Lana Del Rey is the undisputed queen of Hollywood sadcore, an artist who’s turned nostalgia into an art form and melancholy into pop gold. Since breaking through with her second album, the critically acclaimed Born to Die, in 2012, she’s won numerous awards, been nominated for six Grammys and a Golden Globe, and been praised as one of the best songwriters of her generation by none other than Bruce Springsteen. Here, we take a look back at her career with our pick of the 10 best Lana Del Rey songs of all time.
10. Old Money
Kicking off our list of the best Lana Del Rey songs of all time is Old Money, a song that Billboard describes as the most mellow track on the 2014 album, Ultraviolence. Steeped in nostalgia and featuring a heavenly vocal from Lana, it’s a lovely piece of pop candy.
9. Venice Bitch
At nine and a half minutes long, Venice Beach isn’t exactly your standard 3-minute pop tune. Neither does it sound like one. The lyrics are fragmented, the melodies are experimental, and the jump from the folky start to the trippy climax is disorientating. It shouldn’t really work, but Lana isn’t the queen of weird for no reason – she may subvert the norms, but she does it with enough creativity and style to pull it off.
8. National Anthem
After releasing the singles Video Games and Born to Die in 2011, expectations for Lana’s second album were running high. When Born to Die finally dropped in 2012, it didn’t disappoint. A slightly weird but irresistibly wonderful combination of triphop and baroque pop, it was the fifth best-selling album of 2012. By 2021, it had become the first debut album by a female artist to spend over 400 weeks in the Billboard 200. One of its highlights is National Anthem, a song that got as much attention for its video (which got named by countless music publications as one of the best videos of the decade) as the song itself.
7. Young and Beautiful
Named as one of the best Lana Del Rey songs of all time by laviasco.com, Young and Beautiful is a somber, hauntingly lovely song written about the fears of a young woman about whether love can last. Written for the soundtrack of the 2013 film “The Great Gatsby,” it peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 (Lana’s highest entry on the chart) and at No. 3 on the Hot Rock Song chart.
Most people remember Ride for its accompanying music video, which shows Lana enjoying the company of bikers, older men, and multiple other love interests. Lan herself admitted it could “raise a feminist eyebrow,” but went on to explain that “I believe in free love and that’s just how I feel. It’s just my experience of being with different kinds of men and being born without a preference for a certain type of person.” Video controversy aside, it’s a cracking song, with an exquisite vocal performance from Lana and some awesome arrangements courtesy of producer Rick Rubin. Released as the first single from the EP Paradise in September 2012, it reached No. 32 on the UK Singles chart and No. 21 on the US Billboard Hot Rock Songs.
5. West Coast
West Coast is another slice of Del Rey weirdness that manages to blend multiple genres (soul, post-punk, trip-hop, and even a touch of psychedelia for good measure) with sudden tempo changes and a complete disregard for conventional pop songcraft. The result is a superbly catchy, instantly memorable tune. Lana got the idea for the song after a guy at a beach party told her “They’ve got a saying: if you’re not drinkin’ then you’re not playin’.” Released as the lead single from her third studio album, Ultraviolence, West Coast debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 – her highest-charting debut on the chart. It was also her first single to enter the Rock Airplay chart, where it peaked at No. 26.
4. Summertime Sadness
As udiscovermusic.com says, Summertime Sadness is another song centered around Lana Del Rey’s romanticism. Sweetly melancholic but with a rich seam of euphoria running through it, it’s one of the most popular songs from Lana’s second studio album, Born to Die. Released as the album’s fourth single in June 2012, it charted highly across Europe, reaching the Top Ten in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, and Switzerland.
3. Born To Die
Up next is Born to Die, a song that pitches electronic music against dramatic string arrangments to come up with something positively cinematic in scope. The video, which features Lana sitting on a throne at the Palace Of Fontainebleau in France with two Bengal tigers by her side, is just as breathtaking as the song. In 2019, it was named by Billboard as one of the 100 songs that defined the 2010s and influenced “a sonic shift that completely changed the pop landscape.”
2. Blue Jeans
Blue Jeans is another song in which Lana spells out her need to love and be loved in return. Even if she has to wait until the end of time for the object of her affections to reciprocate her feelings (“I will love you ’til the end of time/I would wait a million years”), she’s prepared to do it. The lyrics might be a throwback to the 1950s, but it ties in perfectly with the vintage vibes of the arrangements. Released in April 2012 as the third single from Born to Die, it charted at No. 32 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 41 on the US Rock Digital Songs.
1. Video Games
As NME says, it’s a testament to Lana’s enduring myth that while her risible performance of Video Games on “Saturday Night Live” momentarily threatened to derail her status, it’s now become a minor footnote on her way to the top. Although inarguably a song that works better in studio form than live, Video Games is an intimate, baroque pop masterpiece. Widely considered to be Lana’s breakthrough song, it reached the Top Ten across multiple countries in Europe and peaked at No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100.