Song of the Week: Lana Del Rey Delivers Her Eulogy for the American Dream on “A&W”

Arlie, Madison Cunningham and Remi Wolf, and Girl Scout also dropped essential tracks

AW Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey, photo courtesy of the artist

    Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Lana Del Rey laments a childhood lost on the sprawling “A&W.”

    Often, Lana Del Rey is at her best when she’s her weirdest self. As an artist, so much of her story is defined by her ability to act as a legitimate tastemaker — in a world of micro-trends and countless “it girl” iterations, it’s hard to think of many artists who have shaped style and aesthetics in the specific way that Lana Del Rey has at various points of her career. With that has always been the slow death and occasional rebirth of American iconography, a patchwork of visuals that coalesce into something singular but recognizable: JFK. Red lipstick. A faded Uncle Sam poster peeling off the underside of a bridge.

    In the years since Lana Del Rey released Norman Fucking Rockwell!, it’s felt like the singer-songwriter has been existing in something of a middle ground. 2021’s Chemtrails Over The Country Club and Blue Banisters were adequate if somewhat forgettable collections, but with “A&W,” we feel like we’re getting back to something truly exciting.


    Sprawling over seven minutes, “A&W” (which stands here for “American whore,” while evoking the imagery of burgers and root beer floats) is a rant, a confessional, and a plea to be seen. It features the kind of brutal poetry that made Norman Fucking Rockwell! so endlessly interesting: “Puts the shower on while he calls me/ Slips out the back door to talk to me/ I’m invisible, look how you hold me… I’m a ghost now.”

    At the five-minute mark, there’s a beat drop that sends the song into the definitive second chapter of the story. This is the kind of experimentation we want from Del Rey, and if this is a preview of what’s to come in her new album Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (due March 24th), then there’s plenty to be excited about. Say what you will about Jack Antonoff as a producer these days, but it’s hard to deny how good of a team he and Del Rey make in moments like this — “A&W” is the most compelling stuff we’ve heard from her in a while.


    This week’s surprise release also underscores — while simultaneously unraveling — the idea of being defined by “eras,” a term that has become severely diluted in recent times but that Lana Del Rey has actually encapsulated in her time in the public eye. “A&W” is a panic attack as much as it is a reclamation, and one that somehow leaves us wanting more even after over seven minutes have passed.

    — Mary Siroky
    Contributing Editor