“The Greatest” by Lana Del Rey Review - Pitchfork

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The stakes have never been higher. In Lana Del Rey’s latest song “The Greatest,” an entire generation is burned out. The world is getting hotter. Hope is a dwindling resource. We don’t have much time left. Worst of all, the old highs aren’t hitting quite the same. “I want shit to feel just like it used to,” she sings with a quiver as a sad piano motif descends behind her. Lana’s songs have always sounded like lonely missives from the end of the world with a beachside view; the difference is now we’re watching the clock tick down alongside her. “If this is it,” she sings, “I had a ball.”

Like everything we’ve heard from upcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell!, “The Greatest” is a kaleidoscope of classic-rock radio transmitted through Lana’s hushed, psychedelic lens. The drums roll in slow motion, the guitar solos are fuzzy, the piano is recorded so that you can feel the shag carpet beneath it. Instead of luxuriating in vintage textures, Lana is restless, eulogizing her listless youth while repeatedly incorporating the words “the culture is lit,” as if attempting to dance through the tears. Her new video pairs the ballad with “Fuck It I Love You,” an ode to California and self-destruction. The juxtaposition of the songs seems inevitable; her dreams of escape always lead to the same place.

Like a long, dramatic shot of a drifter leaving the scene, “The Greatest” fades with a list of rhyming epitaphs that build to a stunner of a coda: “L.A.’s in flames, it’s getting hot/Kanye West is blonde and gone/‘Life on Mars’ ain’t just a song,” she sings before snapping back to the current moment: “Oh, the live stream’s almost on.” It’s a playful, graceful way to voice a common feeling of helplessness and overstimulation. And if she sounds more at peace than the rest of us, it’s because she’s been here a while, waiting for us to catch up before it’s too late.


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