The 50 Best Lana Del Rey Songs
Lana Del Rey officially debuted in 2011 with her instant-classic single “Video Games,” and followed that with her groundbreaking 2012 album, Born to Die. Del Rey’s “gangster Nancy Sinatra” artistic approach was striking, and her music set her apart even further, a mix of torch ballads, trip-hop, and classic Sixties pop that stood in stark contrast to the glossy dance pop of the early 2010s. Over the course of her career so far, she’s developed into a bona fide musical visionary, packing her increasingly ambitious albums with brilliant songs that are steeped in her unique vision of Americana while exploring dark, obscure aspects of relationships most singers don’t have the courage to even go near.
To her ultra-devoted fans, she is the patron saint of the misunderstood. But along with forging a deep personal connection with her core audience, Del Rey’s baroque, retro-pop style, intense intimacy, and unapologetically honest lyrics have changed the sound of pop music in the past decade.
To honor the release of the singer’s ninth studio album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, we’ve ranked her 50 best songs, from modern standards to deep cuts to an unreleased gem we can’t get out of our heads.
“Heroin” is Del Rey’s favorite song on Lust for Life, and perhaps her saddest on record. The track, filled with references to Charles Manson and Mötley Crüe, and featuring a haunting chorus, is long-rumored to be about Del Rey’s ex-boyfriend Rob Dubuss, who died of a heroin overdose in late 2011. “I’m flyin’ to the moon again, dreamin’ about heroin/How it gave you everything and took your life away,” she sings on the first chorus. In the song’s second refrain, she makes herself the subject as she longs for change: “I hope that I come back one day/To tell you that I really changed, baby.” —T.M.
‘Chemtrails Over the Country Club’
On “Chemtrails,” Del Rey hypnotizes us into imagining her version of modern American life. She’s busy in swimming pools and sports cars, drinking coffee, doing laundry, washing her hair, and asking for your astrology sign. “It’s beautiful how this deep normality settles down over me,” she observes. It’s this sense of comforting regularity — as well as time she spent hanging with her friends and siblings — that made her choose “Chemtrails” as the title track for her seventh album. “It mentions wanting so much to be normal,” she said in 2020, “and realizing that when you have an overactive, eccentric mind, a record like Chemtrails is just what you’re going to get.” —A.M.
“Get Free” encapsulates the energy of Del Rey’s 2017 album, Lust for Life: her commitment to change, to taking an optimistic approach to life, and to moving “out of the black and into the blue.” Performing the the song live, she has noted that she wrote “Get Free” with Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston in mind. “It’s about people who don’t get to reach their full potential because they let controlling people stop them from being free,” she told NPR. In its relaxing outro, we hear the sound of waves hitting the beach and seagulls squawking, providing an optimistic close to the LP. —T.M.
‘Terrence Loves You’
“Terrence Loves You” is the gem Del Rey singled out as her personal favorite on Honeymoon. As she said, “It’s jazzy.” It’s full of Hollywood mythology, but especially David Bowie in his 1970s L.A. Diamond Dogs/Station to Station era, when he was the most cracked actor in town. She mourns her distant lover with a plea from Bowie’s “Space Oddity”: “Ground control to Major Tom!” (Terrence, Bowie’s influential big brother, died the year Lana was born.) You can hear this song was a labor of love for her. As she sings, “I lost myself when I lost you/And I still get trashed, darling, when I hear your tunes.” —R.S.
In 2012, pop music was bright and buoyant, not dark and brooding. But the Americana-obsessed, genre-defying Del Rey changed the rules of the game with Born to Die, which would go on to influence the next decade of pop. Even as the weakest single off the album, “Dark Paradise” became a Tumblr-era earworm with its dissonant combination of pulsating drums and cinematic violins. As soon as depressed teens on the Dark Paradise blogging site heard the New York singer croon “I wish I was dead,” she was crowned as their queen of sadness. —M.G.
One of Del Rey’s most heartfelt songs, “Blue Banisters” reflects on the love of female friendship and how it has remained a constant in her life as men have come and gone. When a lover neglects to “come back every May/Just to help me paint my banisters blue,” it’s the women in Del Rey’s life — Nikki Lane, her close friend Jenny, her sister Chuck — who return to paint over her blues with green and gray. Del Rey long ago proved herself to be a compelling lyricist, but here she shines as an exemplary storyteller as well. —C.S.
Del Rey’s ode to fellow modern-Americana mythologists the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a drowsy portrait of romantic hedonism that spins out of Canadian MC Tommy Genesis’ 2015 track “Angelina.” Images of late-night truck joyrides and positive COVID tests swirl over a minimalist backing that sounds like G-funk submerged in a motel pool; its eventual shape-shift into a surfer rave-up feels almost inevitable, Del Rey using the faded glamour of America’s golden era to cast a harsh light on its tattered, if still capable of romance, present.–M.J.
“Elvis is my daddy/Marilyn is my lover/Jesus is my bestest friend” may as well be a parody of early Del Rey lyrics, especially in such close proximity to both a Walt Whitman poem title and the phrase “drop it like it’s hot.” But that brashness helped make “Body Electric” a Paradise standout and a longtime fan favorite in Del Rey’s catalog. It also soundtracks one of the more iconic scenes in Del Rey’s Tropico short film, in which she stars as Eve alongside Shaun Ross’ Adam in a technicolor Eden. —C.S.
Del Rey has a well-earned reputation of playing the melancholic lover in her songs, but she flips the script in “Black Beauty,” an ode to a partner whose inner darkness stops him from seeing joy in the world around him. “Oh, what can I do?/Life is beautiful, but you don’t have a clue,” she bemoans on the chorus. Despite its dour themes and Alfred Hitchcockian imagery of Del Rey changing her appearance to fit her other half’s mood, the song carries a faint undercurrent of optimism, as Del Rey tries — perhaps in vain — to impart her own lust for life onto another. —C.S.
‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’
Del Rey and California are so inextricable it’s easy to forget she’s a New Yorker. But outsiders have a knack for pulling that cliche trick of distilling all that’s beautiful and brutal about the Golden State into something personal and true. The titular tunnel under Ocean Boulevard — closed since 1967, its Art Deco splendor left to crumble — is such an apt symbol it could feel hackneyed even if Del Rey wasn’t the first person smart enough to put it in a song. But in her hands, it anchors a mesmerizing ballad about that deep yearning to at least be seen, let alone remembered, by someone, anyone. —J.B.
You could collect at least five albums’ worth of material from all of the leaked unreleased Del Rey songs that exist online. “Serial Killer,” originally meant for her debut, Born to Die, stands out as one of the best, and one of the few she’s performed live. It peaks with an unforgettable midsong moan. “Serial Killer” is the only unreleased song on this list, but they’re all worth checking out — especially tracks like the dreamy TikTok favorite “Queen of Disaster,” the A$AP Rocky-featuring “Ridin’,” and the upbeat, Eighties-steeped “BBM Baby.” —T.M.
‘Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep‐sea fishing’
Throughout Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, Del Rey plays with the way her living experience and her mythology are intertwined. “Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing” takes on those who have criticized her dualities and contradictions over the years, with Del Rey defending her “good intentions” and casting herself as a “fallible deity” over a ghostly piano sample borrowed from the modern classical composer RIOPY’s 2019 track “Flo.” The combination of that music-box-recalling instrumental and Del Rey’s upper register gives “Grandfather” a wee-hours vibe, capturing the singer-songwriter at her most vulnerable and introspective.–M.J.
‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’
Del Rey is a huge Leonard Cohen fan. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t kind of break my heart that I never got to tell you how much you changed me,” she wrote after the legendary singer-songwriter passed in 2016. In 2013, she delivered this haunting rendition of Cohen’s classic 1974 song “Chelsea Hotel No. 2.” In the video she recorded when she shared the song, she looks like one of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea girls. Since Cohen’s passing, Del Rey has continued to pay homage by performing “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” with Cohen’s son, Adam Cohen. —M.G.
‘Fuck It I Love You’
The palpable desperation in Del Rey’s voice on “Fuck It I Love You” makes it one of the most powerful tracks on Norman Fucking Rockwell!. Throughout the song, you can hear her deep need to get that feeling of intense love off her chest as she rap-sings the track’s pre-chorus over a soft drumbeat, and later admits, “Wish that you would hold me or just say that you were mine.” She’s willing to lie to herself to just get that moment of satisfaction, as she makes references to California pop classics like the Mamas and Papas’ “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “California Dreamin’.” —T.M.
‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’ feat. Stevie Nicks
Del Rey and Stevie Nicks are a match made in rock heaven on this duet, which celebrates complicated love as only these two can. Del Rey references her own “Video Games” on the first verse as she laments how simple life used to be, while celebrating a love that feels good and true. Nicks joins in on the next verse to place herself in a romance with a blue-collar man. “My heart is soft, my past is rough,” sings Nicks, in a line that could fit in any of her solo material. Together, the pair wonder if it’s “wasted love” before settling on trying no matter what to make it work. As an added bonus, the song features blue and green references, hopefully an intentional callback to the “blue-green colors flashing” of Nicks’ Fleetwood Mac cut “Silver Springs.” —B.S.
‘The Blackest Day’
Tucked toward the end of Honeymoon, “The Blackest Day” captures Del Rey in deep desolation after a breakup. The song opens with the singer setting the scene before she admits that “ever since my baby went away, it’s been the blackest day.” Through the verses and over an orchestral backdrop, she attempts to live a fantasy where at least for a moment things are OK. The track’s bridge is Del Rey at her angriest. She’s willing to play mind games on her man. By the end of the song, Del Rey’s reached the final stage of grief: acceptance. “I’m on my own again,” she repeats, drowning in her sorrow. —T.M.
‘Pretty When You Cry’
“Pretty When You Cry” is one of her most raw moments on Ultraviolence. She made it up on the spot, improvising lyrics while guitarist Blake Stranathan played. “The way you heard it recorded is the way I freestyled it,” she told NPR. Her ragged voice cracks as she sings “All those special times I spent with you, my love/They don’t mean shit compared to all your drugs.” But her shaky vocal fits the character. As she explained, “The fact that I didn’t go back and try to sing it better is really the story of that song.” —R.S.
A cinematic overture and a deeply ingrained sense of nostalgia is a clear signal that Del Rey had made a standout track, and that’s the case with “Love.” In the dreamy ballad, she delivers a straightforward message about the sacred innocence of being young and in love. But unlike some of her other work, she’s dropped the victimization narrative here — only the endless possibilities of life after such a dramatic romance are in her purview. —I.K.
Del Rey’s discography is teeming with songs about the push and pull of toxic relationships with men, and the Norman Fucking Rockwell!cut “Cinnamon Girl” hones in on the crushing devastation that comes with it. As Del Rey mines through the chaos of her relationship with a drug-addicted lover, there’s an innate tenderness that surfaces despite the barrier of pills between them. And despite it all, there’s this lingering hope that her lover will be able to truly see her: “Hold me, love me, touch me, honey/Be the first who ever did.” —I.K.
The timeless love story between a woman and her ice cream man. In “Salvatore,” she’s riding in limousines with an Italian signore who gives her everything she craves: sex, death, and “soft ice creams.” “It has a little bit of an old-world Italian feel,” Del Rey told the BBC. “It’s filmic.” It’s a Neapolitan-style ballad where Lana says with a sigh, “Ciao, amore” to her Salvatore, between mouthfuls of soft-serve. “Catch me if you can, working on my tan,” Lana croons. “Dying by the hand of a foreign man happily.” —R.S.
‘This Is What Makes Us Girls’
“This Is What Makes Us Girls” is one of the earliest examples of Del Rey’s expert storytelling. In a song that unpacks the Lake Placid native’s struggles with addiction as a teenager in New York, she zeroes in on images like Pabst Blue Ribbon beers on ice and her friend’s “Bambi eyes” to create a critique of American girlhood. The symphonic quality of the song only pushes the story further — you can almost see the film reel of the former Lizzy Grant’s troubled past as crashing cymbals and tantalizing strings punctuate each verse. —M.G.
‘Shades of Cool’
Lana Del Rey songs sometimes sound like they were written by a ghost; “Shades Of Cool” sounds like it was written by someone actively ascending to heaven. A bluesy, candlelit vigil for a lover who may or may not show up, the track achieves transcendence with the chorus, during which the singer’s angelic soprano takes flight. Eventually you realize that it is not the sound of reunion but of resignation, and Lana crying with a sort of sovereignty: “But you/Are unfixable.” The song’s torrid bridge suggests that for at least one more night, nothing needs fixing. —C.P.
‘Gods & Monsters’
“Gods and Monsters” is Del Rey’s commentary on her experience entering the “garden of evil” of Los Angeles after the release (and success) of her debut Born to Die. Featured in the gorgeous short film Tropico, the song holds the same orchestral-pop backing as much of BTD with lyrics that reference her lost innocence: “I was an angel looking to get fucked hard.” Jessica Lange also gave the song new life with a spooky cover in American Horror Story: Freak Show in 2014. —T.M.
The title track and opening to Del Rey’s underrated third album is one of her most cinematic songs to date, making use of swooning strings and vocal overdubs across nearly six minutes. This is Del Rey at her most Lynchian, dreamy and seductive yet tortured and eerie all at once. “Our honeymoon, our honeymoon/Say you want me, too,” she repeats over and over, like a ghost haunting the Chateau Marmont. She even throws in some jazzy scatting at the end for the film-noir cherry on top. —C.S.
“Radio” is a rare, happy gem in the middle of Del Rey’s dripping-with-sadness debut. As the singer reflects on her journey of success, she showcases her vocal range; you can almost feel the warmth of the “paradise” she has found. Her syrupy voice and confident swagger carry clever lines like “Lick me up and take me like a vitamin/’Cause my body’s sweet like sugar venom” over the crackling static of an old radio, helping Del Rey channel her self-proclaimed “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” persona. —M.G.
‘Fucked My Way Up to the Top’
If you’re a woman in the arts who hasn’t been accused of exchanging sexual favors for your hard-won success, you’re probably pretty new here. Derided as an industry plant early on in her career — as if dating a label head who never signed her was her golden ticket — Lana Del Rey gave it to her detractors hard on this Ultraviolence track, in which she tells them what they want to hear. As usual, though, Del Rey is tongue firmly in cheek on this song; she’s not really copping to anything, she’s sneering at the naysayers — all while proving her exceptional musical chops. Lazy and languorous, Del Rey’s vocals pillow-whisper to you until building into a crashing crescendo that proves that this really is her show. —B.E.
“Very sexy,” Del Rey called this Honeymoon highlight, going all the way into her West Coast 1970s Endless Summer fantasy. In “Freak,” she invites her “easy rider” to come to California, where they can be freaks together by the ocean. She promises, “We could slow dance to rock music/Kiss while we do it/Talk till we both turn blue.” Her voice is so spaced out, she makes kissing sound like some incredibly taboo kink that only the freakiest of freaks do. She also directed the trippy video, where she joins a sex cult to worship at the feet of guru Father John Misty. —R.S.
The lyrical chaos of “Cruel World” sets the scene for the dark beauty of Ultraviolence. The song opens softly with Del Rey admitting it’s “all over now,” before going into a bass-heavy chorus as she sings one of her most indelible lyrics: “Because you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free … you’re fucking crazy.” Del Rey’s sadness echoes throughout the Ultraviolence standout. “The juxtaposition of those two worlds, the peaceful beginning and the chaotic chorus, it summed up my personal circumstances of everything going easily and then everything being fucked up,” Del Rey told Clash of the song. “It felt like me.” —T.M.
‘Happiness Is a Butterfly’
Del Rey’s epigraph goes back to 1848, from the New Orleans Daily Crescent: “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.” (The internet believes Nathaniel Hawthorne or Henry David Thoreau wrote this line, but they didn’t.) Lana goes searching for her butterfly in the eyes of a hot Hollywood bartender, over Jack Antonoff’s piano. She may not know the guy, but as she asks, “If he’s a serial killer, then what’s the worst that can happen/To a girl who’s already hurt?” —R.S.
What more can you say about a song that opens with the lyric, “My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola”? You can’t really top that. Del Rey sings from the perspective of a dainty, benevolent starlet seducing an older man whose “wife wouldn’t mind.” Because of its references to Harvey Weinstein in the pre-chorus — “Harvey’s in the sky with diamonds and he’s making me crazy” — she stopped performing the song altogether after allegations of sexual abuse against the film producer were made public. “Obviously, I don’t feel comfortable with it now,” she told MTV in 2017. —T.M.
‘Music to Watch Boys To’
In “Music to Watch Boys To,” Del Rey channels a mythical siren with languid vocals and an eerie flute. The song could soundtrack a noir film — which the singer basically replicates in an accompanying black-and-white music video. But the Honeymoon single’s strength is in its lyrics, which can be seen as a mature continuation of “This Is What Makes Us Girls.” There is power in the older Lana’s wisdom, as she delivers striking lines like “Play ’em like guitars, only one of my toys” and reminds listeners of her siren status: “I was sent to destroy.” —M.G.
“Summertime Sadness” is undoubtedly one of Del Rey’s most iconic songs, evoking wistfulness for the invincibility of an intensely passionate but ill-fated romance. The track itself features the cinematic Americana overtones that are hallmarks of her work — and you can envision Del Rey with her lover crusading carefree down the Pacific Coast Highway, wind blowing through their hair. The song is the crux of what makes Del Rey’s work so enthralling; in fact, it was so popular that it was remixed into a club-ready anthem that remains inescapable. —I.K.
The melody of “Cherry” represents the type of relationship she’s in: It’s moody, sexy, and dangerous. “A touch from your real love is like heaven taking the place of something evil and letting it burn off from the rush,” Del Rey sings over a swirl of rich strings and haunting trap drums. Ultimately, of course, the melancholy takes over, and the relationship is doomed. But the song remains a standout of her 2017 LP, Lust for Life. —I.K.
With this 2012 trip-hop ballad, Lana tells us that a romance ending in tragedy could be even more glamorous than a happily-ever-after. The song’s subject, a James Dean lookalike with a cowboy’s wayward energy, is a symbol of American ideals; his outsized presence is represented through lethargic surf-rock guitar plucks. To bring these classic archetypes into the rap-dominated 2010s, she positions herself as a hip-hop lover who romanticizes this “gangster” figure, calling him “so fresh to death.” As she pledges fidelity to this absentee lover, she proves that intense heartache can fuel even more intense devotion. —M.H.K.
Like so much of her sophomore album, this powerful song dives into the depths of a physically abusive relationship. Del Rey sings, “He hit me, but it felt like a kiss,” then adds, “He hurt me, but it felt like true love.” Accompanied by sorrowful violins, the track captures Del Rey willing to follow her “cult leader” partner to the end. She has long been criticized for seemingly “glorifying” domestic violence, but in reality, she’s “just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all around the world,” as she explained in a controversial 2020 letter. The song stands as one of her most grueling depictions of that idea. —T.M.
Ocean Blvd’s second single is a seven-minute freakout that encompasses Del Rey’s full musical and life journey in a near-Lynchian manner. The first half is a folk saga, as she recalls her life and battles, whether it’s her fraught relationship with her mother, her response to criticisms of her image, or romantic liaisons that have her “looking like a sidepiece at 33.” Her “experience of being an American whore” escalates into a sexy, psychedelic, trap outro she sings about a character named Jimmy, who treats her like she’s a drug. Eventually, she makes a threat only Lana Del Rey effectively can: “Your mom called/I told her/You’re fuckin’ up big time.” —B.S.
On “National Anthem,” Del Rey sings from the perspective of the “other woman” winning the battle in a love triangle, and standing strong in her power as the victor. “Boy, put your hands up/Give me a standing ovation,” Del Rey demands on the song as she rejoices about living in luxury. (A true slay.) The track’s video follows a fan-fiction portrayal of the forbidden love between John F. Kennedy (played by A$AP Rocky) and Marilyn Monroe (played by Del Rey). “It’s a love story for the new age/For the sixth page/We’re on a quick, sick rampage,” Del Rey sings in the track’s bridge. Marilyn is the new Jackie, but JFK’s fate is still the same. —T.M.
‘Young and Beautiful’
As the standout track of Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 epic film The Great Gatsby, “Young and Beautiful” is a lush string ballad that casts Del Rey as the tragic heroine in her own story — a parallel to the doomed Daisy and Gatsby relationship within the lavish setting of East Egg. She ponders whether this romance is based on youth, power, and money, or if it’s written in the stars. “Will you still love me when I’m young and beautiful?” she ponders with a dreamy lilt. Unfortunately, she already knows the answer to the question despite her hushed vocal declaration “I know you will,” as if she’s clinging to false hope. —I.K.
‘Mariners Apartment Complex’
Misconception and false projection have always been central to the Lana mythos, and she cuts both down in “Mariners Apartment Complex,” twisting Elton John like a knife: “I ain’t no candle in the wind.” It’s withering, ruthless, and then Lana opens herself up — in all her faults and glory — and extends a hand, singing, “Baby, baby, baby, I’m your man.” Against production that traverses the sunny, gnarly, psychedelic California sublime, “Mariners” feels like a pristine self-portrait: vivid and vulnerable, grace with just a little bite, and decorated with the best Anthony Kiedis line in decades, “Catch a wave and take in the sweetness.” —J.B.
‘hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have– but I have it’
Though Del Rey often uses different figures in her music to build a larger-than-life persona for herself, she invokes the muse of Sylvia Plath on this stripped-back ballad to paint a more barebones portrait of her depression and struggles with celebrity. Accompanied by sparse, muted piano, the Lana here is somber as she laments the confusion of being “a modern-day woman,” only pushing up into the wavering fringes of her voice when she unstably sings of being a “goddamn sociopath” in the chorus. Her voice then comes back down when she admits that she still has hope — for herself and for the world; it lands as her most vulnerable confession. —M.H.K.
‘Born to Die’
The title track off Del Rey’s major-label debut is a bold declaration that encompassed much of the singer’s early music: “Born to Die” is a melodramatic tribute to girls who consider themselves a bit “insane” and the maybe also toxic men who love them. A theatrical, trip-hop-infused cut that is lifted by flourishes of strings and a staggering beat, it’s as dour as all of her love songs, bracing itself for a bit of tragedy while in the throes of passion: “Oh, my heart it breaks/Every step that I take/But I’m hoping at the gates/They’ll tell me that you’re mine.” The video also set the tone for the visual aesthetic that would come to define her for years: A flower-crown-wearing Del Rey sits on her throne in a French palace between shots of her and a tattooed lover embracing in front of an American flag before their relationship descends into a bloody, fiery mess. —B.S.
“Venice Bitch” is Del Rey’s most experimental work yet, a 10-minute odyssey into her hazy mind where she aches for love while revisiting her Born to Die-era Americana (“You’re beautiful and I’m insane/We’re American made”). Alongside Jack Antonoff, she dabbles in strings, distortion, and “Crimson and Clover.” The psychedelic pop party at the end could easily be an outtake on the Sixties compilation Nuggets, but only Del Rey could deliver such a mystical line like “If you weren’t mine, I’d be jealous of your love.” If “All Too Well” is for autumn, “Venice Bitch” is for summer, especially on those late nights when you’re fresh out of fucks forever. —A.M.
Del Rey took aim at hipster Brooklyn with this Ultraviolence standout. The dreamy, guitar-driven cut has the song’s protagonist bragging about her cooler-than-ice life, jazz collection, Seventies nostalgia, and musician boyfriend. The lyrics are some of Del Rey’s funniest, toeing the line of satire in her music. The final stretch is a highlight, with her delicate vocal delivery being perfectly paired with Seth Kauffman’s gravely delivery. Kauffman does just fine as a last-minute replacement for the original male vocalist Del Rey intended to record with: Lou Reed. But the New York punk icon died the same day Del Rey had landed in NYC to record with him. With a nod to Reed early in the song, “Brooklyn Baby” ends up serving as a lovely tribute instead. —B.S.
‘High by the Beach’
Given her established affinity for gauzy sounds and West Coast aesthetics, it comes as no surprise that getting stoned seaside is Lana’s go-to form of escapism. But instead of completely descending into psychedelic dreamland as she does elsewhere on Honeymoon, “High by the Beach” is driven by a trap-inspired beat, whose anxious edginess underscores Lana’s bitter kiss-offs to an ex-lover. As she detachedly sings of being able to make her own money without him and finding a fresh start through revenge, Lana commits to blowing her past away like a puff of smoke. —M.H.K.
No one loves a small-town Americana escape-meets-Lolita story more than Lana Del Rey, and “Ride” delivers a swelling ballad that recalls the quiet brilliance of “Video Games.” It’s easy to hyperfocus on how the noirish Paradise single leans into Del Rey’s oversexed persona and her penchant for calling lovers “daddy” — but the most affecting moment of the song comes from perhaps the most direct lyrical moments. “I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy,” she confesses with a high-pitched lilt. It’s this stifling sentiment that drives the payoff of her escape. —I.K.
‘Off to the Races’
Lana Del Rey’s love of literature is underrated — but hyper-obvious — throughout her discography, but it’s on full display on this singsong-y track, which casts Del Rey as a life-hardened Lolita and her “old man” as a less gentile Humbert Humbert, gold chains and cigars included. While at first glance, Del Rey seems to be enthusiastically throwing herself into the role of a sexed-up Dolores Haze — with her bikinis and red dresses and leather — we soon realize that she’s playing a character, a more tragic version of Humbert’s nymphet who buys into his degeneration fully and happily. “Off to the Races” strips Lolita of her misplaced eroticism deftly and hauntingly — while also being an earworm for the ages, replete with a sugared rap cadence and underlying menace tucked into the basslines. —B.E.
‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’
Lana Del Rey opens her 2019 album of the same name with the stinging lyrics “Goddamn, man-child/You fucked me so good that I almost said ‘I love you,’” sung gently over a soft piano. Written and produced by both Del Rey and Jack Antonoff, the song is filled with a few Joni Mitchell references and cutting lyrics about a bad boyfriend Del Rel can’t let go of. But, ultimately, she settles for her man-child — “Why wait for the best when I could have you?” — when she knows she deserves better. This song (and the whole Norman Fucking Rockwell! album) confirmed that Lana was one of the best lyricists in pop, putting her own stamp on the history of confessional California poetry that Mitchell perfected on Blue. —A.W.
Ambition and romance are warring forces on “West Coast,” one of Del Rey’s most psychedelic, unconventionally structured songs. In the “A” section of the rock ballad, the surf guitar is driving and tense, as Lana broodingly whispers about abandoning her lover for her career, tempted by the West Coast’s glitzy siren call. Then the song switches into its more dreamy, languid “B” section, in which she drops into a breathy vocal style to sing about her “baby swinging” like they’re in a stoned fever dream. These two distinct styles keep switching back-and-forth in a hypnotic dance of tension and release. —M.H.K.
“The Greatest” is the climax of Norman Fucking Rockwell!, a brilliant bicoastal reflection of pop culture in the same vein as Bob Dylan’s “Murder Most Foul,” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and even Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Only for Del Rey, the music never died. She’s just thinking about L.A. and New York, missing “doing nothing” most of all. She conveys her lament over sweeping melodies and riffs on Dennis Wilson, “Life on Mars,” and Kanye West. Every line is quotable, particularly when she describes the culture as “lit” — the only time in history anyone has ever sounded cool using that word. —A.M.
The song that started it all: Lana Del Rey’s debut single under her new name created a whole aesthetic movement, changed the goal posts for pop music, and most importantly, turned the singer into a mysterious, viral phenomenon. Released in 2011, “Video Games” was a stark contrast to the EDM pop of her contemporaries; the “gangsta Nancy Sinatra,” as she described herself then, was a moody, sparse palate cleanser. Previewing the crux of Del Rey’s unique songwriting talent, “Video Games” has a vintage sound (layers of strings, harps, and haunting synths create a romanticized funeral march) paired with engagingly contemporary lyrical references. On this track, Del Rey is a girl seeming to already pine for the mundane aspects of a relationship, like watching him drink beer and play video games. Complementing the lush yet somber track was a video Del Rey made herself that carried the song to the top: She sings into a webcam between spliced shots of skateboarders, Hollywood, and paparazzi footage of a drunk Paz de la Huerta. —B.S.