With close friend The Weeknd seemingly on speed-dial, plus props from Father John Misty and Cat Power, Lana Del Rey has become a frequent collaborator in the decade since she broke into public consciousness with her beguiling major label debut, 2012’s ‘Born To Die’. Del Rey’s singular cinematic aesthetic and rich, assertive vocal are artistic qualities that may also be the secret to an often overlooked side of her discography: a vast catalogue of cameos and duets.
Across a multitude of records and her peers’ own projects, Del Rey has dusted off Joni Mitchell’s ‘For Free’ with Zella Day and Weyes Blood, traded verses with A$AP Rocky, and most recently, crafted gorgeous, sprawling harmonies with Taylor Swift on the superstar’s latest record, ‘Midnights’. But that’s barely scratching the surface: ahead of the release of her eighth studio album, ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’ (March 24), which features collaborations with Misty, Jon Batiste and more, this is our guide to some of the seminal artist’s most memorable team-ups.
10. ‘Snow On The Beach’ with Taylor Swift (2022)
When two modern pop masterminds unite on a track, it would only be right to shout out Janet Jackson, whose soul-baring songwriting remains the template for contemporary songwriters. “I’m all for you like Janet,” they sing, nodding to the star’s 2001 hit ‘All For You’. And from then on, the lyricism here – which explores the dizzying highs of a new romance – is sharp and direct, as Del Rey and Swift lock eyes with their respective crushes and prepare to call the shots. “Can this be a real thing?”, they repeat, their harmonies soft but stirring.
9. ‘Woman’ with Cat Power (2018)
In 2018, Del Rey and Power struck up a close friendship that has endured over the years, with the Atlanta alt-rock artist recently telling NME that her collaborator reached out after she was dropped by her previous label, Matador. Later that year, the pair toured Europe together, and then released the mighty ‘Woman’. The song is a flurry of action as snares crackle, drones whirr like butterfly wings, and the vocalists uplift each other, as they bask in the feeling of a genuine, powerful bond.
8. ‘Wait For Life’ with Emile Haynie (2014)
When it first appeared on New York hip-hop producer Emile Haynie’s debut album ‘We Fall’, the sweeping ‘Wait For Life’ barely made a ripple, but by the summer, the song’s transcendent vulnerability had broken through to become a cult hit among fans. Del Rey would soon go as far to say that Haynie was her “musical soulmate”, and his cinematic soundscapes had inspired her deeply. This track, then, was the sound of a new world coming into focus for Del Rey, and it would guide her music for years to come.
7. ‘Summertime Sadness’ remix with Cedric Gervais (2013)
There was a moment in time where this EDM remix of an album track from ‘Born To Die’, was as inescapable as a siren. It blasted from car windows, it lit up Tumblr feeds, it echoed through shops. In July 2013, the track hit Number 4 on the UK Singles Chart, making for Del Rey’s biggest international success to date – and driving her forward into a future of pop stardom that perhaps once seemed uncertain.
6. ‘Groupie Love’ feat. A$AP Rocky (2017)
This ‘Lust For Life’ standout is widescreen and intricately sculpted: its descending roll of trap beats are so immediate that they often compete with the gorgeous vocal melody. On an album stuffed with guest appearances – from Stevie Nicks to Playboi Carti – A$AP Rocky’s contributing verse stands out. Laid-back yet full of bounce, draped in woozy atmospherics that ground his nimble flow, he eventually meets Del Rey to harmonise through a cool, distant mumble.
5. ‘Buddy’s Rendezvous’ feat. Father John Misty (2022)
Many of Del Rey’s best vocal performances are often marked by their restraint: there’s always the feeling that her husky and wide-ranging voice could run off the rails, but they’re held in place by a steadfast sense of control. That notion applies to this cover of the emotional centrepiece from Father John Misty’s recent ‘Chloë and the Next 20th Century’ album, as she coos over warm piano and a snaking, baritone sax solo, Misty’s hushed vocals drifting in and out behind her.
4. ‘For Free’ feat. Weyes Blood and Zella Day (2021)
This gorgeous, lilting Joni Mitchell cover is a swirl of stomach butterflies and anticipation, as the trio, from afar, offer a gentle paean to an anonymous performer on a New York City street corner. Del Rey, Zella Day and Weyes Blood debuted this rendition at the Grammy Museum in 2019, and it was so well received by fans and critics alike that it eventually found a home on ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’. Could we have a potential supergroup on our hands here?
3. ‘Prisoner’ with The Weeknd (2015)
The fruitful creative partnership between Del Rey and The Weeknd started here, with an enigmatic song of longing, hedonism and doubt. The pair would go on to collaborate on a number of tracks – including the Old Hollywood–style ballad ‘Lust For Life’ – but it’s here where we hear their singular dynamic at its best. “I’m a prisoner to my decisions”, they sing, making a commentary on the whirlwind life brought about by fame, urgently repeating the refrain over and over until the words turn numb.
2. ‘Tomorrow Never Came’ feat. Sean Ono Lennon (2017)
The beauty of ‘Tomorrow Never Came’ – a tumbling ballad that concerns the protracted, inescapable pain of unrequited love – lies within its melancholic but hopeful heart. The song’s business is not of misery, but of faith: Del Rey and Sean Ono Lennon, (the son of John and Yoko), conjure up images of roses and kissing in the rain, listening to “our favourite song by Lennon and Yoko”, their voices intertwining in gilded vocal harmonies, ultimately finding acceptance in the fantasy.
1. ‘Dealer’ feat. Miles Kane (2022)
Originally meant for the album that Del Rey and The Last Shadow Puppets were rumoured to be working on back in 2017, sighing harmonies from Miles Kane breathe relief into this bluesy song, only to be followed by one of Del Rey’s darkest moments to date: she blows up the chorus with an impassioned and dazzlingly precise wail. “I don’t wanna give you nothing / ‘Cause you never give me nothing back,” she sings, providing an assessment of a broken relationship that feels profound in her raw, almost growling voice – a sound we have never heard from her before. The line is gravely urgent, and upholds the track’s acceptance of difficult truths – extending a hand to listeners who may also need to lift their chin up and stride forth.