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The 50 Best Lana Del Rey Songs

The finest moments so far from the reigning queen of summertime sadness

The 50 Best Lana Del Rey Songs

Lana Del Rey


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.

Hear this playlist on Spotify.

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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.


‘West Coast’

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’

“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.


‘Video Games’

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.