Recently, Lana Del Rey adorned our cover in all her fabulous glory. To mark the occasion, we pored over ‘Born to Die’ and ‘Ultraviolence’ to assemble her 10 best songs.
Elizabeth Grant has taken us on a confounding journey with her Lana Del Rey alias, a complex character who blends pseudo-biography with sad-face grandiosity to enhance her Twin Peaks-esque enigma. The title track from her second record, ‘Ultraviolence’ starts off in the vein of slow-burners like ‘Video Games’ before taking a disconcerting turn into Crystals-referencing descriptions of domestic violence.
9 ‘Young and Beautiful’
Lana was the perfect candidate to head up 2013’s Great Gatsby soundtrack, with her mournful meditations, rhinestone romanticism and old-American yearning fitting the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation like a glove. ‘Young and Beautiful’ weds an undeniable melody to strings and echoes just the right side of melodrama
8 ‘Brooklyn Baby’
This single didn’t get the fanfare of its ‘Ultraviolence’ counterparts, but its creeping, wispy melodies soar in and out of huge reverb washes to create a darkly atmospheric beauty, with semi-ironic lyrics perfectly poised between hipster-hate and hipster-bait. Loving Lana might be an unpopular hobby for the dedicated music fan, but if Arctic Monkeys had written this one your mates’d be all over it.
7 ‘Cruel World’
An ‘Ultraviolence’ highlight, seven-minute opener ‘Cruel World’ sees Lana trek into heartbreak like a Sahara-searching nomad, head bent into the desert wind. The sandstorm that threatens to kick off never quite comes, leaving this highly replayable number in lovelorn limbo, somewhere between taunting and tormented with its insistence that “Everyone knows… I’m crazy”
6 ‘Sad Girl’
An intriguing fact of Lana Del Rey’s rise is that she often sounds like a less palatable take on Lykke Li’s panda-eyed anthems of isolation. ‘Sad Girl’ is pure heartbreak, pure pop and pure persona (she sings about being “a mistress on the side”), utterly resplendent with a feather-light chorus that sounds like a whisper vanishing in a tunnel.
5 ‘West Coast’
‘West Coast’What Lana’s critics tend to overlook is how weird her songs are. Take ‘Ultraviolence’ single ‘West Coast’, an international hit that blends trip-hop, postpunk, dark soul and woozy psychedelia to deliver an effortlessly catchy tune that fucks with chart-pop like Picasso fucks with facial features.
4 ‘Summertime Sadness’
Nowhere is Lana’s self-identification as “Hollywood sadcore” more keenly felt than on this ‘Born to Die’ anthem. It hinges on a lurching rhythm switch-up in the chorus, but its calling card are sweetly melancholy lyrics shot through with euphoria, sizzling like a snare.
3 ‘Shades of Cool’
With quietly haunting verses and an interstellar chorus that would suit a later Muse album, ‘Shades of Cool’ is the kind of stunning ‘Ultraviolence’ single that just wouldn’t have worked on ‘Born to Die’, which worked to a more rigid mould of regal pop. It’s not quite as alluring as her very finest stuff, but the change of pace marked a vital evolution for the singer.
2 ‘Blue Jeans’
After ‘Video Games’ turned the internet into one big Lana Del Rey comment section, ‘Blue Jeans’ had a whiff of anti-climax. In light of her later work, though, it makes perfect sense, elegantly wrapping passive-aggressive declarations of devotion – “Love you more than those bitches before” – in sumptuous strings and prowling guitar twangs.
1 ‘Video Games’
It’s testament to Lana’s enduring myth that, while her shaky ‘Video Games’ performance on Saturday Night Live momentarily posed a genuine threat to her status, the fuck-up has since become a footnote on her way to the top. It’s true that the song works best in studio form, a ballad so lucid and intimate that listening to it is like looking through a stranger’s photo diary. It’s as faded and sunken an account of romantic disillusionment as they come.