The Story Behind the Controversial Title of Lana Del Rey’s New Album

Lana Del Rey’s music and music videos are littered with references to Americana. In her music, she’s directly referenced too many American pop culture icons to mention, including Walt Whitman, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, Bruce Springsteen, James Dean, Jim Morrison, and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. However, even the singer’s most ardent fans were a little shocked by her decision to name her latest album Norman F****** Rockwell.

Lana performing | Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Lana’s intent

Lana Del Rey performs in concert during the Festival Internacional de Benicassim | Photo by Xavi Torrent/Redferns

Rockwell’s paintings of small-town Americans and major political figures have become some of the most well-known paintings of the 20th century. But why exactly did she choose to add an expletive to his name? Rockwell paintings are generally very innocent. He’s not the sort of artist that you would associate with cuss words.

 Lana was asked about her decision in a radio interview.  She said that, after mentioning Rockwell in her song “Venice B****,”  she began to think about his paintings. She felt that his work typified the American Dream of his era and adding an expletive to his name would make a statement about current affairs. She also thought that her album title was funny.

The Norman Rockwell Museum reacts

The Norman Rockwell Museum | John Greim/LightRocket

The Boston Globe reached out to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts to get a feel for how the employees of the museum reacted to Lana’s decision. Laurie Norton Moffatt, the director and chief executive of the museum, said that many of the people working at the museum listened to the album. She noted that several of the museum’s employees were fans of the singer while others had children who were fans of the singer. She said that everyone on the museum’s staff who listened to the album appreciated Lana’s “talent and her ability to paint a picture through song, much as Norman Rockwell painted soulful and heartfelt pictures.”

Moffatt added that reaction to the album’s profane title was a little more mixed among the museum’s employees.  Some were upset by Lana’s decision to use profanity while others did not see it as a problem. Moffatt did feel that the album’s title achieved its desired effect: to be provocative.

Overall, the people that Moffatt talked to were glad that Lana referenced the painter in her music. They hope that her album will ignite greater interest in Rockwell among younger generations and they have invited Lana to come to the museum. 

The Rockwell family reacts

People at a Norman Rockwell exhibit | GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Norman Rockwell’s granddaughter, Abigail, was also asked about how she felt about the album. Abigail, who is also a singer-songwriter, said that she is a fan of Lana and took no issue with the album’s title, though she understands why others in her family were offended by it. A rumor circulated on the internet that the album’s release was delayed because the Rockwell family threatened to sue Lana over the use of Norman Rockwell’s name; Abigail Rockwell says that the rumor is complete fiction. She noted that Del Rey does not need the Rockwell family’s  permission to use their ancestor’s name. She also doubts that her grandfather would have been upset by the title. She said that if he heard about the album, “he would absolutely see the humor in it and chuckle and then just go back in the studio and keep painting.”