Setting the tone of latest album Ocean Blvd with a seemingly off-the-cuff introduction, The Grants gives Lana Del Rey a soulful beginning, a warm one too. Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard is a hangover of a title to write out but there it is. Here is The Grants, too, a touching, piano piece from Jack Antanoff in collaboration with Rey. Her softly worked momentum is the key to this one, the lyrical charm of asking after a family man and his desire. Desire is the core of The Grants, as it is for much of Rey and the themes she implements. The Grants may not be the strongest of her works so far, but nothing from the collection of singles so far has leaned that way. Not in full, anyway. A&W could have been had the two halves come together with unity.
But The Grants gives that soft-spoken bit of soulful creativity an illusion of experimentation. Rey has mastered this styling time after time and the glittering rises and falls here are fairly unmoving. John Denver mentions, soft tones of moving memories and the soppy control of the lyrics begins to lose their way through reference and relatively similar feelings to the previous tracks from Rey. Her vocal performance is still an incredible presence, it is being wasted on some inconclusive lyrical assertions. The Grants marks a forgettable moment for the Norman Fucking Rockwell! performer, but listeners should be used to those weaker, spotty moments. Chemtrails Over the Country Club and Blue Bannisters showcased that wavering inconsistency.
The Grants does too. Difficult it may be to move this piece away from the botched introduction to the family life criticism and takedown, the need for something bigger, it is a tough hurdle to mount. Rey still has those flickers, the moments that make her the stunning alt-pop presence she has always been, but it is hard to mount that image with the soppy experience from The Grants. Even with all of those problems vying for attention, The Grants is one of the better tracks to come from Ocean Blvd and one of the worthy sequels pushed out there some time before the release of the entire project. Isolated in this state, Rey fashions a piece that questions the afterlife and the thoughts that come from it. Relatively touching on its own, but when saddled with the rest of the album, it falters.
Yet in that isolation is a formidable track that will work for those who are inherently impressed with the consistencies Rey offers up as a singer-songwriter. The Grants comes close to capturing and pilfering a once-unique pastiche. The magic is not yet lost. Not yet. The Grants is an adept piece that relies on the backing vocals that power through and bleed into that piano work, a simple track that takes the gamble of relying on unfocused lyrics. It proves a lucky break though, and The Grants is a clear highlight for this period of Rey’s artistic output. Not as daring as, say, White Dress, but certainly out there as a new form for Rey to experiment with.