On The greatest, Lana Del Rey toys with an idea that, for her, seems almost inconceivable. California, as she knows it, slowly crumbling as the fires of climate change and political chaos run amok.
There isn’t much she can do. Her silhouette slowly sways to the salty pacific breeze as the world around her descends into madness. Peppered throughout the track lay memories that Del Rey slowly picks apart and relives, hoping that the solitude of the past could, through shear willpower, somehow replicate into the present. From Long Beach to New York, from the Beach Boys to rock ’n’ roll, Del Rey’s signature aesthetic still remains front and centre. However, this time round, her trademark hazed croon now gazes to her surroundings rather than herself. It’s the most self-aware she’s been.
Despite the apocalypse looming right around the horizon, she can’t help but feel indifferent. Her mind had long ago become immune to the over-stimulating headlines and disasters that seem to come a dime a dozen. Her hushed vocal delivery flirts between desensitization and calmness. It’s almost as if she’s has been at this nirvana since the beginning of time, and has only now revealed her remarkable composure and grace. With lush Laurel Canyon-esque guitars gently wrapping Del Rey’s voice (courtesy of producer extrodinaire Jack Antonoff), it’s hard to listen to the vices of the planet and not feel an odd sense of comfort.
Missiles in Hawaii, Kanye West’s political actions, and a sharp shot of reality. All of these haunt and taint Del Rey’s picture perfect American dream. With the instrumentation having now reduced to a simple shag carpet piano, her momentary optimism seems to have disappeared all together. The stories she recollected return to their home, in the past. Busy collecting and unsuccessfully repairing her vision, there simply isn’t enough time to do nothing. Every moment passes with some or the other major headline battling it out to grab our precious attention, only to lose it to a livestream on Instagram. The privilege of swinging in the backyard and singing in the old bars has long been lost.
The greatest thrives not because of the way in which Del Rey has figured out to eloquently blend her personal, desensitized aesthetic to the existing world around her. Instead, aiming for something higher, it uses anecdotes from a simpler time to paint a picture of all the possibilities, hopes, and memories that were lost in the current fray.
This, it turns out, is the greatest loss of them all.