At the time of writing, Lana Del Rey is truly gifting us. Not only has she just released a superlative record in ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’, but she’s also announced two new albums, the upcoming ‘Rock Candy Sweet’ and ‘Blue Banisters’, and has two covers albums on the way at some point. What better time, then, to go back through her extensive back catalogue and see how it all stacks up?
Aside from her covers and her pre-‘Born To Die’ material (which isn’t commercially available), join us on a journey through NME‘s definitive ranking of Lana’s story so far.
91‘Swan Song’ (2015)
“And I will never sing again/ And you won’t work another day,” Del Rey sings on this ‘Honeymoon’ closer, which – at the time of its original release – sparked fears that she was about to quit. It’s good that this wasn’t her own literal swan song – it’s pretty enough, but not the kind of song someone as legendary as her should go out on.
90‘Lucky Ones’ (2012)
This 2012 song is a little grating, be it the discordant harp strums every now and then, or the familiar tale of boy-meets-girl sung in an affected falsetto.
89‘Don’t Call Me Angel’ (2019)
Given all the star power on this collab with Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande, you would expect it to be an absolute stone-cold banger. Instead, the theme song from the latest Charlie’s Angels film proves that you need more than big names to guarantee a great song. It sounds like an off cut from Grande’s album sessions, but then crams a completely different bridge from Del Rey in the middle.
88‘God Knows I Tried’ (2015)
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning/ To red, blue and yellow skies / It’s so crazy, I could drink it like tequila sunrise,” Lana sets the scene over creeping guitar melodies. The track reportedly is about her frustrations with the criticisms that have been thrown at her over her career – calls of inauthenticity, accusations of not being good enough – and the flip-flopping by the media, who’ve put her down and lifted her back up. It’s a shame, then, that it doesn’t really hold much emotion in its words or her delivery.
87‘Terrence Loves You’ (2015)
On this 2015 track, the LA-based musician merges her tale of someone she lost with parts of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. It’s an interesting mix – her jazzy longing transformed into an intergalactic searching for signs of life – but not even Bowie’s legendary words can lift this song too far up the rankings.
‘Carmen’ is one side of the subjects that seem to fascinate Del Rey – that of a Lolita-style character, a bad girl desired by all the men around her. But this song is far from her best exploration of that topic, now sounding dated and like Lana-by-numbers, even with the addition of whispered French verses.
85‘Sad Girl’ (2015)
It feels very on the nose that Lana Del Rey, a woman who’s emotions people are always fixated with, should write a song titled ‘Sad Girl’. Aside from her explaining why she’s so blue (“His Bonnie on the side” and “His money on the side”), though, it’s not as major a marker in her story as you might think.
The opening track on Del Rey’s fourth album is one of intrigue. Over orchestral hushes, she sighs and sings about someone who wants nobody but her. You might think that feeling of being desired might infiltrate the song and give it some pep at some point, but it keeps on snoozing for nearly six minutes as if Lana’s honeymoon period with this person is already done and dusted.
83‘Guns And Roses’ (2014)
We’ll give you three guesses who was the band loved by the man Lana sings about in this song. Apart from her being a big fan of Axl and co., we learn about her regrets of not tying the knot with him, even though she’s “not the marrying kind”. It’s a simple song – soft, minimal layers of electronic beats and fuzzy guitars sparsely decorating the space beneath her voice.
A remake of a song from her 2010 record ‘Lana Del Ray aka Lizzy Grant’, ‘Yayo’ finds her being whisked out of her trailer park home and off to Las Vegas to get married. It’s bluesy and jazzy, with Del Rey doing a semi-torch singer job on the delivery. While it’s a nice curio from her early days, it’s not an essential piece of her history either.
The title track of her third album remains controversial to this day, thanks to one lyric: “He hit me and it felt like a kiss.” It might be reference to The Crystals song of that name, but many felt it glamorised domestic violence, particularly given the lines around it have her sighing “I can hear sirens, sirens” and “Give me all of that ultraviolence”. There should be a place in pop to discuss the issue of violence in relationships, but Del Rey could perhaps have deployed more tact in her attempt here.
On ‘Born To Die’, Del Rey frequently makes reference to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita but nowhere as explicitly as this song. Unlike other songs on the deluxe edition of her second album, ‘Lolita’ is better off hidden away, a very dated attempt at merging hip-hop into her dramatic, dark pop that she couldn’t pull off in 2012, let alone now.
“Springsteen is the king, don’t you think?/ I was like, ‘Hell yeah, that guy can sing,’” Lana sings sweetly on this ‘Paradise’ EP cut. Years later, The Boss himself would single her out for praise, calling her “simply one of the best songwriters”. That may be true, but ‘American’ also has its cringe moments – like when she tells someone to be “young, be dope, be proud / Like an American”.
78‘Black Beauty’ (2014)
Most of us have tried to alter things about ourselves to please a partner at some point, and ‘Black Beauty’ documents Lana’s own experiences of doing that. “I paint my nails black/ I dye my hair a darker shade of brown/ ‘Cause you like your women Spanish/ Dark, strong and proud,” she sings, a little problematically. Later, she admits to keeping “my lips red”, but is struggling to show her lover her own version of how beautiful life is. Generally speaking, it’s relatable and moving, but perhaps we can all learn not to emulate other cultures to make people fall in love with us.
77‘Florida Kilos’ (2014)
Inspired by cocaine traffickers in Miami in the ‘70s, ‘Florida Kilos’ was – quite fittingly – supposed to be the theme song for the sequel of the movie Spring Breakers. That film never saw the light of day, but Lana released the track as part of her ‘Ultraviolence’ album, treating us to a cool groove that feels out of step with the rest of the record but provided a moment of refreshment among all its prettiness.
76‘White Mustang’ (2017)
‘White Mustang’, a sister song to its fellow ‘Lust For Life’ track ‘Groupie Love’, isn’t bad, but its slow meander isn’t the most thrilling thing Del Rey has done. Its opening verse about lusting after a musician is sharp, though.
75‘Music To Watch Boys To’ (2015)
“I like you a lot,” Lana whispers on the beginning of this ‘Honeymoon’ track, which starts out promisingly but then suffers the same fate as much of the rest of the record – it gets a bit boring. Still, the half-rapped bridge mixes things up a little, reminding us that invention is always a key part of Del Rey’s work.
74‘Dark Paradise’ (2012)
When someone who has previously been a big part of your life is suddenly gone, it can be hard to get over. That’s the situation Del Rey finds herself on this gloomy, string-laden pop song, telling the person who’s left her: “Your soul is haunting me / And telling me that everything is fine / But I wish I was dead / Dead like you.” It’s moving, but doesn’t stand up as one of her best songs anymore.
Del Rey flirts with religion on a lot of her songs, throwing in references to Jesus and God. Here, though, she’s praying at the altar of her partner, who she likens to her own religion. “It never was about the money or the drugs,” she sings at one point, shrugging off past sins. “For you, there’s only love.”
72‘Body Electric’ (2012)
No matter what verse you listen to in this dramatic ‘Paradise’ track, Lana’s get an interesting dream family tree. Elvis and Walt Whitman take on the father roles, while Marilyn Monroe and the country of Monaco become her mothers. As her best friend, she casts both Jesus and diamonds, which we’re not sure God would be too happy about.
71‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (feat. Stevie Nicks)’ (2017)
Lana teams up with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks on this blustery, dark piece of piano-pop, that finds the stars proclaiming themselves “just beautiful people/With beautiful problems”. Despite the obvious star power here, the track plods on a bit.
70‘This Is What Makes Us Girls’ (2012)
‘Born To Die’’s closing track looks back on Lana’s troublesome youth, painting a picture of her as a teen reprobate “stealing police cars with the senior guys” and in danger of flunking out of school. Instead, she got sent to boarding school by her parents – or as she puts it dramatically here: “I got sent away, I was waving on the train platform / Crying ’cause I know I’m never coming back.” It’s not a classic but it is notable for its glimpse into Lana’s pre-fame days.
69‘Burning Desire’ (2012)
As is tradition in Del Rey’s world, ‘Burning Desire’ takes place all around LA – be it Hollywood and Vine or Santa Monica – as she offers herself up to the person she wants. It’s not her most inventive work, as evidenced in the rhyming of “Your hands were on my hips, your name was on my lips”, but her restrained, deep delivery makes the track stand out as something a little different from her usual style.
This ‘Honeymoon’ tune takes us out of LA and away from America completely, transpiring us to Italy, where she’s surrounded by limousines and “soft ice creams”. “Catch me if you can, working on my tan,” she teases the titular character. “Dying by the hand of a foreign man happily.”
“If you lie down with dogs, then you’ll get fleas,” Lana warns on this piece of baroque-pop sophistication. “Be careful of the company you keep.” It’s advice she seems to be trying to give herself, with the song finding her lamenting wasting her precious time on a liar and a man preoccupied with “thoughts of murder and carnage”.
‘Cola’ opens with a lyric that will make you immediately hit the rewind button to double-check if you’re hearing. No matter how many times you listen, though, it will still feature the LA-based musician telling us: “My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola.” Sounds like a case of TMI to us, but a few servings of pineapple – or watermelon, if her lover has the tastes of Harry Styles – should sort her right out.
65‘Art Deco’ (2015)
A romanticised story of club kids carving out their own worlds on the dancefloor, ‘Art Deco’ is a tribute to the sanctuary nightlife can give and the ways we try to build ourselves as people. “You’re so Art Deco, out on the floor,” Lana praises. “Shining like gunmetal, cold and unsure.” There’s a foreshadowing in her lyrics in other parts though, as she whispers: “A little party never hurt no one.”
One of Lana’s sexiest songs, ‘Freak’ simmers with desire as she tries to lure a lover out to California to “be a freak like me”. As invitations go, it’s an enticing one – soundtracked by slow, sultry pop and bolstered by an offer to “slow dance to rock music/ Kiss while we do it”.
63‘Without You’ (2012)
“Everything I want I have,” Del Rey sings on this bleep-filled track. “Money, notoriety and rivieras/ I even think I’ve found god in the flashbulbs of the pretty cameras.” Despite all that, though, she’s convinced it’s all meaningless without her lover by her side. A bonus track on a deluxe version of ‘Born To Die’, it’s not clear why this song was just an afterthought – it’s a pretty track that mines different ground to the rest of the album and begins Lana’s voyage of disinterest in fame.
62‘The Blackest Day’ (2015)
At six minutes and five seconds, this is the longest track on Lana’s fourth album ‘Honeymoon’, but also one of its most interesting. In it, she details a big break-up that’s sent her west. “Ever since my baby went away / It’s been the blackest day,” she mourns on the chorus, before cycling through the five stages of grief. It ends with her acknowledging the truth of her situation, no matter how much she doesn’t want to: “I’m on my own/ On my own again.”
61‘Gods & Monsters’ (2012)
“In the lands of gods and monsters / I was an angel looking to get fucked hard,” Del Rey sings here, not mincing her words. Later, she compares herself to The Doors’ Jim Morrison “headed towards a fucked up holiday”, but soon finds that her trip results in “innocence lost”. It’s a solid track, but pales in comparison to some of its writer’s later work.
60‘Bel Air’ (2012)
“Roses, Bel Air, take me there,” Lana asks over ascending violins on ‘Bel Air’’s chorus. “I’ve been waiting to meet you.” While most of her early work was drenched in sadness, this song breaks the mould, dripping in wide-eyed wonder and more than a hint of optimism. Still, that couldn’t earn it more than a spot on the ‘Paradise’ EP, unfairly relegating it to deep cut status.
59‘Is This Happiness’ (2014)
“I love you but you drive me so far / Wish you well on that star,” Lana tells a former partner on this ‘Ultraviolence’ bonus track, acknowledging that not everyone we love is who we’re meant to – or can – end up with. The chorus is one of her most simple, her asking again and again: “Is this happiness?” The answer, it seems, is a resounding no.
58‘Old Money’ (2014)
‘Old Money’ is pure nostalgia. It looks back on days in LA filled with “cashmere, cologne and white sunshine” and a time when Lana could still be so associated with the east coast that someone would label her “the queen of New York City”. Musically, it also borrows from the past – so much so that the song ‘What Is A Youth’ from a ‘60s film adaptation of Romeo And Juliet is credited on the track. It all combines to make something truly gorgeous, strings and piano gliding slowly over each other as Del Rey promises to come running the second the person she’s singing to calls her back.
57‘Million Dollar Man’ (2012)
“I don’t know how you get over / Someone as dangerous, tainted and flawed as you,” Lana sighs on this song, that sounds like it’s about to burst into a Chicago-worthy jazz age epic. Despite the problems, the man Lana is singing about clearly has, she’s still resolutely his, sharing: “I’d follow you down, down down, you’re unbelievable.” A familiar feeling to anyone who’s ever loved a bad boy.
56‘Summertime Sadness’ (2012)
Del Rey has always been great at writing truly evocative lyrics and ‘Summertime Sadness’ is no different. “Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare,” she sings at one point, “Honey, I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere.” It seems impossible to listen to lines like that and not immediately be transported to beneath a pylon in the Californian desert, feeling electrified and alive.
Written after she started to see some success, this ‘Born To Die’ track tackles the fake nature of people and how we act differently when someone becomes powerful or celebrated. “Now my life is sweet like cinnamon / Like a fucking dream I’m living in,” Del Rey sings happily. “Baby love me cos I’m playing on the radio / How do you like me now?”
54‘Pretty When You Cry’ (2015)
The title of this ‘Ultraviolence’ song might sound like Lana is talking to someone else about their crying seshes but, as the lyrics, reveal it’s actually her who is “pretty when I cry”. Throughout the song, she sounds as if she might really be on the brink of tears, her voice pinched with emotion and threatening to crack. It gives it a tension that’s missing in other parts of the album and the feel of when you can’t look away from an accident – we should give Lana her privacy, but we need to know if she makes it through.
‘Change’, from ‘Lust For Life’, finds the musician questioning why she should care about other people “when no one gave a damn”. Despite that, she can’t quite detach herself entirely, hoping to be able to help others out in the future. “Change is a powerful thing, people are powerful beings,” she notes. “Trying to find the power in me to be faithful.”
In another world, ‘Cherry’ could easily be a Bond theme tune. It’s dark and brooding, with that signature tense elegance that Bond songs tend to have. “Darling, darling, darling /I fall to pieces when I’m with you,” she sings yearningly, like a woman who’s just had her world turned upside down by 007.
51‘God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It’ (2017)
One of Del Rey’s few political songs, this track pays tribute to womankind while also noting their lack of representation in the US government. “Only you can save me tonight,” she warns at one point, a call to arms to the women listening to have each other’s backs. As female empowerment songs go, this is the most Lana version of the genre, sounding like she’s delivering a national anthem in the 1950s.
50‘Young And Beautiful (2013)
Writing a song for The Great Gatsby theme tune is about as Lana Del Rey as you can get – if F. Scott Fitzgerald was alive now, he surely would have written a story just for her. ‘Young And Beautiful’ hits all the right notes – elegant opulence, romantic yearning – but while it;s pleasant enough, it doesn’t write its way into Lana’s own canon of classics.
49‘Diet Mountain Dew’ (2012)
Set to an old-school hip-hop beat, ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ is perhaps Del Rey’s most New York-sounding song. Like summer in the city, it’s full of optimism and adventure, whether she’s urging “Baby, put on heart-shaped sunglasses / ‘Cause we gonna take a ride” or instructing to take the Jesus figurine off the dashboard – a sure sign some sinning is on the horizon.
48‘In My Feelings’ (2017)
Break-up songs don’t come much more subtly savage than this. ‘In My Feelings’ takes aim at an ex (rumoured to be G-Eazy) and it doesn’t take any prisoners. “Could it be that I fell for another loser?” she sneers. Ultimately, though, it’s Lana that’s coming out on top. “Who’s doper than this bitch? Who’s freer than me?” she asks, spitting out her words like someone about to make someone pay for what they’ve done to her.
47‘Groupie Love’ (feat. A$AP Rocky) (2017)
“It’s so hard sometimes with a star / When you have to share him with everybody,” Lana sighs on this ode to being in love with a fellow musician. It’s dreamy and lush, like the fluffy cloud feeling of being head over heels, until A$AP Rocky drops in and dials things up to even more Heavenly heights.
46‘When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing’ (2017)
“Is it the end of an era?/Is it the end of America?” Lana questions on this heavy ‘Lust For Life’ cut. Seconds later, she answers her own question: “No, it’s only the beginning/If we hold on to hope, we’ll have our happy ending.” Production-wise, it’s a compelling mix of folky guitars and discordant layers of drones, combining to make something that feels as weighty as the topic Lana broaches in the lyrics.
45‘Fucked My Way Up To The Top’ (2014)
Much like ‘Money Power Glory’, this fellow ‘Ultraviolence’ track is a response to people’s beliefs about Del Rey’s career beginnings and the alleged ‘inauthenticities’ of the story she’d shared with the world. In it, she took aim at an unnamed singer who had apparently mocked her persona, but then “stole and copied it”. It’s not clear who she’s talking about – although there have been plenty of guesses – but she does sound very over it. “Mimicking me’s a fucking bore,” she sings at one point, and if she’d recorded it while doing a massive eye-roll, we wouldn’t be surprised.
44‘Cruel World’ (2014)
Set to ‘60s psych rushes, this tune celebrates the departure of an ex, Lana telling him: “Everybody knows that I’m the best / I’m crazy.” Things might be over, but it seems the couple did have something in common at least, as she sings later: “You’re dancing circles around me/ You’re fucking crazy.” As the opener for her Black Keys‘ Dan Auerbach-produced album ‘Ultraviolence’, ‘Cruel World’ mixed things up with Lana’s sound, not straying super far from her previous output, but doing something different enough to make you sit up and want to follow her into her then-new era.
43’13 Beaches’ (2017)
Usually, songs about the woes of being followed by the paparazzi don’t sound too appealing, but Lana explores being followed across 13 beaches in search of peace as a way to assess her feelings on love, privacy and finding “something real”. The song opens with a sample from 1962 horror film Carnival Of Souls, in which Mary Henry’s biggest fear is being left without anyone around her – perhaps a nod to how Lana feels about the day the paps stop being interested in her?
42‘Summer Bummer (feat. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti)’ (2017)
The first of two songs on ‘Lust For Life’ featuring A$AP Rocky, ‘Summer Bummer’ is a brilliant clashing of worlds. An eerie beat fizzes beneath Lana’s usual poised melodies, the chemistry between the singer and the rapper crafting the kind of sticky, claustrophobic atmosphere you only get in the middle of a heatwave.
41‘Get Free’ (2017)
“This is my commitment / My modern manifesto,” goes the pre-chorus on this ‘60s-tinged ‘Lust For Life’ cut. Fittingly, the song references moments from throughout Del Rey’s career, most notably her single ‘Ride’ in the chorus’ opening lines. It’s smart, inventive and subtly meta.
40‘Off To The Races’ (2012)
“My old man is a bad man, but I can’t deny the way he holds my hand,” Lana sings on this dark rap-indebted song, illustrating one of many toxic males that litters her back catalogue. But it’s not just the man who is a problem here, but Del Rey herself. “I’m off to the races / Cases of Barcadi chasers,” she explains of her antics on the chorus. “Facing time again at Rikers Island / And I won’t get out.”
Over finger-picked guitar, Lana puts forward her folkiest foot yet, relying purely on organic sounds that make this song sound straight out of the ‘60s. Over the top, she sings of someone who makes her “feel invincible / Just like I wanted, no more candle in the wind”. She seems to be eschewing the idea of burning out but, rather than opting to fade away, feels like she’s got a new lease of inextinguishable life.
38‘Cinnamon Girl’ (2019)
Del Rey’s back catalogue is full of troubled men who don’t treat her right. On ‘Cinnamon Girl’, she imagines addressing one of them, and one key plea she would make. “If you hold me without hurting me / You’ll be the first who ever did.”
37‘Not All Who Wander Are Lost’ (2021)
Much of Del Rey’s later work has been concerned with LA and its surrounding area but, here, it’s Lincoln, Nebraska that’s got the musician “in a haze”. It also finds her defending the Instagrammable travel blog slogan “Not all those who wander are lost”, noting that some people just have “wanderlust”. That, too, feels like it’s destined to live in a million Insta captions of holiday pics, but you have to admit she has a point, and shares it beautifully.
36‘National Anthem’ (2012)
“Money is the reason we exist / Everybody knows it – it’s a fact,” Lana assesses at one point of this soaring highlight of ‘Born To Die’. Far from being the patriotic ode the title might suggest, it’s a cutting take on capitalism and the materialistic society we live in, constantly chasing signifiers of strong social status. That might not sound like a banging pop tune on paper but Lana manages to craft it into something addictive and fun.
35‘Let Me Love You Like A Woman’ (2021)
‘Let Me Love You Like A Woman’ is classic Del Rey – timeless, swooning and romantic. “Let me hold you like a baby,” she tells the person she’s singing to and is trying to lure out of LA with her. If they don’t come, she shrugs, that’s fine, but “I can’t see myself having any fun”.
34‘Breaking Up Slowly’ (2021)
Country singer Nikki Lane appears here to help recreate tales of relationship woes, using country icon Tammy Wynette’s own experiences to illustrate the lows of falling out of love. “I love you only, but it’s making me blue,” Lane and Del Rey sing in tandem on the chorus as guitar melodies ache beneath them. It’s a murky, desolate song that’s perfect for crying into your pint of ice cream post- (or mid) break-up.
Before ‘Bartender’ was released, Del Rey described it as a “weird track” and, while it’s not completely out there, it does have its moments. As she sings about the lengths she has to go to to keep her love with the titular bartender hidden from the press, she stutters and ticks, with a couple of fake laughs thrown in for measure. It’s odd but it works.
32‘Money Power Glory’ (2014)
When Lana first broke through, people became obsessed by the idea that she wasn’t who she seemed to be, but was in fact a rich girl who’d had her career bankrolled by her dad. In response, she wrote ‘Money Power Glory’, a sarcastic playing up to what the world seemed to expect from her – that all she cared about was the shallow side of success, rather than making good music that touched people. “Hallelujah, I wanna take you for all that you got,” she sings on the chorus, brilliantly taunting her detractors.
31‘Shades Of Cool’ (2014)
Much like on ‘Cherry’, there’s a Bond theme edge to ‘Shades Of Cool’ as mysterious melodies tiptoe around each other and Del Rey begins to paint us a picture of a man who “lives in shades of blue / Blues eyes and jazz and attitude”. Like Bond, given the many films he’s narrowly escaped death in, the person she sings of is “invincible” with a “heart [that] is unbreakable”. Lana might not have dated a spy – as far as we know – but she seems like the pop star with the closest experience to getting to know her own 007. Give her a Bond theme already!
“I’m flying to the moon again, dreaming about heroin,” Lana sighs on this dark, ominous track. “How it gave you everything and took your life away.” Written about her ex Rob Dubuss, who died of a heroin overdose in 2011, it’s a devastatingly personal piece that mirrors the unpredictable cycle of grief. While it mostly floats by tranquilly, the bridge jumps out of nowhere, urgent and agitated.
29‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’ (2021)
Lana has always been vocal about her love of hip-hop, whether she’s been collaborating with the likes of A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti, or citing the mumble-rap crew as her current faves in interviews. On ‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’, she adopts some of that scene’s production techniques, layering her voice in auto-tune in parts, while in others she switches back to her traditional vintage pop style. It results in a song that feels like it goes through its own journey, just as its creator is embarking on her own in the American mid-west.
‘California’ finds Del Rey holding out a hand to someone in need, opening the song by telling them: “You don’t ever have to / Be stronger than you really are.” Instead, she offers something to look forward to – adventures around California hitting “up all the old places” and dancing “til dawn”.
27‘Happiness Is A Butterfly’ (2019)
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you,” goes a quote attributed to – depending who you’re talking to – writers Henry David Thoreau or Nathaniel Hawthorne. While some of ‘Happiness…’ might feel positively nihilistic (“If he’s a serial killer then what’s the worst / That can happen to a girl who’s already hurt?”), Lana embodies that message here. Instead of sitting down quietly, though, she’s hitting the dancefloor and hoping her butterfly will find her there.
26‘Tomorrow Never Came (feat. Sean Ono Lennon)’ (2017)
In another ‘Lust For Life’ collaboration, Del Rey joins forces with Sean Ono Lennon to craft a folky track that references several classic songs. There’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’, ‘Tiny Dancer’, ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’, ‘Something’ and – of course – ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. While it doesn’t quite match up to those tracks, its little psych-washed atmosphere and beautiful harmony of Lana and Lennon’s voices make it an underrated gem.
25‘Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind’ (2017)
Written on the way home from Coachella, this track positions the Californian festival as a modern-day Woodstock, happening in 2017 at the same time as tensions between the US and North Korea were mounting and the spectre of war loomed in the distance. While she’s aware there’s not much she can do in the grand scheme of things, she offers that her “contribution could be as small as hoping”.
24 ‘Dark But Just A Game’ (2021)
Inspired by a party at Madonna’s manager’s house – and a subsequent conversation with ‘Chemtrails…’ producer Jack Antonoff – ‘Dark But Just A Game’ serves up a meditation on the pitfalls of fame. Its cadence harks back to the very start of Lana’s career, but updates it by marrying sections of trip-hop atmosphere with folkier parts, like an inspired mash-up of ‘Born To Die’ and Norman Fucking Rockwell!’.
23‘Venice Bitch’ (2019)
Even by the sixth album in her career, not many people would have expected Del Rey to deliver a nearly 10-minute long soft folk and psych-tinged piece of strange pop. But that’s exactly what ‘Venice Bitch’ is – a bolt from the blue of invention and experimentation that’s as lush as it is winding.
22‘Fuck It I Love You’ (2019)
Described by the singer as her “most dishonest” song, ‘Fuck It I Love You’ offers a first-person analysis that California is “just a state of mind” that can’t cancel out your problems, apparently actually not reflecting her thoughts on the place at all. “Maybe the way that I’m living is killing me,” she muses at one point, stark guitar fingerpicking moodily away beneath her.
21‘Dance Till We Die’ (2021)
“I’m covering Joni and I’m dancing with Joan / Stevie is calling on the telephone / Court almost burned down my home,” Lana sings on the first lines of ‘Dance Till We Die’. You can hear her trying not to break into a smile as she does so, but no one would really blame her if she went full-on delirious – not all of us are lucky enough to dance with Joan Baez, natter with Stevie Nicks or hand over our keys to Courtney Love (and hope the fire brigade don’t have to pay a visit), after all. Still, it’s a reminder of how charmed life can be and the importance of “walking on the sunny side”.
20‘Love Song’ (2019)
‘Love Song’ is classic Lana, nailing the feeling of being hopelessly in love as the world around you crumbles. “Oh, be my once in a lifetime,” she sighs. “Lying on your chest / In my party dress / I’m a fucking mess.” Desolately, heartbreakingly stunning.
19‘West Coast’ (2014)
A dark, surf-y tune, ‘West Coast’ is one of the most intriguing moments of ‘Ultraviolence’, drawing you in with its low tones and enigmatic atmosphere. In its lyrics, Del Rey details being torn between wanting to head out and see more of the world and life itself, and being pulled back to the West Coast by a man who’s got her “feeling hotter than fire”. Even if she didn’t explain that last point in her words, you’d still be able to tell from the way she smoulders through the song.
18‘How To Disappear’ (2019)
Pretty melodies arch over the crushed jangle of ‘How To Disappear’, another highlight of the ‘NFR!’ era. Its first two-thirds are typically great – character studies of two different men and their eventual departure from our star’s life – but its the finale that’s truly magical. In it, Lana whisks herself out of sadness and into an imagined future with “a kid and two cats in the yard /The California sun and the movie stars”.
17‘The Next Best American Record’ (2019)
“We were so obsessed with writing the next best American record,” sings Lana here and, ironically, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ achieved her and her old partner’s dreams. This song was a big part of that, it subtly shapeshifting from skeletal guitar-soundtracked verses to a swelling chorus with a clipped beat and swooning lyrics about darting around CA.
16‘Born To Die’ (2012)
The title track of her second and breakthrough album, ‘Born To Die’ was the first song that really summed up what to expect from Del Rey. It combines soaring, elegant strings, her downcast drawl and beats borrowed from hip-hop with stunning effect – as she used to describe herself, “gangsta Nancy Sinatra”. “Come and take a walk on the wild side / Let me kiss you hard in the pouring rain,” she purrs on the chorus. “You like your girls insane.”
15‘Looking For America’ (2019)
Written in response to two mass shootings within the space of 24 hours, this 2019 track was a spontaneous and standalone single, one that finds Lana questioning the state of her country. “No bombs in the sky / Only fireworks when you and I collide,” she sings on the chorus, but it quickly turns out she’s just dreaming of a better place.
14‘Lust For Life (feat. The Weeknd)’ (2017)
Ever a fan of old Hollywood mythology, here Del Rey references the death of budding actor Peg Entwistle in the 1930s. Entwistle killed herself by jumping off the top of the ‘H’ of the Hollywood sign, but ‘Lust For Life’ finds Lana and The Weeknd “having too much fun” to meet their ends just yet.
13‘Wild At Heart’ (2021)
Here, Del Rey seems to make her final transformation into the old-timey singer she seems like she would have been in another life. Her trills and pitch on ‘Wild At Heart’ aren’t of this time – and that’s no bad thing. Her voice sounds beautiful, whether she’s delivering the nursery rhyme line “I love you lots like polka dots” or cramming as many words into one line as possible.
12‘Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It’ (2019)
“I’ve been tearing around in my fucking nightgown / 24/7 Sylvia Plath / Writing in blood on my walls / ;Cause the ink in my pen don’t work in my notepad,” couldn’t be a more Lana Del Rey lyric if it tried. Like those lines, ‘Hope…’ is a triumph – peak Del Rey and peak masterpiece, from its poetic words to its simple but striking piano melody.
11‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ (2019)
People often obsess over Lana’s emotional state but, on this ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ track, she’s the one keeping an eye on someone going through it. “I’m your man,” she reassures them. “You lose your way, just take my hand / “You’re lost at sea, then I’ll command your boat to me.”
10‘High By The Beach’ (2016)
“All I wanna do is get high by the beach, get high / All I wanna do is get by by the beach, get by,” Lana sighs on this song of whirring electronics and enticing beats. It’s chill but cloudy – as if the weed smoke is already billowing around her, even if just in her mind. As well as being an exquisite pop song, ’High By The Beach’ is also notable for the way Lana sings “lights, camera, ack-she-ohnn”, drawing out the phonetics of her last word in a way that should be ridiculous but, somehow, sounds very cool.
9‘Brooklyn Baby’ (2014)
“Well, my boyfriend’s in a band/ He plays guitar while I sing Lou Reed,” Lana tells us on this gorgeous track. “I’ve got feathers in my hair / I get down to Beat poetry.” It sounds great – who doesn’t want to lie around in Brooklyn with a partner, singing some of the greatest songs to come out of New York? Head to Williamsburg or Bushwick, though, and you’ll find perhaps she was romanticising the situation somewhat – these men are insufferable and will leave you wondering just how to get into Lana’s parallel universe.
8‘Blue Jeans’ (2012)
This is vintage Lana – a song of pure devotion, explained in Hollywood terms. “Blue jeans, white shirt / Walked into the room, you know you made my eyes burn,” she poetically begins her story. “It was like James Dean, for sure.” It’s not long until she’s proclaiming her undying love for her heartthrob and promising to “wait a million years”, and ‘Blue Jeans’ will leave you feeling much the same way about them.
7‘White Dress’ (2021)
If you haven’t spent the days since ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ repeatedly singing the hurried, high-pitched refrain of “Down at the men in music business conference” to yourself, you mustn’t have listened to Lana’s latest album yet. Aside from that one line that will now forever live rent-free in our collective conscious, ‘White Dress’ is a gorgeous album opener – one where the star tries out a new and emotive vocal delivery that’s rasped, urgent and reminiscent of one of her heroes Joni Mitchell. The whole thing is dripping with a new kind of nostalgia, this time more acute than Lana’s usual nonchalance, and it’s utterly stunning.
6‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ (2019)
“Goddamn, man child / You fucked me so good I almost said I loved you.” As opening lines go, they’re definitely the most iconic of Del Rey’s catalogue so far and certainly up there in the world’s musical canon. The rest of the song might not be as stop-you-in-your-tracks arresting, but it’s still a gorgeous take on settling on someone flawed.
5‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ (2021)
We might not all have experiences of hanging out at country clubs or even want to go to one, but ‘Chemtrails…’ makes you long for summer days lounging around in idyllic settings where there are no worries and no responsibilities. The title track of Del Rey’s latest record is probably one of the most beautiful things she’s created so far, capturing the sighing satisfaction of lying on your back, watching the “white picket chemtrails” weaving through the blue sky above.
Del Rey sings of the magic of young love on the opening track of ‘Lust For Life’, elegantly reflecting the rush of falling head-over-heels in lines of mundanity-turned-euphoria. “You get ready, you get all dressed up / To go nowhere in particular,” she sings. “Back to work or the coffee shop / It don’t matter ’cause it’s enough to be young and in love.”
‘Ride’ is nothing short of a masterpiece – easily one of Del Rey’s finest pieces of work in her whole career. “Been trying hard not to get into trouble / But I’ve got a war in my mind,” she sighs on the chorus, before revealing her temporary fix for when the blues turn into the mean reds: “I just ride.” It’s set to the kind of elegant pop she’s built her journey on, but at its absolute peak – strings and distant drum rumbles colliding to portray her sadness and inner turmoil.
2‘Video Games’ (2011)
The song that started it all. Even nearly a decade later, ’Video Games’ stands up as an incredible song that’s so simple but so effective. The subtle drum rolls before the chorus add a gorgeous extra layer of drama to its creator’s declaration that life is “only worth living if somebody is loving you”, while Lana’s lovestruck tone set up a career of writing songs to fall in and out of love to.
1‘The Greatest’ (2019)
Calling a song ‘The Greatest’ is a dangerous game, opening up room for disappointment. Fortunately for Lana, it was a move that turned out to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Over stately piano, she mourns the loss of “the culture”, from rock’n’roll to “the bar where The Beach Boys” would go, in a way that hit hard on release in 2019 but thwacks you in the gut in 2020.
It’s simple, elegant, beautiful and relatable – who hasn’t yearned for something that feels like a distant memory now? – and closes with a bleak but accurate assessment of our world: “Hawaii just missed a fireball / LA’s in flames, it’s getting hot / Kanye West is blond and gone /‘Life On Mars’ ain’t just a song / I hope the livestream’s almost on.”