The stereotype of Lana Del Rey’s music is that it best fits emo young girls who are trying to be hipster and artsy. Yet, her discography hides many musically and lyrically complex pieces of art. From her oldest album Born to Die, to her most recent, Lust for Life, Del Rey has developed a unique sound while seeking inspiration in the trend setters of American music. Here are some of her best, and lesser-known, songs.
One of the first songs Lana wrote and performed, this sultry track is a good introduction into Del Rey’s reinterpretation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Her jazzy and airy vocals present a dream of idealized femininity and glamour.
One of my personal favorites, Carmen tells the story of a young 17-year-old girl who struggles with substance abuse. Inspired by the classic novel Carmen by Prosper Merimee, this song highlights and beautifully displays Del Rey’s fascination with romantic literature.
- “Blue Velvet”
This cover of The Clovers’ original song is a marvelous take on the well-known classic. Although it has been covered many times, Del Rey’s twist adds an alternative indie hint to it, with a soft beat and dramatic instrumentals. Other than being a musical innovation, this song exhibits Del Rey’s admirable vocal abilities.
- “Diet Mountain Dew (Demo)”
This is a great example of Del Rey’s distinct musical style. The song is a sweet, high pitched 60s vocals, accompanied by a more contemporary catchy beat.
- “Old Money”
“Old Money” is a take on the famous Romeo and Juliet song, “A Time for Us.” However, Del Rey changes the lyrics to tell the story of her childhood as a New Yorker. It’s a song for the movies, specifically for the climax when Juliet lets go of Romeo.
- “The Other Woman”
This song was originally performed by Nina Simone, but was covered by many, notable Jeff Buckley on his renowned album, Grace. Covers are interesting because they are mostly authentic in their interpretation, and Del Rey’s idea of “The Other Woman” is a tragic and mystical one.
Another personal favorite, the melody of “Salvatore” sources from classical American Italian 70s aesthetics. Sonically, it stands out in Del Rey’s discography, but fits into her idea of recollecting and reinventing old American music. It’s also a very interesting lyrical piece, as Del Rey links the lyrics to the same mindset of the melody.
- “Tomorrow Never Came” (feat. Sean Ono Lennon)
John Lennon was not here to sing for this track, but his son was, and so were his instruments. The combination of an attempted Beatles sound with Del Rey’s romantic and melancholic vocals is a beautiful journey. You will find yourself taken away by the song, awaiting a lover you never had.
“Heroin” tells the story of one of Del Rey’s friends who passed away from a heroin overdose. This song is striking in the intensity of its emotions. It’s a pure anthem of hopelessness. The screaming and repetitive backing vocals on this track are vulnerable and mesmerizing.
Lana Del Rey has said that this song is of important emotional significance to her, and I’m not surprised. This melancholic ballad is musically soft but simultaneously heavy. Although this song is not as instrumentally complex as some of her other songs, its lyrics are sung in an honest and charming manner.