Lana Del Rey’s Most Powerful Song Yet
An Analysis of “A&W.”
By Miguel Feliciano
Photo by Ria Huang
TW: mentions of SA and abuse.
Everyone knows that cigarette-smoking, coquette Lana stan. TikTok and other social media has made this archetype a personality for all that listen to the acclaimed Lana Del Rey, known for her dark charm and seductive glamor. It is simply a fact that Lana Del Rey has influenced the genre of pop and created her own unique sub-genre of music, beginning with her hit album “Born to Die,” released in 2011.
On March 24 of this year, Lana Del Rey released her ninth studio album “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard.” Described as “alluring” and “introspective” by Independent, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard” has been one of her most anticipated albums to date: and it certainly did not disappoint. With 16 tracks and more than one hour of listening time, Lana Del Rey uncovers past-trauma, a painful love story, and religious symbolism. She ties it all together with a remix of the beloved “Venice Bitch,” from the album “Normal Fucking Rockwell,” in the song “Taco Truck x VB.” The album is now on the way to third place in the charts.
On February 14, one month before the release of this awaited album, Lana released the second single titled “A&W.” The song is seven minutes and thirteen seconds long, making it her second longest song yet behind “Venice Bitch.” “A&W” has evoked strong criticism and praise from both her biggest fans and critics.
This song is her most ‘Lana’ song to date — the epitome of her own musical sub-genre.
The song is divided into two parts: the painful truth and the angry, yet liberating, result. The division is symbolic of the song's own title, American Whore, which is spelled out A&W.
Lana begins the first half of the song with a narrative of objectification by society, through a melancholic tone. Lana unveils a raw truth of the effect of being perceived as a “whore.”
Through the lyrics, “Look at my hair/Look at the length of it and the shape of my body,” Lana expresses the way her body has been sexualized by those around her. “I'm invisible, look how you hold me” displays the way men pay little attention to her with all their attention on her appearance. This is furthered in the line, “If I told you that I was raped/Do you really think that anybody would think I didn’t ask for it?” Lana expresses through song the way society often blames the victim instead of holding the aggressor accountable. Through vivid sexual imagery, Lana leaves the listener feeling the same way she did — exposed, vulnerable and sexualized.
The transition from pain to rage then occurs with the lyric: “It’s not about having someone to love me anymore/No, this is the experience of bein’ an American Whore.” This is what it means to be an “American Whore” — to be endlessly sexualized and looked at solely for one’s appearance and sex appeal.
The second part of the song then does a 180 and takes a turn toward rap, which reminds the listener of “Summer Bummer,” an iconic song with ASAP Rocky and Playboi Carti. Lana switches the finger pointing from herself to her aggressors. “Jimmy Jimmy, cocoa puff” a reference to smoking cocaine and “Jimmy only love me when he wanna get high.” But, Lana is fed up. “Jimmy, if you light it up, find me in the club/ Your mom called, I told her you’re f******* up big time.” And that is how Lana ends this masterpiece.
This song is a perfect example that Lana has always told the truth, no matter how dirty, messy, or painful it may be. This is what we love most about her music. In her songs, she has mentioned drugs, sex, obsession, abuse, and more. “A&W” tells the painful truth of sexual assault for many women today, and the struggle of regaining a sense of power that follows. It takes anger to achieve liberation and Lana presents that powerfully.