Such a sentiment could easily be extrapolated to a comment about millennial unease, but this feels more personal. It’s Lana, a self-made emblem of vulnerable femininity, in his own words, “a modern woman with a weak constitution,” in her most genuinely unprotected way. She was nervous about sending the first sketches to producer Drew Erickson, she said, and even in finished form, the material sounds like it’s for her ears only. With its solemn silence, meticulously rendered but opaque details, and lack of organizing logic, “Fingertips” seems uninterested in grabbing our attention. There’s no rhythm, no structure, just the strings and the Wurlitzer picking up Lana’s breadcrumbs as she wanders through the misty forest of her own memory.
Elsewhere, Lana throws rocks into these calm waters, most memorably in “A&W.” She writes from the perspective of the other woman, a familiar figure in her discography, at times a compassionate lonely heart; here, a symbol of the anger that unorthodox women unleash. “Did you know that a singer can still be seen as a side piece at 33?” asks Lana, single and childless at 37, subject to constant physical scrutiny. The title is a print-friendly stand-in for “American Whore,” and Lana walks through its many ins and outs: a hounded attention seeker, an illicit lover, a flawed victim (“Do you really think anyone would think I didn’t ask?” Then, after a radical turn that takes the song from a voice-note ballad to a boom-bap backyard rap, she’s someone else entirely: a snotty kid ratting on someone’s mom. Awkward, empowering feminist, Lana here embodies characters who point out how little girlbossing has done to remedy societal malice toward women.They reflect an enduring, reified taxonomy in a post-Roe landscape: We’re whores who deserve what we get, or well children to save from our own decisions.
Where do we go from here? To church, apparently. Lana follows “A&W” with a sermon on lust from Judah Smith, the Beverly Hills pastor and influencer who counts the Biebers (and Lana, too) among her parishioners. The four-and-a-half-minute homily, set to a melancholic piano, is introduced with little comment beyond an occasional laugh or affirmation, possibly from Lana herself; Given its location, the track seems designed to inflame rather than illuminate. At the end, though, comes an interesting core: “I used to think my preaching was mostly about you,” Smith acknowledges, “…I found out my preaching was mostly about me.”
Now more than ever, Lana’s preaching is mostly about her, reflecting a growing instinct for self-mythology. In ocean boulevard, she sings explicitly about being Lana Del Rey, with lyrics like “A big man behind the scenes / Sewing Frankenstein’s black dreams into my song” pointing back to the industry plant accusations that surfaced around the time of her debut. That look back also fixates on hip-hop, a long-standing presence in her work that dwindled substantially after 2017. lust for life. Trap beats return, at least in the final stretch of the album, where they accompany some of Lana’s most deliberate provocations. Her lyrics flirt with the transgressions that have previously landed her in hot water, within her and beyond her music: casual Covid breach, brownface. There’s a sense of duplication, of insisting that her path is his alone to forge. On “Taco Truck x VB,” the chimeric closer that is partly a trap remix of Norman fucking Rockwell!From “Venice Bitch,” Lana elbows her way through criticism: “Before you talk let me stop saying / I know, I know, I know you hate me.” She is cooler but without fucking.