Since her arrival on the global music scene in 2012 with her debut single ‘Video Games’, Lana Del Rey has carved out her own space as an artist carrying on the elegance and glamour of Old Hollywood – but updating it for modern times. In her back catalogue, there’s a wealth of big hits that across nine albums, have helped propel her to superstar status but, in turn, a number of gems that have fallen under the radar. Here are 10 of Lana Del Rey’s most underrated songs.
‘Love song’ (‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’)
‘Love song’, a swooning, string-laden piece at the heart of ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’, is Del Rey at her romantic-but-flawed best. “Oh, be my once in a lifetime,” she asks gently, but later lines hint that might not be likely. “You know that I would like to think that you would stick around,” she confides. It’s dreamy and devastating in equal measure.
‘Bel Air’ (‘Paradise’)
Lana is no stranger to imagery that feels like it’s from another age of Hollywood – or, indeed, America in general. ‘Bel Air’ is full of lines that evoke gothic scenery, from the “gargoyles standing at the front of your gate” to the way the strings make the “palm trees in the light” feel like a vintage detail. But there’s a difference here – where the singer’s evocations of these worlds are usually drenched in melancholy, this track boasts a brightness that’s out of step with a lot of her work.
‘Body Electric’ (‘Paradise’)
The star names her influences in the opening words of this ‘Paradise’ EP cut, hailing iconoclasts Elvis as her “daddy” and Marilyn Monroe as her “mother” (there’s also a shout-out to bestie Jesus). Although she later switches out Presley’s name for Walt Whitman’s, the poet’s impact on her is already clear in the chorus. “I sing the body electric,” she repeats, name-checking a poem he published in 1855.
‘Swan Song’ (‘Honeymoon’)
‘Swan Song’ is heavy – not in volume or ferocity, but in mood and atmosphere. From the very beginning, it feels claustrophobic with clouds of rolling drums, strings and bass, at times at odds with Lana’s words. The song, on the surface at least, follows an elderly couple entering retirement and ready to “just be free”, but there’s an implied darkness to the chorus as she sings: “I will never sing again.”
‘Carmen’ (‘Born To Die’)
In ‘Carmen’ – one of the few ‘Born To Die’ songs that could be considered underrated, despite being a single – Del Rey tells the story of a young woman down on her luck. Set in New York’s Coney Island, it follows a 17-year-old sex worker struggling with addiction, her tale told with powerful, haunting poeticism.
‘Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind’ (‘Lust For Life’)
On her 2017 album ‘Lust For Life’, the star added to a grand tradition in pop – capturing the political mood of the world in song. ‘Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind’ bottled the fears and concerns of the time as tensions between the US and North Korea mounted, and Del Rey wondered about the fate of those around her at the desert festival.
‘Old Money’ (‘Ultraviolence’)
On ‘Old Money’, Lana shares yet another snapshot of life in Hollywood, singing about the kids hanging out at intersections and the luxuries that line the streets of the LA area. Musically, the song references Romeo And Juliet’s ‘What Is A Youth’ – although the musician claims this not to have been an intentional move.
‘Fucked My Way Up To The Top’ (‘Ultraviolence’)
Even in the early years of her carer, Del Rey faced a ton of criticism and claims trying to discredit her as an artist. ‘Fucked My Way Up To The Top’, which appeared on 2014’s ‘Ultraviolence’, addressed one of those – that she swapped sex for success. A satirical eye-roll, she sends up those allegations, breathily purring: “I fucked my way up to the top / This is my show.”
‘Heroin’ (‘Lust For Life’)
‘Heroin’, a song Lana has singled out as her favourite from ‘Lust For Life’, is thought to be loosely about her ex-boyfriend, Rob Dubuss, who died from an overdose in 2017. The chorus certainly fits with that theory, as she sings solemnly: “I’m flyin’ to the moon again, dreamin’ about heroin / How it gave you everything and took your life away.”
‘Dance Till We Die’ (‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’)
“I’m covering Joni and I’m dancing with Joan / Stevie is calling on the telephone / Court almost burned down my home,” Del Rey opens ‘Dance Till We Die’, nodding to some of the musical heroes who have come before her on this track from ‘Chemtrails Over The County Club‘. While those opening lines are a little thrill, nothing compares to when they return later in the song, as it morphs into something more upbeat but still drenched in ‘60s atmosphere.