- Abigail Quigley
Lana Del Rey makes a return, sharing her stunning new song 'A&W'
TRIGGER WARNING - This article mentions r*pe and misogyny.
Known for her discography of wretched romance, triggering turmoil and the ugly reality of the American dream, the melancholic go-to for psychedelic sadness has returned. Lana Del Rey shows no signs of slowing down her musical career, as her ninth studio album, Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, is due to be released at the end of March. Referencing the name of an American root beer, and subtly serving as an acronym for ‘American Whore’, Lana Del Rey’s latest single, A&W, which was recently released on Valentine’s Day, is the first teaser of what we can expect from the new album.
The seven-minute long track begins with a soft, saddening folk-style sound with the prominent plucking of an acoustic guitar. Initially, the vocals and lyrics are as innocent and dreamy as they are in many of Del Rey earlier songs; ‘I haven’t done a cartwheel since I was nine. I haven’t seen my mother in a long, long time.’ The personal, nostalgic elements Del Rey often exposes throughout her music are captured here, as there is a clear reminiscence of childhood and early-onset family estrangement. The wistful, dream-like state in which Del Rey sings is like metaphorically floating through a kaleidoscope, where all is not as it seems. The illusion of innocence is nothing but a phantasmagoria as the single soon takes a dark turn and seems to have a much more sinister meaning.
‘It's not about having someone to love me anymore. No, this is the experience of being an American whore.’ The lyrics shift into a sombre, self-depiction of the narrator being a whore, with connotations suggesting the exploitation of women and undertones of women only being worthy for sexual acts. The whole narrative implies that the woman is confused yet accepting of choosing sex over love as she admits ‘I’m over my head, but it’s not about having someone to love me anymore’, and, ‘maybe I’m just kinda like this, I don’t know, maybe I’m just like this’. The evident uncertainty suggests that she is hesitant and has little understanding of why she has succumb to this acceptance, but implies that this is just the way that it is now.
The track delves into the disturbing theme of rape and the issues with the injustice and blame women so often face. ‘If I told you that I was raped, do you really think that anybody would think I didn't ask for it, didn't ask for it?’ The mention of this triggering topic and the involvement of the boldly accurate lyric of accusation spins the single on its head. These lyrics establish that the song confronts, symbolises and relates to much darker matters than the childhood tale we began on. Del Rey courageously highlights societal, judicial and chauvinistic issues that, to some, will be deemed as controversial to have addressed. Between the disregard for finding love, the acceptance of being a ‘whore’ used for sex, and the insinuation of injustice, Del Rey depicts how women have succumbed to the insincere actions and desires of men. The bleak perception of modernised love in A&W raises a range of issues from female self-perception and the sexualisation of women to the trauma of rape and blame.
During the last two minutes of the single, we experience a significant shift in genre and tone. The track turns into a unique style of psychedelic-trap, where Del Rey swaps her angelic, harmonious vocals for a more devious, distorted style of rap. ‘Jimmy, Jimmy cocoa puff, Jimmy, Jimmy ride. Jimmy, Jimmy cocoa puff, Jimmy, get me high.’ Jimmy, the fictional love interest often quoted within Del Rey’s albums, is the main subject of this last verse. The lyrics are an adaptation of Tom Hank’s catchy rap in the 80s classic comedy, Big, which was a rework of Shimmy Shimmy KO KO Bop by 1950s soul superstars, Little Anthony and the Imperials. This last verse is light-hearted and ends the single on an less provoking note.
Listen to A&W by Lana Del Rey below.