On the surface, Lana Del Rey’s career is one that appears to be the story of all one-hit-wonders; her single “Summertime Sadness” abruptly catapulted her career into the mainstream before she became background noise post-summer 2013.
However, unlike most artists who have benefited from the commercial success of going viral, Lana Del Rey — born Elizabeth Grant — has maintained somewhat of a cult following for her sultry, Lost Generation aesthetic.
In her newest single though, prosaically titled “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but I have it,” Grant sheds the glam of Hollywood paparazzi and methamphetamine escapades for enigmatic poetry stuck in a paradoxical limbo between “happy” and “sad.”
While the optimism Grant exudes is far from uncharted territory (and was most prominent on her 2017 album “Lust for Life”), the sparse and lone piano accompaniment is something rare in her catalog, seen only in one other song, “Changes.” Thus, her saccharine mezzo is able to take center stage against the raw confessions of her diary-like lyricism (“Spilling my guts with the Bowery Bums is the only love I’ve every known”) and the mystique of her idiosyncratic references to “Slim Aarons” and “24/7 Sylvia Plath.” It’s the most Lynchian song Grant has recorded, and you can almost visualize the chorus percolating into the ether as the soundtrack for Laura Palmer’s last days tainted with inner turmoil (“Writing with blood on the walls/ ‘Cause the ink in my pen don’t work in my notepad”).
But the most defining aspect of “hope…” is how Grant shapes the song with a delicate presence. More often than not in the modern mainstream, listeners demand some bombastic melody, whether it be Lady Gaga’s belted interlude during “Shallow” or the melismas of Ariana Grande’s “breathin.” Grant is the exception; with the breathy croons of her higher register for the final chorus, she barely whispers the word “thing,” as though hope is too fragile and precarious to finish the line in its potent entirety. And in a polarized world where women cannot be placed in Congress without politicians vying to take her down, where a woman’s word in court still does not hold the same weight as a man’s, Grant’s song resonates with a bitter truth, one that must be confronted so that hope no longer has to be a danger.