“My body is a map of L.A./ And my heart is like paper, I hate ya,” Lana Del Rey sings in the second verse “Arcadia,” the fourth single from her eighth studio album, Blue Banisters, out October 22nd via UMG. If we as a society have learned anything in the 10-odd years since “Video Games,” it’s that nobody does breakup songs quite like Lana Del Rey. Though just about everyone since has tried.
“Arcadia” is both elegant and elegiac. Over a muted piano, Del Rey sings her origin story with an innocence that recalls Daniel Johnston’s compact masterpiece, “Story Of An Artist.” The way she lets us hear just enough of a quiver feels like an act of surrender for Del Rey. Without the old Hollywood glamor, Del Rey sounds liberated, clear-eyed, and mournful. Del Rey, like her folk forbears Patty Griffin and Joan Baez, does all three at once.
Another thing that separates “Arcadia” from Del Rey’s other sweeping breakup ballads, is that this one is devoid of any of the romantic tropes or characters Del Rey has introduced us to on such songs in the past — face-tattoo guy, creepy convertible guy, The Weeknd. Here, Del Rey is covered in the golden light pouring into her hotel room window, where she dances in blue jeans and a yellow cardigan, blissfully alone.
That’s because “Arcadia” — and its video, which she directed — is about letting us go: “They built me up three hundred feet tall just to tear me down/ So I’m leavin’ with nothing but laughter,” she sings balletically toward the end. “I’m leavin’ them as I was, five foot eight/ Western bound, plus the hate that they gave.”
Before “Arcadia” arrived, Del Rey wrote on her Instagram: “listen to it like you listened to ‘Video Games.’”
If that implies these songs are meant to be understood as bookends, “Arcadia” is an astonishing farewell to an industry that trashed her from the beginning and almost immediately rebuilt itself in her image. There’s no popular artist alive today that doesn’t owe some debt to Del Rey’s artistic vision. Just ask Taylor Swift, who said as much as the 2019 Billboard Music Awards.
But those accolades aren’t the same thing as justice in Del Rey’s mind, as she wrote in an Instagram post leading up to “Arcadia”: “As much as the ongoing criticism has been trying, it at least has pushed me to explore my own family tree, to dig deep, and to continue to exhibit the fact that God only cares about how I move through the world. And for all of the skepticism about feigning fragility and unreasonable explanations of not showing general accountability — I must say I’ve enjoyed moving through the world beautifully — as a woman with grace and dignity.”
Blue Banisters is Del Rey’s second studio album release of the year, following Chemtrails Over The Country Club in March. Pre-order Blue Banisters here.
Blue Banisters Track List
2. Blue Banisters
4. Interlude – The Trio
5. Black Bathing Suit
6. If You Lie Down With Me
8. Violets for Roses
11. Wildflower Wildfire
12. Nectar of the Gods
13. Living Legend
14. Cherry Blossom
15. Sweet Carolina