The year is almost over (I assume you know this already but one must never underestimate the ignorance of one’s readers) and, an inevitable consequence of year end, are those interminable “Best of” lists outlining the “Top 100 YouTube Commercials of 2019” or “The 20 Tweets That Defined The Decade” or some such zeitgeist defining cultural landmarks.
Back in the day, when it came to the “Albums of the Year” lists I would probably own half of them and have a very definite opinion (Unfavourable) on the rest of them. But these days I haven’t even heard the latest from Lil Gel Boy & MC Louis XIV and so feel mostly unqualified to pronounce on this particular list in any meaningful manner.
Except this year one album kept cropping up at the top of said lists. “Norman Fucking Rockwell” by Lana Del Rey.
“Don’t want to listen to that.” I sullenly said to myself, assuming we were dealing with unbearably pretentious angst at best, or unbearably derivative dirges at worst.
But, eventually, I did give it a listen and Jesus fucking Christ “Norman Fucking Rockwell” is a great album.
It certainly could have veered toward pretentious angst and it certainly could have turned into a series of dirges.
But instead NFR avoids the pitfalls and exists in a world of an older, better America. An America where cars and boys were the only things a girl needed and where music held the answer to pretty much every meaningful question.
In many ways the whole album is music about music. Songs about songs. A Beach Boys reference here, an Eagles reference there, a Joni Mitchell hat tip everywhere. A 2019 woman yearning for the simpler times that used to be.
Except Lana Del Rey is too smart for that.
“Give me Hallmark
One dream, one life, one lover
Paint me happy and blue
She knows those old songs weren’t celebrating real life, but instead offering greeting cards versions of what might be or have been.
“Norman Fucking Rockwell” isn’t an album that yearns for something that is just out of reach but attainable, it’s an album that mourns the loss of what never was.
A lifestyle, a culture, a country that only ever existed within the contact of needle on vinyl.
It’s great songwriting and, in particular, it’s great American songwriting.
And maybe all great American songwriting, maybe all great American art, can only ever live in that purgatory between the America that is and the America that is not?
The Vancouver Whitecaps aren’t specifically mentioned in the album but I do wonder if Lana Del Rey was contemplating the 2019 season when she wrote some of these songs.
For the whole season was marked by a longing for something else.
The ideal idea of a team, a club, that could never exist but offered itself as stark contrast to the forest fire of a season we lived through.
That conflagration combined with the knowledge that such an ideal will never be attained has turned some against the club (possibly forever). But what do those of us who will be back in 2020 want from the year?
Well, setting aside the blatantly obvious and necessary signings, we want an actual on field plan.
Coach the team toward a system and style of play during the preseason and stick with that for more than one or two games before deciding to revert to a “this might work” philosophy for the rest of the campaign.
Treating every game seriously might help too. Every year the Whitecaps adopt the attitude that the early season games don’t count as much as the late season games and everybody shrugs off a dour 0-0 tie with a visiting east coast team as not really that important.
All the games matter! Three points is three points is three points.
Off the field the club just has to be so much better at pretty much everything. Paying lip service to being better doesn’t count.
Oh well, 2019 is a year everybody around the Whitecaps will be happy to move on from and 2020 still doesn’t exist so we can be optimistic about it until it walks through the door and throws ice cold water into our face.
To paraphrase Lana Del Rey “Hope is a dangerous thing for a Whitecaps fan to have.”