I might as well start this off with a disclaimer: Rankings are ridiculous, and I pretty much hate them. I've always been terrible at choosing favorites. I either love something or I... don't. But. But! Ridiculous things can still be fun, and I do love fun. I also love Lana Del Rey. (As clearly evidenced here. And here.) So, you know, why not get ridiculous and have some fun and immerse yourself in a totally unscientific, completely emotional, wildly biased ranking of Lana's work? There is no good reason not to, frankly; what better way to prepare for the release of Lust for Life tomorrow than to get lazy and lost in Lana's multicolored world.
Here, then is every Lana Del Rey song—from those featured on her major label debut, Born to Die; to those songs featured on soundtracks to movies that, quite frankly, did not deserve them; to those Lust for Life singles already released—ranked from, I guess I'm supposed to say, worst to best, but that would be untrue because there's no real worst or best here. There is, instead, a sonic and lyrical landscape of sex and drugs, pain and pleasure, darkness and light, and a whole lot of cherry red.
61) "Big Eyes," The Big Eyes soundtrack: Undoubtedly a beautiful song (Lana can't really help but make beautiful things, can she?), "Big Eyes" is, ultimately, one of the more forgettable Lana tracks, perhaps because it's attached to a movie that, I think, only two people saw. It's pretty! But not Lana's best.
60) "Burnt Norton (Interlude)," Honeymoon: "Time present and time past are both perhaps present"... this spoken word interlude on Lana's Honeymoon album is like her "Revolution Number 9," in that you kind of want to skip over it at first, but you don't. Because her voice sounds like a ball of mercury, rolling up and down a scraped-out skull, intoning things that sound like a twisted bedtime story, or even a lullaby, like, "all time is unredeemable" and "what might have been is an abstraction." I mean, I don't know, I still like this. I will go into the rose garden with her. I will.
59) "Once Upon a Dream," Maleficent soundtrack: Speaking of twisted lullabies, is there anyone better than Lana to fully encapsulate the velvety midnight dark side of fairy tales in a song? No! No one better.
58) "Gods and Monsters," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Sometimes Lana is a little, you know, too on the nose, and this is maybe one of those times! Which doesn't mean there isn't a lot to like in this song, particularly when she's singing, "In the land of Gods and Monsters I was an angel looking to get fucked hard." But also, you know, that is a brilliant lyric. We're into it!
57) "Bel Air," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: The lilting piano that opens this song has a light urgency that kicks into gear as Lana starts singing; it has the feeling of some subversive Los Angeles lullaby, helped along by Lana's plea to "come to [her], baby." This song is one we like to drift to sleep listening to; our dreams are full of palm trees whose fronds drip blood and stoic gargoyles, but what are you going to do, really?
56) "Lucky Ones," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: What is not to love about Lana letting her incredibly rich and round voice get sharp as a stiletto, as a thorn on the bluest rose? And that she's doing it in service of skewering the idea of true love and luck and the stars aligning makes that piercing feeling we get when listening to this song all the more sharp.
55) "Lolita," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: This is the song that we want to soundtrack the movie version of our high school lives. It's a song that should be listened to while sucking on a Blow Pop, with that round sucker placed firmly in cheek. It's an absurdity of a musical number; it's infectious and poppy and makes our throat itch and our eyes roll when we listen to it. Listening to it is like finding a $10 bill on the ground; it feels so damned good, even if you know it won't change your life. Except maybe it will.
54) "Without You," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: "Everything I want I have"... what a way to start off a song of frenzy and desire and loss and need. It's hard not to love that Lana is the kind of artist who can make lyrics like "summertime is nice and hot" feel, if not profound, at least worthwhile.
53) "Flipside," Ultraviolence: An iTunes exclusive, this song was tacked on to the end of Ultraviolence, and it feels a little like an afterthought; most notably, the pacing can feel strange. Lana's voice is typically languorous, but there's an underlying thrumming that speaks to a different level of need. Only the need isn't desire, it's a wish to communicate. And what does Lana want to say: Goodbye, loser. You had your chance. Maybe you'll have another, but not if you don't change.
52) "Is This Happiness," Ultraviolence: Is this happiness? I don't know, is it? Is it? Is it? Is it? Or is this just what it is to be in a relationship with someone who's "fucking crazy as the day is long." Or is it both? Can it be both? Can it?
51) "This Is What Makes Us Girls," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: For anyone whose favorite genre of book is "love story between BFFs," then this is the perfect song because of how perfectly it captures that feeling of freedom through loyalty—to a friend, though, not a romantic partner. Although, can friendship and romance ever be fully distinct entities? I don't think so. Neither, it seems, does Lana.
50) "American," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Though Lana doesn't lean all that hard on Americana and its iconography as much anymore, that doesn't mean it isn't an important part of her body of work, and an essential part to understanding the big picture themes she deals with—those of money, power, glory, Elvis, and Springsteen. This song is the embodiment of the red, white, and blue—right before it goes boom.
49) "Guns and Roses," Ultraviolence: I go back and forth between thinking every Lana Del Rey song is purely earnest or purely ironic, and this is a particularly fun one with which to switch up the intent. I just love singing along to "You've got game, boy/ Game, boy" and thinking about every idiot man who, at one point, I did—and then didn't—think had game.
48) "Yayo," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Only Lana should ever be allowed to say "daddy" anymore. Only Lana.
47) "Cola," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Someone once told me that the way you can tell if someone will like Coke or Pepsi more is that if they prefer lemon over cinnamon, then they're Pepsi drinkers. Pucker up.
46) "Religion," Honeymoon: Most of Lana's songs feel like a prayer; this haunting, soaring song makes that fact impossible to ignore. Just try not to genuflect when listening.
45) "Body Electric," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: It's not just that Jesus is her best friend, it's that he's her bestest friend. This song is a hymn, a prayer. Listen to it and get on your knees. You're in church.
44) "Burning Desire," Born to Die-Paradise: Can an entire song feel like a heaving chest? Like gasp after gasp of shortened breath? Like the tickling moment before an electric shock hits? Yes. Yes, it can.
43) "The Other Woman," Ultraviolence: Lana does sad really well, same with angry. We know this. But how does she do bitchily resentful? Really, really well, as it turns out. At least for a little while, anyway, as in this almost too beautiful torch song that ends in the saddest possible way, with a queen all on her own. Love hurts.
42) "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," Honeymoon: Yes, this is another cover and, as such, maybe placed up a bit higher than it should be, except that this was the perfect song for Lana to cover. That opening "baby" is a velvet pillowcase placed right over our head. "We understand you!" we want to shout to her. But we know our voices will be muffled. So we stay quiet and let her speak. Which is definitely as it should be.
41) "Blue Velvet," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Okay, wait! So this is another cover. But, c'mon! Lana singing about eyes "bluer than velvet," with strings soaring in the background is what we want to hear playing every time we ever feel the slightest bit wistful or remorseful, ever again.
40) "Honeymoon," Honeymoon: What an opening line: "We both know that it's not fashionable to love me." It's the pause after the word "know" that gets me every single time, that has me wondering what is it, exactly, that "we" both know? It could be a lot of things, but not that it isn't fashionable to love Lana. Definitely not that.
39) "Carmen," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Though this song can feel a little after-school special-y at times—like, we get it, Carmen is young and on drugs—that winds up being okay because Lana manages to make this narrative into one that we actually really love listening to? Like, every word of it. It's... fun. It's... entertaining. It's earnest in the most endearing possible way.
38) "Lust for Life," Lust for Life: This song has actually grown on us since its release; at first, we were a little bit, like, What's going on here? Is she... happy? And that was confusing! And confusion is troubling. But upon many, many repeated listens, we realized that, yeah, she is happy in her new home in the Hollywood "H," without any of her clothes on, and during an interminable July. This song is the opposite of summertime sadness (if not, you know, "Summertime Sadness"), and that's kind of beautiful.
37) "24," Honeymoon: Lana has said that she warned her label before Honeymoon came out that this would not be an album that got much play on the radio. "24" is one of those songs that proves how prescient she was, and yet it's also a song I find myself putting on repeat not infrequently. Sure, it sounds kind of like a James Bond opening credits song, but that's kind of fine, because sometimes you just want a song that makes you feel like honey is being poured all over your body. How else would you get those bee-stung lips anyway?
36) "Swan Song," Honeymoon: How do you not love a song that accurately conveys the histrionic emotions that accompany a breakup? "Swan Song" is so satisfying to listen to and sing along with post-messy-relationship. The world has just ended. You should have the orchestral accompaniment to back up the personal devastation you're feeling. Lana provides it.
35) "Florida Kilos," Ultraviolence: The perfect cocaine song: fizzy and immaterial—kind of empty, actually, though in the best way possible. It's a purr and a jangle, a scratch down the cheek. In it, Lana's voice feels as needy and necessary as the hand of a friend who holds back your hair as you lean over the glass table. "You believe me don't you baby?" Never. And always.
34) "Diet Mountain Dew," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: This fast-paced song is fun and effervescent and super sweet in effect, if not exactly lyrically. Except maybe it is, because aren't the sweetest things the ones that also aren't any good for us? Things like soda and love and New York City?
33) "Terrence Loves You," Honeymoon: The mystical vibes of this song are strong at its super-slow and undeniably pretty beginning, and they intensify as Lana's voice turns into pure crystal, singing: "I lost myself/ when I lost you." Her voice descends into a whisper next, before deepening and stretching out to unreal lengths, promising that she's ready to do anything she can to find herself again. The David Bowie call-out toward the end of the song is too perfect; there is no artist simultaneously more alien and more human than Lana right now. She's a counterpart to Bowie, rather than an alien come to earth, she's a woman drifting in space.
32) "Coachella: Woodstock in My Mind," Lust for Life: I totally get that we're not supposed to like this song because it mentions two deeply uncool things in the title: Coachella and Woodstock. But also, so what? You don't listen to Lana to be cool. You listen to her because she's cool. Only she can talk about Coachella and Woodstock and be cool. It's a gift. Don't question it. Enjoy it. And also enjoy the way she asks, "What about all their... parents?"
31) "God Knows I Tried," Honeymoon: This song hits like a kaleidoscope, it's full of all the colors and listening to it sets us spinning off into directions we barely even knew existed. And as with so many of the other songs on Honeymoon, Lana's voice sounds soft as silk, but just as strong, making it hard to forget what a powerful weapon it is she's wielding.
30) "Salvatore," Honeymoon: Spring has come in this super-strange song, full of sibilance; it's Lana as a snake. Let her hiss, and get closer if you dare.
29) "Ride," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Oh, I mean, just the way Lana sings "don't break me down," with that ultra-soulful delivery and then follows it up speeding through the words "I drive fast," spoken so quickly and almost under her breath, just the way she does that makes me want whatever it is she's offering, and, in this song, that's freedom, pure and complicated. I'll take it.
28) "Art Deco," Honeymoon: Nobody sings with a sneer quite like Lana, and it's used to great effect in the rare ballad that serves as a diss track.
27) "Fucked My Way Up to the Top," Ultraviolence: I too, like Lana, confess that life is awesome. (Every single instance of her New York accent coming through on this album is perfection, but most especially with how she says "awesome." But it's particularly awesome when I'm singing along to this song and thinking of when, if ever, I will have the chance to deliver the most perfect comeback ever to anyone trying to put me down: "I'm a dragon, you're a whore."
26) "Radio," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Can we please talk a little bit about how fucking hilarious and brilliant Lana is: (1) whenever she wants to be, and also (2) when she pronounces certain words? Like "awesome" in "Fucked My Way Up to the Top" and also "vitamin" (viht-ah-men) in this perfect song. Which, also, spoiler: Choosing favorites anymore, or saying which song is "better" than the others is now total bullshit because they're all brilliant.
25) "Groupie Love," Lust for Life: Only Lana can actually make a song about "groupie love" actually be about... love and babies and domestic happiness and all set to a beat that's impossible not to move to, smiling along the whole time.
24) "Sad Girl," Ultraviolence: Of course, Lana hasn't always been as happy as she is now in "Groupie Love." In "Sad Girl," she goes back and forth between boasting about her man, but then in another breath, talking about the pain of being the "baggage on the side." It's the kind of song you can't help but relate to if you've ever been in a relationship in which you willingly put on blinders; all the better to stay focused, and to hide the tears. The melancholy here is palpable, but still seductive as hell.
23) "Summer Bummer," Lust for Life: This song really proves that Lana's sophistication will make you quit... every other aspect of your life just to bum around the summer with her.
22) "Shades of Cool," Ultraviolence: It's the crazy-making pace of this song, which evokes the feeling of being in the eye of a storm, that makes it so seductive. Lana goes back and forth between her huskiest, most direct singing, and then into the kind of drifting, lilting vocalizing that makes you feel like you're up with her on a cloud somewhere. But then the sky drops out from under you, and you go spinning to the ground, cushioned only by the music.
21) "The Blackest Day," Honeymoon: With songs like this populating Honeymoon, Lana's last album, it's no wonder everyone is talking about how much happier she sounds now on Lust for Life. But, you know, sometimes you just really want tragic and dreamy songs to listen to on gray, rainy days, while you sit in your darkened room painting your nails blue, you know?
20) "Blue Jeans," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: But so, Lana might make perfect breakup songs, but she also makes the best damned love songs, too. And this is the perfect example, this song which always feels like she's trying to rush ahead of her emotions, but she can't outrun them. They're wild. They're free. Oh, and then there's this lyric: "I still remember that day we met in December." Lana is totally on point here about a very important thing, re: love, which is that any time that is not summertime is the best time to meet someone you will love forever.
19) "Music to Watch Boys to," Honeymoon: This song has a totally voyeuristic aspect to it; its musical gauziness makes it feel like you're listening to it through curtains, the same drapes through which you're peering out, watching the boys. Lana's languid voice has a wistfulness, a soft yearning that manages to also be super seductive and almost playful. She's sad, sure, but she still wants to engage.
18) "Cruel World," Ultraviolence: Speaking of perfect breakup songs! The opening notes to this, the first song on Ultraviolence, are, I think, part of my DNA now. The way the music spirals out as Lana sings that she's crazy is the perfect sonic parallel to how it feels to lose your mind... lose everything, really. Also? The way she says "mind," like it's "moind"... I mean, just kill me now. It's perfect.
17) "Pretty When You Cry," Ultraviolence: It's the steady drumbeat grounding this song, pushing it along like a heartbeat, that really takes it to the next level. While there might seem to be an inherent vulnerability to Lana admitting that she feels abandoned and lost by the man she loves, she subverts that by acknowledging and then owning that she's pretty when she cries, that in her pain she finds grace and beauty. And she will use that strength to get whatever she wants next.
16) "Freak," Honeymoon: Pretty much all of Lana's songs feel anthemic, but at first listen, "Freak" isn't necessarily one of them. It starts off so drifty, like a ripple instead of a crashing wave. But just like my mother always warned me that I could drown in just six (6) inches of water, it doesn't take long when you're listening to "Freak" before realizing that you're drowning in the gentle sounds of Lana's voice, her purrs don't need to be roars. Lana wants you to let your "Freak" flag fly, and why not? This is better than any other national anthem we can stake claim to after all. (Not "National Anthem," though; we'll get to that.)
15) "West Coast," Ultraviolence: This hard-driving (it would also just be a great driving) song is a speedy, trippy wonder; it quickens our minds and then slowly drags them down. Listen to it and feel your breath try and adapt to its manic tendencies; the song is a physical, mental, and emotional experience. It's also notable because Lana gets some criticism sometimes for not veering away from her usual style, but what the inimitable "West Coast" proves is that Lana doesn't need to adhere to anything except being Lana.
14) "Ultraviolence," Ultraviolence: This song starts off with a really bizarre lyric: "He used to call me D.N./ it stood for Deadly Nightshade." Like, I call bullshit on that? Who would call anyone D.N.? What an awkward nickname! But so, anyway, the lyric that gets the most mentions in this gorgeous ballad is actually "He hit me, but it felt like a kiss," and "He hurt me, but it felt like true love." And, look, no, it's not good—it's terrible!—to glamorize any kind of violence, but I would argue that this isn't what Lana is doing. Yes, there's an inherent glamour to anything she does, because, hello, did you forget who we're obsessively talking about here? But she's singing to her experience, not to an aspiration. And destructive love is a thing that exists and that men have made art about for centuries. There's something liberating (not empowering, just freeing) about Lana voicing her experience, offering a new perspective on a dark situation. Plus, it's just a really beautiful song.
13) "Dark Paradise," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: This lushly layered song is one of the most baroquely gorgeous pieces Lana ever composed. We love the pulsing electronic beat and Lana's insistence that paradise is right behind her eyes and dark as sin.
12) "Money Power Glory," Ultraviolence: Instead of teaching schoolchildren the 3 Rs, assemblies should periodically be held where this song is listened to on repeat.
11) "Summertime Sadness," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: When I first heard this song, I was like, Finally! I felt like I'd always been explaining to everyone that summer was a season of sadness and death and nobody ever believed me. Now I just direct them to this song. And to the quote in F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise in which a wild-eyed young woman declares summer to be "a sad season of life without growth." But mostly this song.
10) "Love," Lust for Life: Wait, so this song is brand-new, but I'm already completely obsessed with its melancholic sense of desire and quiet awe. I'm also super into the ponderous instrumental intro, which reminds me of '90s band Concrete Blonde (very specifically the opening to the song "Tomorrow Wendy"). But so: The disillusionment and heartbreak (and just ache) that was all over Honeymoon and Ultraviolence has been replaced by a tentative hopefulness about the powerful possibilities of love, one which grows stronger and stronger as the song continues. Lana doesn't know what the future holds—none of us do—but for the moment, she's present and in love. And that's all you need to know not to worry.
9) "Born to Die," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Lana's long, clear fascination with death has often come under attack by critics who think this interest is flippant, or irresponsible. This line of thinking is almost too dumb to take seriously, but, considering I'm taking the time to rank every single one of Lana's songs, I clearly think nothing is too small to take seriously, so let me just say this: There is nothing more revealing of a person's inherent humanity than feeling the pull between the death and life drives. That Lana is compelled by the only universal human experience (other than birth) doesn't make her a freak, it makes her a person. And what she's done with that draw to all things Thanatos, is make art, like this song that is as much a celebration of life, of creation, as it is of anything ending.
8) "Brooklyn Baby," Ultraviolence: Let's make this clear: Lana is too cool to know anyone, she is just like the ice she freezes. Let's also make this clear: Lana Del Rey is an often surreal, often ultra-literal lyricist who deserves every amount of praise showered upon her. I mean, she makes us want to listen to her jazz collection. That's a rare gift, indeed. And, pronunciation alert: The way Lana says "tawking" is a thing of beauty. Oh, and ALSO: This song is the perfect one to share with anyone who ever wonders if Lana is in on the joke. It's like, hello, motherfuckers, she wrote the jokes while you were sleeping.
7) "Off to the Races," Born to Die-Paradise Edition: Appropriating the words of the most famous fictional sexual predator of all time? Check! Rhyming "scarlet" with "starlet"? Check! Totally sardonic intonation of "says it feels like heaven to him"? Check! So many checks! That makes this song perfect. She really is the queen of Coney Island.
6) "High by the Beach," Honeymoon: People try to tell me this isn't a breakup song, and that it's just about the paparazzi, and, like, I get that, but also people can seriously just try and be quiet for once. And while people's mouths are firmly shut, they can listen to this breathy, lighter than air, floats like a butterfly, stings like a submachine gun song about being in an oppressive relationship that is just so hard to get out of that it almost feels not worth it. But it's always worth it to be free, to get high.
5) "Old Money," Ultraviolence: Has Lana's voice ever sounded more strictly beautiful? Or more loosely? This song starts off with a veneer of ultimate control, like a bouquet of perfectly composed flowers. (Blue hydrangeas, obviously.) But it devolves into a plea, a perfect plea. Not for her love to come to her, but for him to ask her to come to him. And she'll run if he does. Flowers falling to the wayside. From her hair. From her hands. She'll run. Oh, and the strings. The strings kill me.
4) "National Anthem," Born to Die: Um, can we just replace "The Star-Spangled Banner" with this and call it a day? Okay, thanks.
3) "Black Beauty," Ultraviolence: Stick a rose in my mouth, I'm done. The simplicity of the piano behind Lana's plaintive voice, alternately pleading and totally over it, this is a song of mourning, a song of love. Because Lana knows that all romantic commitments are a death of sorts. The thing is she was ready for it, but being prepared doesn't necessarily mean a thing. "Oh, what can I do?" she asks, but never begs. She knows life is beautiful. It's black as night, but that's where much of the beauty hides.
2) "Young and Beautiful," The Great Gatsby soundtrack: Weirdly, even though I am probably personally responsible for half of this video's 248 million YouTube views, I am still not sick of this song and must listen to it all the way through every time I hear it. Nobody else these days uses strings for dramatic effect like Lana does, and it works perfectly in this song, which is a hot and sticky summer night come to life. That stickiness comes through in her voice, the way she annunciates certain words, like she's tripping over them, like her heel got stuck. The prayer at the center of this song is so perfectly Lana; she knows what it is you pray for. You pray for beauty and youth, you pray for the things you know you have no control over. You pray and you pray, and then you make your own way. Even if you get stuck once in a while along the way.
1) "Video Games," Born to Die: It's the obvious choice, maybe, the song that made Lana famous. The song whose opening peals of church bells speak to the faithfulness with which her fans will follow her. Maybe it shouldn't have aged so well, but the beauty of Video Games—and of Lana—is how it exists outside of time. The references aren't pinned to anywhere or anyone specifically, they exist in their own world. And the dreaminess of Lana's vocals and the surrounding instrumentals, which cushion her voice like velvet around a diamond, will become her signatures. That this song feels almost tactile, and is a full-blown sensory experience, adds to the hypnotic experience that is listening to it. This is the song that Lana used to put us under her spell, and we're perfectly happy to stay right where we are.