Lana Del Rey is a modern icon, one of the few musicians of her generation who virtually everyone on the planet has an opinion on.
Debut single 'Video Games' turns 10 this Autumn, and 2021 is set to bring another new album, in the form of the doubters-baiting 'Blue Banisters'.
Originally slated to be released on July 4th, that date has now been shifted to 'TBD' while Lana teases another new single.
To fill the 'Blue Banisters' void in our lives the Clash team decided to get together and compile their 21 favourite Lana Del Rey songs - each has a personal resonance, meaning that while some big-hitters haven't made it, some deep cuts and outliers have.
Dive in below.
- - -
Tomorrow Never Came
A standout on ‘Lust For Life’, Del Rey and Sean Ono Lennon collaborate to write the bittersweet folk track. Recounting a crumbling and unrequited romance, the delicate acoustic backdrop is tinged with melancholy. Together, the pair compliment each other with their elongated and ethereal harmonies that mark a time long gone. The past is emphasised with the track’s reference to a variety of classic songs such as ‘Tiny Dancer’, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘Everyday Is Like A Sunday’.
The grabbing, self-referential bridge paints a pastoral picture of rose gardens and colour, what seemed like the pinnacle of love between the protagonists. Lana sings ‘Lennon and Yoko we would play all day long / Isn't life crazy?” I said now that I’m singing with Sean’ and you can’t help but feel drawn into the story the two have created. It’s wistful and glistens with the yearning of a timeless love song. (Sahar Ghadirian)
- - -
Released in 2018, the song is an early introduction into what would be Lana’s sixth studio album ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ Beginning like a love letter, it is folky and warm, modestly transforming into a psychedelic masterpiece as we enter the final half of the song. The singer signs off ‘bang bang, kiss kiss’ as the melody is delicately drenched with the fuzzy shredding of the electric guitar.
Lana creates a soft-rock track that gives listeners the happy highlights of her relationship - coveted moments that she also craves to experience again. With reference to the album’s title track, the song is glittered with incredible lines, one of the most intimate being "if you weren’t mine / I’d be jealous of your love", echoed in the outro. ‘Venice Bitch’ has an addictive quality that makes even a 10 minute song feel too short. (Sahar Ghadirian)
- - -
Off To The Races
A renowned femme fatale masterpiece, 'Off To The Races' is the perfect musical embodiment of 2012 Lana Del Rey. With references to Nabokov’s Lolita ("light of my life, fire of my loins") as well as drugs, partying, romance, gambling, and even Las Vegas, the track expertly encapsulates the sleazy Americana vibe that’s ever-so prominent throughout Lana’s extensive discography.
With the lyrics depicting a wild, obsessive romance, the track was written while Del Rey was in an exciting, yet chaotic relationship as she travelled between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and her love interest gambled. "I need you, I breathe you, I'll never leave you! They would rue the day I was alone without you..."
Almost the polar opposite to tracks on later albums, Lana uses a rapping technique in front of a hip-hop beat and elongated strings, all while jumping from octave to octave with a frequented rising intonation. (Samantha Hall)
- - -
One of Lana’s greatest hidden gems, 'Black Beauty' is a bonus track from 2014 album, ‘Ultraviolence’.
Written about loving a man who doesn’t appreciate any of life’s beauties, Lana’s persona is seemingly lost, continually trying to please him despite his lack of love for life and maybe even her. "I paint the house black, my wedding dress black leather too, you have no room for light, love is lost in you..."
Beginning with Lana’s velvet vocals backed by a piano, the chorus comes in heavily as nothing short of angelic; comparable with (I can only imagine) the gates of heaven being merely opened.
'Black Beauty' continues on with the underlying angst and conflict found in the rest of ‘Ultraviolence’, as Lana’s persona continues to love a man that simply doesn’t treat her with the respect and love she shows him. (Samantha Hall)
- - -
Norman Fucking Rockwell
Known for her considerably poignant opening lines, Lana isn’t one to shy away from jaw-dropping entrances and memorable lyrics. When it comes to Lana’s 2019 album, title track 'Norman Fucking Rockwell' doesn’t disappoint: “Goddamn man child, you fucked me so good that I almost said I love you”, Lana lilts on opening.
Combining piano and strings behind Lana’s ethereal vocals, the track aknowledges a relationship with an immature yet self-absorbed man, and pays homage to painter ‘Norman Rockwell’ while depicting that the love interest is ‘colouring her blue’.
With several more feasibly relatable lines including ‘but you’re just a man, it’s just what you do’ and ‘why wait for the best when I could have you?’, 'Norman Fucking Rockwell’s release perfectly marked the glorious return of Lana, pulling her right back into the limelight with an album that was sincerely welcomed with open arms. (Samantha Hall)
- - -
Happiness Is A Butterfly
As the thirteenth track from 2019’s ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’, Happiness Is A Butterfly is heart-wrenchingly beautiful - the perfect track for the heartbroken and hurt on a late Summer evening.
The track finds Lana’s persona unable to keep hold of long-lasting happiness, with her happiness an unobtainable butterfly that she constantly tries to catch despite fail: ‘Happiness is a butterfly, try to catch it, like every night, It escapes from my hands into moonlight.
In classic Lana form, her lyrics are sharp and moving, going from ‘if he’s a serial killer then what’s the worst that can happen to a girl who’s already hurt?’ to ‘I said “don’t be a jerk, don’t call me a taxi” sitting in your sweatshirt crying in the backseat’ to show a state of relatable, emotional turmoil. (Samantha Hall)
- - -
Seductive, innocent, yet romantically powerful; Lana’s own version of Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ empowers feminine sexuality and desire, all while maintaining that luxurious brand of femininity that Lana portrays so well.
Despite the real Lolita tale being more than controversial, Lana’s Lolita focuses on female empowerment in relationships, with Lana’s persona sexually aware and able to make boys fall at her feet: ‘It's you that I adore, though I make the boys fall like dominoes’.
'Lolita' has a similar hip-hop beat to the likes of 'Off To The Races', 'Blue Jeans' and 'National Anthem', while the entirety of the ‘Born To Die’ album seemingly runs with a recurring ‘Lolita’ theme throughout. (Samantha Hall)
- - -
Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, West Coast is a laid-back soft rock ballad that gushes with Lana’s love for California and the west coast of the USA. The opening line "...if you’re not drinking, then you’re not playing" was once said to Del Rey at a beach party, inspiring the track and its concurrent theme.
As one of the highlights of ‘Ultraviolence’, the track follows in the album’s footsteps by running with a dreamy yet eerie sound, using dark drum beats and a vocal echo before dramatically dropping into a woozy chorus of a much slower tempo. The track often seems more sinister and sensual than other Lana releases, but still follows in classic Del Rey style by making several references to west coast culture, including ‘silver starlets’ and ‘rock n roll groupies’.
'West Coast' is the perfect track for swaying on balconies, drinking rose in the sun, and viewing California through rose-tinted glasses. (Samantha Hall)
- - -
Dance Til We Die
Opening with the lyrics “I’m covering Joni and dancing with Joan”, and then being immediately followed by a Joni Mitchell cover, 'Dance Till We Die' is a perfect track placed perfectly on her latest album. Offering a more optimistic view to her usual lyrics, the song muses on contentment and the joy in her life, name dropping her friends and all her musical idols and paired with a rare upbeat instrumental in her discography.
Dropping from a lyrical ode into some bluesy horns, the climaxes, harmonies and vintage vibe are done in a way that only Lana can pull off. Packed full of 60s and 70s references that have always haunted her work, 'Dance Til We Die' feels like an homage to everything and everyone that’s inspired her, creating a celebration of her work that will have you swaying when that bridge kicks in. (Lucy Harbron)
- - -
Vocal heavy and lyrically breath taking, this surprise release feels as raw as its artwork. The first track in a while that wasn’t produced by Jack Antonoff, 'Blue Banisters' is vulnerable and minimalist in both form and substance. Harking back to her Honeymoon era in style but maintaining the Norman Fucking Rockwell emotional honesty, the almost gothic atmosphere of this track is captivating.
Offering a cryptic take on love, it’s enough to leave Lana stans in tears as she croons about loneliness and disappointment. Honestly, I could write a novel analysing the beauty of the lyrics; “She said, ‘You can’t be a muse and be happy, too / You can’ blacken the pages with Russian poetry and be happy’ / And that scared me”, but I’m too busy weeping. (Lucy Harbron)
- - -
Terrence Loves You
The ultimate theatrical, old Hollywood Lana song, 'Terrance Loves You' is anthemic and haunting. With echoing vocals that demand attention, big enough to fill a room even when they’re played out of a rubbish speaker, this really is the best of Lana’s voice, proving why she’s an artist to be admired. With tinges of Billie Holiday’s pain, Joni Mitchell’s ease, a huge dose of Monroe-eque glamour and even a Bowie reference, this track alone should be enough to place Lana amongst their tracks.
Maintaining the best bits of each era, keeping a hold on the rawness as well as the style, 'Terrance Loves You' feels like a song you should be hearing in a smoky downtown bar, sung in the moment and fuelled by heartbreak. Paired with free horns and lead out with melodic humming, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a big track be done with such nonchalance. (Lucy Harbron)
- - -
Shades Of Cool
Lana’s peak Jim Morrison loving, 60s housewife phase, I’m unashamedly obsessed with 'Ultraviolence’s somewhat problematic love songs. An anthem for anyone who’s ever thought they could change the bad person they’re with, 'Shades Of Cool' is one of Lana’s best doe-eyed submissive tracks that drips with drugs, devotion and dangerous love. Sang in that kind of hypnotic girly voice she uses in her earlier works; this song is a big one for anyone who got into Lana during their Tumblr phase.
Effortlessly sensual with reverb-heavy guitars cutting through her old Hollywood bluesy vocal, 'Shades Of Cool' optimises the energy of the 'Ultraviolence' album and is a prime example of what Lana is all about, combining classic elements with modern twists to defy any genre besides being notably hers. (Lucy Harbron)
- - -
Gods & Monsters
Managing to be a stand out on an album where every track is a work of art, Gods & Monsters is dark, heavy and utterly brilliant. Pinned down with a crisp and relentless drum beat, the track on her debut was a perfect introduction to her brand of lyric packed anthemic songs.
With verses that stray closer to spoken word rolling into atmospheric, orchestra filled choruses, the contrast between the gloomy lyrics and vibey backing brought something so new to the early 2010s, immediately settling Lana apart. A tale that’s reached mythical status in her work, telling the story of fame, sex and corruption, she walks a line between God and the monster-like figures in music, holding Jim Morrison as a kind of fallen angel.
Crooning “If I get a little prettier, can I be your baby?”, 'Gods & Monsters' has all of that classic Lana attitude that captivated the world. (Lucy Harbron)
- - -
Part of Lana Del Rey’s appeal – the appeal of any successful pop star, arguably – has been her ability to render a style that lands twice: first as solid gold touchstone for the present moment, and finally as the platinum template for producers of the near future. Built on her own collage of influences that lean closer to sepia, citing a “Lana Del Rey sound” inevitably invokes a glut of homespun clichés: whiskey sour-slurred vocals, sugar daddies, James Dean, living fast and dying young.
Except, for all the talk of hedonism and lust, her songs rarely sound desperate. On ‘Ride’, taken from the ‘Paradise EP’ and later incorporated into reselling her 2012 breakthrough album ‘Born to Die’, the mask slips, and for that brief, overwhelming moment in the middle eight when the strings crescendo and Lana practically yells “I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy,” a moment of electrifying vulnerability has been shared. There are countless artists who sound like Lana Del Rey now; vanishingly few who could match her power in that moment. (Matthew Neale)
- - -
Merging together Lana Del Rey’s haunting vocals, A$AP Rocky’s refined style and finesse with fleeting trademark ad libs from Playboi Carti, ‘Summer Bummer’ is the non-conforming, lavishly intoxicating soundtrack that was lacking in everyone’s summertime up til 2017. In true Lana Del Rey fashion, the singer yearns for a doomed romance riddled in “white lies and black beaches and blood red sangrias” over Boi-1da and Jahan Sweet’s heavy and dark production.
Despite many feeling that Lana could have embarked on this track as a solo journey, ‘Summer Bummer’ once again proves Del Rey’s versatility as her nostalgia-infused aesthetic remains just as, or even moreso poignant when taking a perhaps unexpected direction in terms of genre and collaboration.
Landing itself on Lana Del Rey’s fifth studio album Lust For Life, ‘Summer Bummer’ overflows in luxury and tragedy, bringing the best of three outstanding artists to one track. (Ana Lamond)
- - -
Young And Beautiful
The opulent theatrics of ‘Young and Beautiful’ were styled as the centrepiece to Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, as Daisy Buchanan’s memory cue lamenting eternal love. Reigning supreme in the trifecta of cinematic numbers she released around that period (see her tracks for Disney’s Maleficent’ and Tim Burton’s Big Eyes) it brews up all the most tantalising ingredients essential for a Lana ballad; decadent imagery, writhing insecurities and hair-raising orchestral trills.
Her dulcet tones simmer with lyrics like “I’ve seen the world, done it all, had my cake now / Diamonds brilliant and bel-air now…” and “Hot summer nights, mid-July / When you and I were forever wild”. Replete with devastating melancholy, it is both quintessential Fitzgerald and quintessential Lana.
It’s a shame the Academy Awards threw some major shade snubbing the track, since it can now be considered as one of the best original film tracks of the 21st century. (Chloe Waterhouse)
- - -
Appearing on the ‘Paradise Edition’ of second studio album ‘Born To Die’, ‘Cola’ is one of Lana’s best works, and is a very underrated track. Channelling drugs, sex, and escapism, ‘Cola’ stands on its own two feet as a staple Lana tune. Stood amongst huge album stand outs - ‘Summertime Sadness’, ‘Blue Jeans’, and ‘Off To the Races’, to list a few - ‘Cola’ is one that is often lost, but once discovered is almost impossible to forget.
From her soothing vocal delivery to the nonchalant and dream-like production ‘Cola’ presents Lana as the sensual goddess she so poetically emerges herself into on this album. Introductory lyrics “my pussy tastes like Pepsi cola” had teenage me questioning how she could make something so crude sound so blasé. Everything about this song feels like it was made for this special edition, it heightens all of the emotions you’ve already felt across the first 17 tracks, and lifts you alongside a journey of delicate harmonies, sombre string work and enchanting vocals. (Laviea Thomas)
- - -
It’s difficult to under-estimate the impact ‘Video Games’ had on its 2011 release. The moment Lizzie Grant fully merged with Lana Del Rey, it felt like an instant classic, straddling the dream pop blogosphere and the mainstream. Amid its cinematic rendering of a relationship that has long since lost its way, ‘Video Games’ recalled everyone from Mazzy Star to Nancy Sinatra, while containing an allure and mystery all of its own.
Unfurling a potent aesthetic, ‘Video Games’ revelled in a quasi-familiar retro-fetishism, one that seemed to prick the critics and doubters, but enchant fans. The opening point into a potent creative universe, Lana has created better songs than ‘Video Games’, but it remains a totemic, iconic release with good reason –it’s simply a shattering, immersive piece of pop culture. (Robin Murray)
- - -
‘Brooklyn Baby’ - part of one of her most impressive albums, 2014's ‘Ultraviolence’ - best shows the moment that Lana Del Rey moved from the cartoonish excellence of her debut albums into the sleek dream-scaping of her later works. Lana fans knew that there was subtlety and originality in ‘Born To Die’ and the ‘Paradise Extended Edition’, but it was single 'Brooklyn Baby', that proved those facts to a harder-to-please (read: duller) audience.
Languorous and spike-edged, the near-six-minute song combined a killer finger-picked guitar line and distant drum samples as the backdrop for Lana's heightened lyrics. It would be several years until she would touch the ingenuity of 'Ultraviolence' - and standout single 'Brooklyn Baby' - again, but no one doubted that she was capable of true genius any longer. (Jess Atkinson)
- - -
Born To Die
‘Born To Die’ is a sonic embodiment that latches onto the belief that authenticity is an illusion, a belief indelibly imbued in Lana’s timeless discography that continues to reimagine the possibilities of the modern-day pop.
The life of a popular musician is inherently theatrical, which Lana poignantly captures in her Gatsby-esque Born To Die. In the songs opening exchange, orchestral strings are perfectly tempered with breathless cries, eventually making way for vocals delivered with peppermint perfection. She plays a femme fatale, in a world of Hollywood archetypes, misspent adolescence, and cocaine smiles.
‘Born To Die’ is a chanteuse smile and knowing nod to the irony of it all. (Josh Crowe)
- - -
Mariners Apartment Complex
‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ is perhaps an unintentional reminder from Lana that pop is a verb; it’s a doing word. Never stationary, pop is an inherently innovative realm of music that Lana has sat in the hot seat of her whole career. She has seamlessly navigated her way through a pulpit of fame, media critique and commercial pressures, valiantly maintaining her pop status-quo, whilst developing the artistic persona we still adore today.
The Queen of Coney Island’s discography cascades from the frisson psych-rock highs in ‘Ultraviolence’, to the woozy lows of ‘Honeymoon’, amid a milieu of change, one constant throughout Lana’s entire discography is bloodshot realism. ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ is a sobering piano rock ballad, propelling us into the storm of love gone sour. Lana wields chaos in the palm of her hands, with a broody arrangement of sumptuous strings and piteous vocals.
The song wonderfully re-imagines the possibilities of a love song, stripping the woefully limiting and patriarchal nature of pop apart. In the track we encounter a Del Rey with paper-thin patience after her lover ‘mistook her kindness for weakness’- honesty this pure is an audible revelation. (Josh Crowe)
- - -