EP in 2012. Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski lived here, too, in Room 54, before moving to Cielo Drive where -- exactly 50 years ago, as of midnight tonight -- the Manson Family arrived.
But these kinds of connections are standard in the Lana Del Rey multiverse, where nods to Bob Dylan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elton John and Henry Miller can coexist in a single chorus and not feel overdone. (No, seriously: Play her 2017 duet with Sean Ono Lennon, “Tomorrow Never Came.”) And if the Lana of five years ago radiated significant Sharon Tate circa Valley of the Dolls energy, the 34-year-old singer-songwriter has more of a Summer of Love thing going on now. The songs she has previewed from her fifth album, the exquisitely titled Norman Fucking Rockwell, are far more Newport Folk Festival than femme fatale -- meandering psych-rock jam sessions and slippery piano ballads that shout out Sylvia Plath. The narrative thread throughout all of this can lead listeners down an endless rabbit hole of references, but you can sum it up like so: The music Lana Del Rey makes could only be made by Lana Del Rey.