Lana Del Rey is one of those generation-defining artists that has produced a collection of albums that double as grandiose artistic statements and markers of the progression of her fans’ lives. Her fusion of morose Old Hollywood glamour, romanticized Americana nostalgia, and the classics of English literature into one singular aesthetic has anchored a sprawling discography that covers everything from jazz and surf rock to trip-hop and baroque pop. Stretching across eight major-label studio albums with a ninth on the way — Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd drops March 24 — Del Rey’s discography has expanded and evolved to include more mature versions of the characters and personas she introduced on her first couple of records. Whether she’s playing a troubled starlet, a jaded mistress, or an intensely reflective all-American songwriter, it is Del Rey’s masterful songwriting and hauntingly languid vocals that ground each role.
Del Rey boasts six career Grammy Award nominations (including an Album of the Year nod for 2019’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!) and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song (“Big Eyes,” 2015). Her songwriting straddles the line between universality and hyper-specificity by transposing her explorations of love, lust, fame, and America through cinematic production and allusions to familiar cultural touchstones like “Yosemite” or “Blue Jeans.” Del Rey’s attention to the lyrical, sonic, and aesthetic moods of her art has made her one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and criticized artists of the 21st century — and she has the stacked catalog to back it all up.
Ahead of the release of Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, Uproxx has ranked Lana Del Rey’s best songs of her career so far.
40. “Let Me Love You Like A Woman”
Released as the lead single for Chemtrails Over The Country Club, her seventh studio album, “Let Me Love You like A Woman” basks in the gentle familiarity that characterized Del Rey’s last two records. With a simple melody and production that plays on the unfussy arrangements of Norman Fucking Rockwell, “Let Me Love You like A Woman” finds Del Rey embracing the more delicate aspects of her femininity and exploring her capacity to give genuine love to her partner after taking some time to work on herself.
39. “Looking For America”
Released as a standalone single in support of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Victims Relief Fund, El Paso Community Relief Fund, and the Dayton Foundation, “Looking For America” finds its charm in a vision of America that rejects the romanticism Del Rey often employs when waxing poetic about the country. “I’m still looking for my own version of America / One without the gun, where the flag can freely fly / No bombs in the sky, only fireworks when you and I collide,” she sings.
38. “You Must Love Me (From Evita)”
This cover of the iconic piano ballad from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita is equally indicative of the timelessness of Webber’s best work, and Del Rey’s singular ability to infuse any song with her own specific aesthetic of gloom and glamour. Her delivery of “Scared to confess what I’m feeling / Frightened you’ll slip away / You must love me, you must love me,” is heartbreaking not only because of how cutting Webber’s lyrics are, but also because of how seamlessly the song fits in the larger thematic explorations of trust and love in Del Rey’s own oeuvre.
37. “Chemtrails Over The Country Club”
Although this song and its accompanying album were a bit maligned by critics and fans alike, they’re gems in their own right. “Chemtrails” takes the escapist quality of Del Rey’s earlier love songs and turns them into mature, introspective ruminations of God and life itself. Her voice billows out over the production in echoes, almost drowning the ends of her phrases. Nevertheless, the soft piano and lullaby-esque melody make for a sweet moment of juxtaposition.
36. “Blue Banisters”
On the title track for her eighth studio album, Del Rey trades the glitz of Hollywood and the allure of Coney Island for the quaint simplicity of the Midwest. Anchored by references to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, this somber number uses barely-there organ and piano to trace the stories of Del Rey’s friends against her idyllic backdrop of Middle America.
35. “Season Of The Witch”
A cover of Donovan’s original released as a part of the soundtrack for Guillermo Del Toro’s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, “Season Of The Witch” presents Del Rey with a relatively rare chance to play up her campiness and explore more theatrics in her vocal performance. She maneuvers from a husky lower register to reverb-drenched high notes across the chugging psychedelic-lite production.
34. “Black Beauty (Lakechild Remix)”
Although the Cedric Gervais remix of “Summertime Sadness” is probably still Del Rey’s most recognizable song, Lakechild’s rework of “Black Beauty” is far superior. Atmospheric synths and syncopated hi-hats provide a smoother and softer EDM update to this ballad that tracks Del Rey’s helplessness when it comes to handling a volatile and tormented lover.
33. “Tulsa Jesus Freak”
This selection from Chemtrails Over The Country Club finds Del Rey pleading with her lover to help her realize her vision of them as the classic American couple. They’ll be Christian (“You should stay real close to Jesus”), traversing Oklahoma on their way “back to Arkansas,” and, well, “white hot forever.” The open-endedness of what “white hot forever” means, along with her liberal stylistic implementation of auto-tune, adds a level of freedom to a song that is so specifically concerned with recreating, in Del Rey’s view, the definitive aspects of Americanism, and, thus, the elements that will secure longevity for her and her lover’s relationship.
32. “Music To Watch Boys To”
Del Rey’s loyalty to, for lack of a better word, shitty men has been the downfall of nearly all of the characters she has played across her discography. In “Music To Watch Boys To,” the second single from her Honeymoon album, she crafts her own soundtrack to watch these men exit her life once again. A robust woodwinds section grants the track some cinematic heft, but it’s her enervated delivery of the verses set against a more urgent chorus that makes the song such an arresting experience.
31. “When The Word Was At War We Kept Dancing”
Escapism is one of the grounding themes of Del Rey’s songwriting, and on this cut from the oft-derided Lust For Life, she infuses that guiding principle with a level of sweetness that recalls the saccharine nature of Born To Die. On one level, “dancing” acts as a moment of reprieve from the terrors of war, but “dancing” is also a proxy for sustaining vigilance in the face of what could be the end of the world as we know it. From Del Rey’s lulling delivery to the darkness of the song’s production, “When The World Was At War” is an overlooked jewel in her catalog.
The beauty of Lana Del Rey’s songwriting lies in how her lyrics are both intertextually rich and self-referential across her discography. “Carmen,” — inspired by Prosper Mérimée’s story of the same name, Nabokov’s Lolita, the mythology of Coney Island, and Blanche DuBois from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire — synthesizes all the key components of Born To Die-era Del Rey. She packages the terrors of sex and alcohol into the character of a young prostitute who cannot escape an imminent feeling of doom looming over her life. It’s dark stuff that sounds pretty, and that’s kind of Del Rey’s bread and butter.
29. “National Anthem”
There’s no way to make a list of Lana Del Rey’s best songs without including “National Anthem.” This is probably one of her most widely known songs, and it’s more than likely the first Lana Del Rey song a person may have come across. How could you not love “National Anthem?” It’s tongue-in-cheek, hopeful, lovestruck, and, well, anthemic. Emile Haynie’s gaudy production filters Del Rey’s filtration with the concept of love through the tragic story of John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps the greatest synthesis of her longing for Old Hollywood glam and the core tenets of American iconography, “National Anthem” is quintessential Lana Del Rey.
28. “The Next Best American Record”
One of the most self-aware songs in her discography, this song from Del Rey’s Grammy-nominated Norman Fucking Rockwell finds the singer mining the 1970s for nuggets of nostalgia to craft “The Next Best American Record.” With a sweeping, ethereal chorus and lyrics built on references to Led Zeppelin and The Eagles, “The Next Best American Record” is the kind of “America as aesthetic” anthem that only Del Rey knows how to make.
27. “The Blackest Day”
Del Rey has her fair share of lengthy songs in her catalog, and some of those songs feel every second of their runtime. “The Blackest Day,” however, is probably the quickest six-minute song of the century. Is that hyperbole? Maybe. But there is something to be said about how meticulous this song’s pacing is; the joint drops of the chorus and post-chorus make for a hazy trap-pop daydream that unfurls itself until Del Rey is left on her own again by the song’s end.
26. “Pretty When You Cry”
This cut from Ultraviolence is a histrionic rock ballad that plunges itself into an abyss of hopeless dolor for the duration of its nearly four-minute length. Del Rey claims that this song was recorded in one take, and honestly (despite her tendency to lean into hyperbole), it’s believable. It’s the only way to truly deliver such a cutting and visceral performance, and the only way to make admittedly mundane lyrics feel otherworldly.
25. “Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It”
Whenever Del Rey gets political, she can’t help but approach those themes from a frustratingly white feminist perspective. In “Hope Is A Dangerous Thing,” Del Rey explores how her experiences and observations of Hollywood should decimate her capacity for hope, yet it remains. With references to Sylvia Plath and Slim Aarons, Del Rey’s take on women’s capacity for hope is set in a specifically white American context, but she’s self-aware enough to not make this a universal anthem — that specificity helps the song stay afloat in its whirlpool of piano balladry and muted optimism.
24. “God Knows I Tried”
It feels as though Del Rey’s fanbase is pretty ambivalent on Honeymoon, but the cinematic melodrama of the album easily helps the set rank among her best. “God Knows I Tried,” an utterly desolate and forlorn ballad, captures a kind of premature introspection that feels dramatic yet uncomfortably real. Her repetition of the title throughout the song becomes increasingly frantic and apologetic — her guilt and anguish are not just palpable; they’re infused into each chord of this gorgeous track.
23. “Diet Mountain Dew”
Complete with notes of boom-bap and bratty girlish vocal inflections, “Diet Mountain Dew” is the kind of sing-songy rumination on temptation that makes Del Rey’s earlier explorations of lost innocence so enrapturing. Her cadence falls somewhere between rapping and conversational, but it’s the cavalier delivery of lines like “let’s take Jesus off the dashboard / Got enough on his mind” that truly elevates the song. The premise is simple — does Del Rey give into a relationship she knows isn’t good for her or not — and that simplicity is the song’s secret weapon.
A languid ballad that finds some bite in a melancholy horn section, this selection from Blue Banisters features one of Del Rey’s best vocal performances. She takes on a reflective tone, meandering through an extended metaphor of Arcadia as America as home — familiar thematic territory that gets a rawer look on a track that strips her voice of the filters that populated her earlier albums. Outside of an outro that seems to misunderstand why her infamous “question for the culture” was met with so much backlash, “Arcadia” is an easy standout from Blue Banisters.
21. “Norman Fucking Rockwell”
A surprise nominee for Song of the Year at the 2020 Grammy Awards, the title track from Del Rey’s sixth major label studio album finds her steadily chipping away at her man’s overblown ego and God complex. The cello is the standout in the song’s arrangement — sweeping across the piano line and accenting the disdain in Del Rey’s voice when she delivers lines like “Goddamn man-child / You act like a child even though you stand six-foot-two.” As far as her title tracks go, Del Rey rarely falters, and this one is no exception.
“Ride” may very well still hold the title for Del Rey’s most devastatingly morose ballad, and it wears that crown proudly. Covering familiar topics such as parental troubles, alcoholism, and feelings of placelessness, “Ride” helps Del Rey expand her typical template to include notes of soul and country. The song truly hits its stride with the drum licks that introduce the chorus and inject the track with a sense of urgency that frames the necessity of Del Rey’s commitment to the “ride.” She’s on the hunt for freedom and looking to the expanse of American nostalgia and iconography to complete her quest.
19. “White Dress”
The beauty of Del Rey’s more recent albums is how authentic her maturation feels. On “White Dress,” a plaintive number that finds her reflecting on her 19-year-old Lizzy Grant days, Del Rey relies on the same raspy whispery falsetto that she used to ironically signal youth and naïveté on her first few records. Here, when she switches between that falsetto and a chestier vocal approach in the final chorus, she uses her different registers as markers of time — what used to be caricature becomes a tragic romanticization of her past self, and it’s beautiful.
18. “Doin’ Time”
This cover of Sublime’s 1997 track is easily among the best career decisions Del Rey has made in the past five years. Her breezy take on the reggae-inflected SoCal classic is as shimmery as her vocal approach on Born To Die, but it doesn’t sacrifice the undercurrent of desperation that anchors the song’s narrative of a man whose girlfriend treats him “like shit.” Drenched in reverb and accented with her trademark sultry falsetto, “Doin’ Time” is, well, sublime.
17. “Gods & Monsters”
Any song covered by Jessica Lange on American Horror Story is guaranteed a spot on a ranking of Lana Del Rey’s best songs. Between references to the Biblical story of Adam & Eve and allusions to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Del Rey’s lyrics sink their teeth into the languorous string-accented production as her voice takes on a tone that is equal parts sardonic and contemplative. Also, is there any lyric that encapsulates the ethos of Lana Del Rey like, “like a groupie incognito posing as a real singer / life imitates art?” Didn’t think so!
16. “High By The Beach”
Honeymoon marked Del Rey’s return to the trap and trip-hop-inflected beats of Born to Die and lead single “High By The Beach” is the rare straightforward pop play from Del Rey that lands exactly as intended. Before she assisted Taylor Swift on a cocaine beach love song (“Snow On The Beach” from Midnights), Del Rey used whirring snares and a dreamy vocal performance to shape her own marijuana beach love song. If there’s a post-Born To Die song that reminds us of how versatile Del Rey’s pen is and how capable she is when it comes to assuming different pop star templates, it’s “High By The Beach.”
15. “Born To Die”
From those whimsical opening strings to the thumping percussion and Del Rey’s opening invocation of “feet don’t fail me now / take me to the finish line,” “Born To Die” remains a transcendent single in Del Rey’s catalog. The title track from her era-defining major label debut studio album finds Del Rey riffing on “Amazing Grace” to liken her reckless love to a higher power — even if she is aware of her and her lover’s mortality. At once languid and seductive, “Born To Die” revels in the high drama of young love and the heightened emotion that comes with finding a love that will move you to consider how you spend the rest of your time in this plane of existence.
14. “Off To The Races”
There are very few modern pop songs that both have their own fan-created mythology and sound as if they are conjuring a new mythology in their lyrics and sound. “Off To The Races,” a seminal cut from Born To Die, is one of those songs. A track that birthed a million Tumblr moodboards, “Off To The Races” combines sweeping strings, charismatic intonation, and a breathless survey of a fiery young romance that’s probably just lust into one of Del Rey’s defining songs.
13. “Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd”
Is it too early to call the lead single from Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd one of Del Rey’s best songs? I say no! The title track from her forthcoming record blends the timeless whimsy of “Love” with the urgent focus on memory that has anchored her last two albums. Her repetition of “don’t forget me” doubles as a reference to Harry Nilsson song of the same name and a demand that Del Rey herself be preserved for future consideration as she does with American musical iconoclasts in her own oeuvre — it’s also, on a more micro level, a message to her lover to hold on to the relationship that they have.
12. “Terrence Loves You”
How is a song that features a wistful saxophone and an interpolation of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” not one of Del Rey’s best? One of the strongest ballads in her discography, “Terrence Loves You” finds Del Rey turning to jazz to move forward in the face of abandonment. “Well, I lost myself when I lost you / But I still got jazz when I’ve got the blues,” she croons. The song’s sparse verses swell into a bridge that uncovers the bare humanity in the theatricality of Bowie’s intergalactic metaphors.
Yes, “A&W” is barely a month old, but it’s already one of Del Rey’s strongest songs. Split into two parts — “American Whore” (an understated acoustic ballad) and “Jimmy” (trap-inflected groove that marks a slight uptick in tempo) — “A&W” chronicles the loss of innocence as fond childhood memories transform into the pitfalls of sex addiction. Del Rey pairs the Americana symbolism that anchors most of her work with a collagist semi-stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting to create a towering achievement with “A&W.”
10. “Blue Jeans”
One of the few tracks that encapsulate all the formative elements of early Lana Del Rey, “Blue Jeans” synthesizes her alternative-hip-hop-meets-chamber-pop production style with an all-consuming devotion to a decidedly good-for-nothing man. The resulting piece is a song that feels as familiar as a pair of old Levi’s. “Love you more than those bitches before / Say you’ll remember, say you’ll remember / Oh, baby, ooh — I will love you till the end of time,” she croons — planting the seeds of a lyrical throughline concerned with preserving her memory in the minds of those she loves the most.
9. “Brooklyn Baby”
This fan-favorite from Ultraviolence is Del Rey’s greatest embrace of the quiet. Gone are the bombastic hip-hop influences of “National Anthem” and the surf rock rhapsody of “West Coast.” Here, she opts for a dreamy soundscape peppered with bits of scatting, ethereal strings, and a foundation of plucky guitars and chugging percussion. In this imagining of the quiet, Del Rey finds the perfect pocket to deliver a satire of a painfully unaware Brooklyn girl (probably from Williamsburg, let’s be real) who embodies all the stereotypes of annoying white Brooklynites: musician boyfriends, a collection of rare jazz records, and, of course, hydroponic weed.
8. “The Greatest”
On this cut from Norman Fucking Rockwell, Del Rey translates her penchant for nostalgia to a borderline apocalyptic scene. “I’m facing the greatest / The greatest loss of them all / The culture is lit and I had a ball / I guess I’m signing off after all,” she sings with a wink and a shrug. It’s equal parts cheeky and somber — a song that bemoans the chaos of the present and glorifies the past while using a surf rock arrangement to highlight the haze of the space in between.
7. “Young And Beautiful”
Let’s just get this out of the way now — Lana Del Rey should have an Oscar. “Young And Beautiful,” the defining song for The Great Gatsby (2013), should have won Best Original Song. Nonetheless, the enduring impact of this song, in addition to how well it’s held up over the past decade, are worth more than any award. An orchestral exploration of the limitations of true love and the starkness of mortality, “Young And Beautiful” pulls off the tricky balance of preserving the general ethos of Del Rey’s artistry while filtering it into a palatable bite-sized chunk of easily accessible mainstream pop.
A return to the celestial cinema of Born To Die, “Love,” the lead single and opening track from Lust For Life, finds Del Rey blending references to an idealized version of America’s past with notes of doo-wop influences to create her purest and sweetest love song. As she sings in the chorus, “it’s enough to be young and in love.” No longer concerned with the darker edges of romance, Del Rey uses a lush landscape — courtesy of Emile Haynie, Rick Nowels, and Benny Blanco — to create a dedication to a generation’s commitment to preserving the sanctity of wanderlust and young love.
5. “Shades Of Cool”
A brooding rock waltz in which Del Rey laments over her inability to fix her lover’s gloomy worldview and bleak disposition, “Shades Of Cool” is arguably Del Rey’s greatest achievement as a vocalist. The song features an expressive vocal performance that ranges from warbling reverb-soaked falsetto to dreary dirges in the verses. It’s the freewheeling electric guitars, however, that act as the perfect complement to Del Rey’s heart-wrenching vocals.
4. “West Coast”
One of the more underappreciated moments of 2010s pop music was the debut of “West Coast.” It simply cannot be overstated how much of sonic departure this jarring psychedelic surf rock ballad was from the trip-hop pop glam of Born To Die. Serving as the lead single from Ultraviolence, “West Coast” packs shocking tempo shifts, pounding drums, and multiple filter-laden guitar and vocal tracks into just over four minutes that exalt the lowkey thrills of West Coast.
3. “Venice Bitch”
Running nearly ten minutes, this standout from Norman Fucking Rockwell finds Del Rey at her bravest. “Venice Bitch” is the rare song in which an artist truly allows themselves to sink into an atmosphere of their own creation, becoming both citizen and ruler of their own metaphorical world which acts as microcosm of their deepest desires, fears, and needs. With references to everyone from Robert Frost (“nothing gold can stay”) to Tommy James and the Shondells (“crimson and clover”), “Venice Bitch” hinges on nostalgia, and mines something new out of that glorification of the past. She isn’t just coasting on general nostalgia; she’s finding ways to extract present-day happiness from the snapshots of memories that her and her lover share. Arguably her most ambitious track until “A&W” rolled around, “Venice Bitch” is a career highlight.
2. “Video Games”
Did you really think this song wouldn’t be on this list? One of the defining pop songs of the 2010s and Del Rey’s career alike, “Video Games” is undoubtedly a classic. It’s a torch song for the Tumblr era; an aggrandizement of the allure of glamorous tragedy, the depths of love, and the idea of giving up your own self in hopes of securing something greater. With Nancy Sinatra-esque vocals and production that slowly balloons into a deliciously dramatic slice of baroque pop, “Video Games” is perfectly executed.
1. “Get Free”
When a song can not only withstand controversy, but effortlessly use that controversy to add new pockets of nuance to its manifesto, it’s a special song. “Get Free,” the closing track on Lust For Life and the subject of a controversy stemming from melodic similarities to Radiohead’s “Creep,” marks the definitive thematic turning point in Del Rey’s discography. After nearly four albums’ worth of harrowing looks at the destructive nature of fame, the perils of codependency and drugs, and the general darkness of early adult life, Del Rey finds solace in the simple act of committing to believing in the possibility of happiness. The song’s groovy bass adds some levity to the affair, but it’s Del Rey’s subtly hopeful vocal performance that helps fully round out the song’s gorgeous lyrics. Her “modern manifesto” is to “take the dead out of the sea / and the darkness from the arts” and “move out of the black / and into the blue.” After spending so much time playing the games of people who sought to control her life, Del Rey is finally choosing and prioritizing herself, thus setting the foundation for the rich introspection and self-reflection of Norman Fucking Rockwell, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, Blue Banisters, and, now, Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.