Six definitive songs: The ultimate beginner’s guide to Lana Del Rey
“Live fast. Die young. Be wild. Have fun.”― Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is one of the most celebrated musicians to have emerged over the last decade, which is for good reason. The singer-songwriter has carved herself a niche in music like no other in contemporary pop music, an which has seen the esteemed artist become a certified festival headliner the world over.
Del Rey’s real name is Elizabeth Grant and she has released six albums to date with her seventh, Chemtrails over the Country Club, being due this September. The journey was kickstarted with her independent Lana Del Ray album in 2010, a record which arrived before the artist changed her stage name from ‘Ray’ to ‘Rey’ and, since 2012’s Born To Die, she has been on an unstoppable path to stardom.
Here, we are revisiting a number Del Rey’s previous work and creating a definitive beginner’s guide from each of her six records to date, providing the ultimate beginner’s guide to the wonderous Lana Del Rey.
Lana Del Rey’s six definitive songs:
‘Yayo’ is one of the most integral pieces that Del Rey has ever made.
First appearing on her EP Kill Kill in 2008, a period when the musician was using her real name Lizzy Grant, the song has gone on to also feature on 2010’s independent release Lana Del Ray as well as her 2012 EP Paradise which was released via Interscope.
The song is one of the few that was penned solely by Del Rey and proved that she does have the capabilities to write songs independently but, instead, prefers to write material alongside other artists in a collaborative effort. Although ‘Yayo’ was not a commercial success with its first two releases, it became a surprise hit in France in 2012.
The cinematic sounding track helped established Del Rey’s unique brand of ’50s inspired sound that would go on to become her trademark.
‘Video Games’ (2011)
Following the acclaim that her 2010 release received, Del Rey was then signed by Interscope and released her major-label debut Born To Die in 2012. ‘Video Games’ was the lead single taken from the record which was shared the previous winter and is viewed as being her breakthrough hit. The track is widely celebrated as not only arguably Del Rey’s finest moment but one of the greatest songs released by any artist in the 2010s.
When asked by Q magazine why she thought people resonated so strongly with this song which had seen her go from obscurity to the mainstream, Del Rey replied: “I know that it’s a beautiful song and I sing it really low, which might set it apart. I played it for a lot of people (in the industry) when I first wrote it and no one responded. It’s like a lot of things that have happened in my life during the last seven years, another personal milestone. It’s myself in song form.”
‘Video Games’ was not just a hit with critics but it was also a huge commercial success across Europe, reaching number one in Germany as well as top ten positions in Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom which set Del Rey’s career into the stratosphere.
‘West Coast’ (2014)
After the success of her major-label debut, all eyes were set on what Del Rey’s next move and, in typically defiant mood, she delivered a masterpiece in the form of her follow up LP Ultraviolence with ‘West Coast’ being the highlight from the record.
The track is a personal one like most of Del Rey’s work and is about her leaving New York for Los Angeles’ Koreatown that sits on the edge of Hancock Park with her sound mixing the romanticism that is intrinsincly linked to both cities.
“Being in Los Angeles is where I felt like the record was starting off,” she once said when asked about the track, adding: “It was west coast-driven. Though it actually enhanced my love of New York as well, which was good because I was trying to get that loving feeling back for New York.
“Being in Los Angeles calmed me down when I was making the record, I felt really good about bringing this east coast flavour into this West Coast sound, having this little amalgamation.”
‘High by the Beach’ (2015)
‘High by the Beach’ featured on Del Rey’s fourth record Honeymoon and saw her progress even further as an artist and become an iconic figure across the globe. The sun-drenched track sees Del Rey make a more contemporary sounding track than her previous work, with the up-tempo ballad showing that she was not a one-trick pony.
She told Beats 1 DJ Zane Lowe about the origins of the song: “It started with the chorus,” she said. “I was driving by the beach a lot. This was probably one of the last ones on the record. Even with the harmonies, it almost sounded monotone. But with the beat, it has this trap influence.”
Although the track wasn’t a commercial hit, it has become a real favourite among her adoring fanbase as well as one that was also acclaimed by critics as Del Rey proved that she could turn her hand to anything and carve gold.
For her next album, 2017 effort Lust For Life, Del Rey experimented with more contemporary sounds once more especially on the title track which featured a guest appearance from The Weeknd but ‘Love’ saw her return to the cinematic sound which had made her name in the first place and is one of her greatest efforts to date.
The track was famously leaked which meant that she was forced into putting the track out ahead of schedule and it unintentionally becoming the first single from her fifth record.
“I really love the message and I love the sound of the record, it has such a mix of everything I really love sonically. It came out a little bit earlier than I thought though,” she said to BBC Radio 1 within spits of laughter. “It just started leaking the other day so we just got ahead of it and put it out! With social media, it goes everywhere before you can even say anything about it.”
‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ (2019)
‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ is the titular track from Del Rey’s latest album which is her most complete album yet and proved that she is a once in a generation talent. The track is an ode to the late legendary American painter Norman Rockwell and was nominated for ‘Song of the Year’ at the Grammy’s, with the album also receiving a nomination at the ceremony.
In an interview with Zane Lowe prior to the release of the track, Del Rey commented on why she felt such a connection to Rockwell: “Working with Jack Antonoff, I was in a little bit of a lighter mood because he was so funny. So the title track is called ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ and it’s kind of about this guy who is such a genius artist but he thinks he’s the shit and he knows it and he, like, won’t shut up talking about it.”