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‘A&W’ and the Progression of Lana Del Rey, by Ava Materni

After a four-year hiatus Lana Del Rey released a new single titled “A&W.” As a Lana fan, looking at her progression through the years is an interesting task. Dissecting her songs and albums allows fans to have a clearer picture of what she is trying to portray.

The last work that Lana released was her album Norman Fucking Rockwell, arguably one of her most iconic works. The album expressed ideas of painful, self-destructive love and falling in love with men who barely even meet the criteria for mediocrity. These themes are echoed in the lyrics of the self-titled first track, calling the man described in the song a “goddamn man-child,” followed by the iconic “you’re just a man, it’s just what you do.”

I won’t go into an in-depth analysis of all her works, but it is important to mention that many of her songs contain aspects of nostalgia, self-destruction and romanticization of dysfunctional relationships. These themes attract many of her fans: a mix of realness and romanticization of these toxic relationships.

When “A&W” was released, everyone expected it to follow the same trend. Instead, it turned out to be a progression from her old works. In the single, she strays from the idealized portrayal of these toxic relationships. She questions why she is the way she is and what went wrong in her life to bring her to this point, often referring to herself in the song as an “American Whore.”

In many of Lana’s songs, she idealizes the idea of traditional American values. She depicts them as freeing and without real consequences. Now when she describes herself as “American Whore,” she deviates from the idolized state of being an all-American girl and into a more real sense of how she feels about herself. She is unraveling into a raw and oversexualized version of what she once was. The name of the song reflects on the name she gave herself as this is the first song where she takes off her rose-colored glasses and views her choices in a more realistic way.

This piece shows a transition as she grows out of her immaturity and into a woman who recognizes the hurt she has felt for as long as she’s made music. In many of her past songs, she would talk about these situations in a way that was appealing, such as calling herself “Bonnie on the side” in the song “Sad Girl,” where she plays the part of a mistress despite the complex emotions that the title suggests.

“A&W” beautifully portrays the growing maturity of a woman as she gains life experience. She doesn’t look to romanticize these awful attachments anymore.

I have seen a few Lana fans expressing a dislike for this new single, but most of these critiques seem to be stuck in the way that Lana used to portray her romantic relationships, and her past works may still be relatable to much of her fanbase.

It is comforting in a way to see a woman that was so comfortable in her own suffering slowly come to terms with what she was going through and work to move past it. We tend to stay stuck in cycles that retraumatize us, and the media often romanticizes this version of suffering, especially for women. It is empowering to see a woman, after so much, stand up on her own two feet and walk through the trauma.

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