It is easy to project onto Lana Del Rey. She is not exactly forthcoming, but she’s not a complete cipher either. Most of us can empathize, or directly relate to her in some capacity. We know what her politics are. We know how she feels about Azealia Banks. Through her music, we know that she views the world through a prism of nostalgia and dread. She writes songs that present her as old beyond her years. As someone who has really lived a life. Yet each new album, and to some extent, each new song she releases reframes our understanding of how she sees the world. It’s what makes her an exciting artist, and it is, in a sense, what makes a song like “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but i have it” so compelling.
Ostensibly, the song will appear on Norman Fucking Rockwell, an album that will — based on everything that’s come before — be about love and America and desolate moments of revelation playing out on suburban lawns and back alleys. But what makes “hope” interesting right now, divorced from the context of the album, is how spare the track is. Over barely-there piano, Del Rey sings about church basements, burned coffee, and retaining hope when she probably shouldn’t anymore. She’s no stranger to themes of addiction and hopelessness, but she’s never sung them with such clarity. Lana Del Rey, at her best, has always written with wisdom beyond her years, but she’s never done it this well.