Who is Lana Del Rey? Few new artists of the s have emerged so fully formed, with a voice and image beyond their years. To her devoted fans, she inspires near-religious fervor , like a millennial Stevie Nicks with the aura of Princess Diana. The song set off one of the most controversial debut years of any artist in recent memory. Born to Die , her major-label debut, arrived with impossibly high levels of both hype and trepidation , to decidedly mixed initial reactions. And then, with her sophomore LP Ultraviolence , she burned it all down, trading the hip-hop beats for fiery psych-rock guitars, on songs where she had no interest in coming off as sympathetic.
Born to Die has stayed on the Billboard albums chart for most of this decade , never leaving the popular consciousness. Here, Billboard tries to examine every facet of her identity with equal consideration -- the pop star, singer-songwriter, visual artist, icon. This list includes every commercially available Lana Del Rey song, excluding remixes, YouTube uploads, unreleased tracks, and several Great Gatsby soundtrack cuts that merely sample her voice.
A portrait of two unfulfilled artists trapped in an equally dead-end relationship. Lana Del Rey, We Fall , By , Lana was regularly exploring far more nuanced artistic territory. The lowest moments on Paradise felt like a retread of Born to Die , with the same musical elements shuffled around.
Lana describes her jealousy while dating a musician, feeling like a secondary concern to his art. The production is business as usual -- piano, trap drums -- as is the Rich Lee-directed video, even with its admittedly beautiful digital shots of the L. Lana Del Rey, Blue Madonna , The two have real vocal chemistry, but the music feels too off-kilter to be the anthemic pop single it wants to be.
Each chorus brings an unnecessary key change, each more disorienting than the last. Big Eyes was inspired by the life of the artist Margaret Keane, whose signature paintings of big-eyed children became an American phenomenon, all while her husband spent years taking credit for her work. A tender, minor-key ballad about finding true love after some troubled times. Lana would distance herself from such overt displays of patriotism just a few years later. Honeymoon is an excellent album, but starting with "Art Deco" at track seven, it can get too laid-back for its own good.
She is the girl in my music, and I am the guy in her music. Lana Del Rey, Wanderer , Lana only sings a few lines, mostly backup, but her presence lends crucial moral support. This Lust For Life promo single might be the least critical ode to the groupie since the heyday of glam metal.
Lana Del Rey, Starboy , Eliot poem about the fleeting, circular nature of time. The titular chorus is mesmerizing, as Del Rey coos in a high falsetto while trap hi-hats twirl around her. Sometimes you need to visualize a future before you choose not to go down that path. Stevie Nicks, Lust For Life , Lizzy Grant. The Weeknd, Lust For Life , For years, listeners debated -- was Lana glamorizing feminine suffering?
Or was she simply expressing her honest, morbid thoughts? But as she recalls the most idyllic moments of a relationship, she also remembers that it ended. Nostalgia has its limits, but the past lives on through them, and us, to rewrite the future.
In those early years, Lana made you believe she was living out her Hollywood fantasies, whether you liked her or not. Heartbroken over an ex-boyfriend, she discovers herself through dance and music. All three icons appear in Tropico , the short film directed by Anthony Mandler, where Lana portrays a modern Eve, cast out of the garden of Eden.
In the real world, she becomes a stripper who liberates herself by robbing her rich older clients, and is then readmitted to heaven. Diss tracks -- if you even call this one -- rarely contain this much self-loathing. Lana spends most of the song taking shots at her protagonist, a singer with more vanity than talent. Watching the kids celebrate at Coachella, Lana wonders what their future will look like. Call her naive, but Lana Del Rey chooses positivity; she believes in the power of art and symbols. On Born to Die , Lana sang about the fame and fortune she was on the verge of attaining.
Over stunning jazz piano chords, and offbeat drums sampled from a Captain Beefheart record , his weathered voice gives way to her smooth, silky tone, becoming as much her song as his. Womack and Del Rey hold hands tightly throughout, willing the experience not to end.
On much of Ultraviolence , Lana plays a tragic, almost villainous figure. With its lush pianos and mellotrons, self-destruction has rarely sounded so beautiful. Lust For Life found Lana reassessing the role of her music, and what it means to the culture. This new Lana is no longer tormented by love, content to simply indulge her music in the concept of romance. Lana makes just the slightest of changes to the '96 original -- she lowers the tempo, and her production is more atmospheric -- but she breathes a dizzying amount of new life into the song.
In the verses, Lana sings about getting into trouble as an adventurous teenager. In one recording, Lana covers two inspirations -- Andrew Lloyd Webber and Madonna -- in one fell swoop.
Instead of demanding love, she gives unconditionally, with boundless emotional generosity. Lana gives one of her most unhinged vocal performances, spitting the verses in her lower register; desperately pleading as the choruses escalate into a heart-pounding double-time bridge. Beneath jazzy, ambiguous organs and blippy synths lies a circular, muted trap beat -- a hip-hop facsimile of playing a drum kit with jazz brushes.
In one of her most recognizable videos, directed by Jake Nava, Lana finds refuge in a lavish beachside house, until a paparazzi helicopter intrudes… so she pulls a grenade launcher out of a guitar case, and shoots them out of the sky. It culminates in one of her definitive images, a still shot of her holding a gun: defiant, glamorous, remorseless. A timeless piece of religious, existential poetry, Lana leaves her ultimate fate to God. By , the year she turned 30, she had little to prove as an artist except to herself. Whatever her reputation, she knows she did her best.
They sang as an impartial observer, or perhaps the wife, telling a sad morality play of a beautiful, loveless mistress. On Ultraviolence , love is the ultimate drug, true believers are addicts, and Lana Del Rey is their prophet. Glamorous, romantic, but not overwhelmingly sad, the music video was a perfect realization of early Instagram culture -- think girls in flower crowns at music festivals, shot through nostalgic, analog-style camera filters.
The original remains the definitive version. Is it ironic that one of our greatest modern California mythologizers is an east coast native? The video, the first since to be directed by Lana herself, casts Father John Misty as a guru-like figure surrounded by young women who take acid and literally drink Kool-Aid.
Soundtracked by lush piano and strings, Lana sounds clear-eyed, lucid, as she recalls a time when her world seemed idyllic. Much of Ultraviolence is about the unavoidable call of addiction, how our brain chemistry determines our fate.
Co-written and produced by Jack Antonoff, our first glimpse of Norman Fucking Rockwell has a sonic palette unlike either of their past work: dry, intimate Laurel Canyon folk, almost completely free of reverb.
Weep on her shoulder, and her embrace will be gentle. The song was inspired by a real-life experience , where Lana spent a day trawling through the California coastline to find one beach without paparazzi or onlookers. She croons with an unnerving tenderness, reliving her emotional turnoil in the moment. The song ends on the oceanic sounds of brass, as if beckoning you to sail away on a great voyage…. Over nearly seven minutes, Lana sifts through the wreckage of a relationship. Gone are the Hollywood references, the cinematic hip-hop production -- this is the blues, spiritual and guttural and painfully honest.
As the song ends with her wails, Lana Del Rey is ready to burn down everything you thought you knew about her. Things would never be the same. With virtually no radio airplay, Lana played the role of usurper, fashioning herself as an icon through YouTube and the press -- and it worked. And yet, its lyrics are anything but -- referencing political anxieties, climate change, even nuclear war. What comfort can any artist offer in the face of such existential threats? Was it always an illusion? Lana can offer no consolation, only a prolonged goodbye, concluding the song on a nearly two-minute outro, until she finally runs out of words to say.
Near the end of the video, where she sings and frolicks in docks and old bars , she symbolically puts her microphone back on its stand. Amidst the turmoil of early , Lana Del Rey did the unthinkable: she wrote a song with no darkness, no contradictions, just love.
In the most shocking move of all, in the music video and the album cover, Lana actually smiles. First, those verses -- her voice unusually hushed, driven by gentle guitar brushstrokes and restless, skittering drums. His production, with its cavernous, chamber pop strings, is breathtaking -- and the arguably superior Dan Heath orchestral version , used in the music video, is even more immersive.
Both the film and F. The music video, directed by Chris Sweeney and Sophie Muller, lets you imagine. Youth and beauty are fleeting, but the fear of loneliness is eternal.
You expect a different outcome each time, but the song always plays out the same way. His cool, stoic nature draws her to him, yet it keeps them distant, trapped in an illusion of love, without intimacy. Art, like love, is supposed to illuminate human nature, but some things are impossible to define.
As she vamps over the outro, she ends the song with a drawn-out moan -- a wordless sigh, resigned to her fate. But no, Lana wanted to be a new kind of pop star, one who wrote songs for swaying American flags, chapel ceilings, queens on their throne. The song is a morbid, anthemic death pact, the kind that could only be written by a year-old with a self-proclaimed old soul.