Powerhouse of art pop Lana Del Rey wavered with her last few releases, failing to capitalise on that Norman Fucking Rockwell! release. Reclaiming that status is never easy but A&W offers an interesting, expecting experience from the Chemtrails Over the Country Club singer, one of the most harrowing and intimate Rey has offered up so far. A brutal beast of a track that keeps its composure and, in turn, maintains the anger deep within for as long as it can. An honest and delicate track that lingers on lines that expose a harsh truth and delicate hate in equal measure. Rey values the worth of an American whore and finds that fine line between expression and importance.
Rey implements such a lush and demanding set of lyrics here, backed by an initially minimalist structure. Surprising, since it is Jack Antanoff piecing this one together. His reservations and the slow twangs of an acoustic guitar, the isolation of Rey’s vocal presence, it all comes together as an immense, powerful track. But that progression comes from risk. Rey implements core values of the trip-hop genre and succeeds with satisfying results. Her impressive collection of genre-hopping expectations loses steam toward the end through repetition of lyric, but the beat laid down, the collection of harsher themes to contrast the beginnings draped in a loathing constant, is stunning. Contrast is key and while Rey has plenty of space to maintain and move on her meaning, it comes at a cost of momentum.
A&W holds together nicely, its change in pace unnoticeable but its lyrical inspiration dwindling toward the end. Folk-like experiences blurred into trip-hop defiance are incredible and swift changes in pace, but Rey finds herself struggling and failing to move that American whore theme onto the next stage. She has the anger, the rage and sorrow, all of that necessary and touchingly relatable guidance to pass off as an experience for the listener to latch their own faults to, but it never comes. Heartbreaking defiance is the desire here, and as that trip-hop beat starts to bleed in, writhing and screeching, A&W finds itself but loses its way. Empty repetition of a caricature that was nameless and faceless, brooding in the shadows in the first half of the song, now a drug-loving Jimmy. It is a necessary transition but does not make for a convincing one.
Despite that, it is the beat that holds the latter half of the track together and even with the weaker range of lyrics exposed in that latter half, Rey holds her own as a trip-hop namesake. A&W offers variety for the alt-pop hero, initially raw and unique lyrics take a turn toward genericism. Loud and harsh explosions of sound do their best to cover up that repetition, but Jimmy’s inclusion is a sign of not being able to extend to the lengthy seven minutes but needing to do so to build a necessary contrast. That it may do, but while it winds and unravels, it leaves behind key momentum for Rey as a performer who can carry a whole song, not just half of one.