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Lana Del Rey, 'A&W'

The most rewarding experience of being a careerlong Lana Del Rey fan is that of watching the scaffolding upholding the American pop archetypes, the same she has lovingly inhabited, slowly crumble. In the very beginning it was, for many, all too much — the summahtime sadness and Pepsi Cola-flavored p****, daddy issues collected like trading cards. But with every release the American flag flapping at the edges of her discography has inched closer and closer to a permanent half-mast. Gradually, she's shed her gangsta Nancy Sinatra beginnings for increasingly messier music that merges her infatuation for caricature (and underappreciated humor, as "down at the men in music business conference" proved, among others) with bleak, apocalypse-streaked storytelling and real-world intimacy.

"A&W," the second single from her forthcoming album Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd., is Lana further, gloriously unspooled. At seven minutes, it starts like a spontaneous, piano-driven wordy stream not unlike most of the tracks on her last, Blue Banisters — vocals a step above a voice memo, background noise mingling aside the instruments. "I'm a princess, I'm divisive / Ask me why I'm like this / Maybe I'm just kinda like this," she sings, a self-proclaimed "American whore" here, on a track that sounds like Lana tried to write a Hole song.

And then four minutes in, producer and co-writer Jack Antonoff serves up one of his specials: The track switches to tinny synth-pop, and Lana serves up an Uffie-style grade-school rap ("Your mom called, I told her, you're f****** up big time," she sings) that would have been at home on Born to Die. This is Lana walking the tightrope between her plasticky pop roots and her contemporary folk minimalism — vulnerable, but not enough to give up on a good time.

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Hazel Cills
Hazel Cills is an editor at NPR Music, where she edits breaking music news, reviews, essays and interviews. Before coming to NPR in 2021, Hazel was a culture reporter at Jezebel, where she wrote about music and popular culture. She was also a writer for MTV News and a founding staff writer for the teen publication Rookie magazine.