Lana Del Rey albums ranked

Every Lana Del Rey album ranked, from Born To Die to Blue Banisters

I made every one of these albums my entire personality for at least a year

My dad used to get Q magazine dropped off by his mate after he’d read it, because his mate had a subscription and my dad was being a cheap skate. It was a month out of date, but he didn’t care. After my dad had done with it, I’d get passed down the crumpled up, tea stained scraps. It was my first exposure to music journalism and I lapped it up. One week it was passed to me and the cover star was Lana Del Rey, who I’d never heard of. She was in a white dress and tiara with blood pouring down her face, a la Carrie. I was instantly obsessed, headed straight to YouTube and soaked in everything she had released. It was early, 2011 days – but I was so enamoured with Video Games, Born To Die, Blue Jeans… I’d never heard anything like her. She was the first artist I felt like I’d discovered off my own back. In the 10 years that have followed, I’ve never once stopped being completely besotted with every album and era she’s delivered. Her songwriting is in another dimension of intricate, a cacophony of faded Americana, old Hollywood and dangerous men. It is very hard to get Lana Del Rey albums ranked, with each one easily being somebody’s favourite.

But god loves a trier, and try I will. From the recently released Blue Banisters all the way back to her pre-major label Lizzy Grant era debut, here are all nine Lana Del Rey albums ranked from worst to best:

9. Lana Del Ray AKA Lizzy Grant

Lana Del Rey’s first album, the confusingly misspelt and self-titled Lana Del Ray (with or without an AKA Lizzy Grant) is not available to buy or on streaming services, but was released before her major label debut with Born To Die. Whilst it is the weakest of her discography, with the whole thing sounding like a bit of a jumble sale, it does have a very unique, trailer park vibed grit to it that definitely makes it more than listenable for any fan. Songs like Queen Of The Gas Station are early gems, and the original version of Yayo found here is essential Lana and WAY better than the one finally released on Paradise. Her vocals are raw, the production is rough and ready and the whole thing sounds a bit like an unpolished Born To Die with some of Ultraviolence’s grunge.

8. Honeymoon

Honeymoon is a gorgeous and lush listen, as expected. After the dirty, grunge feel to Ultraviolence, Honeymoon takes Lana back to glamorous and cinematic orchestration more akin to Born To Die and Paradise. It’s a long, slow album that takes its time basking in every suite and every verse. The title track, and the album’s best song, kicks things off moodily and sets the tone from the off. The lead single High By The Beach is a bit of a red herring – one of Lana’s most radio ready, straight forward pop singles. It stands out amongst a sea of tracks that are hard to adore on their own, but work in the context of the album. The issue with Honeymoon is whilst it is all gorgeous, there are no stand out tracks. Lyrically, it’s missing the punch and biting wit of her later work. It’s by no means a bad body of work, but it is an album that gets engulfed by its own orchestration and mellow beauty.

7. Born To Die

Before you crucify me, let’s just all take off our nostalgia goggles for a second. If this was Lana Del Rey albums ranked by how influential they are, or how many times I’ve listened to them, or how much they’ve sold worldwide – of course Born To Die would be in the top three. It’s BORN TO DIE. It’s her most famous record and it put her one the map. But the issue with Born To Die is it’s very of the time, and if we’re being totally honest with ourselves it’s a mixed bag. The absolute best songs of her career are found here, stone cold classics. Video Games is one of the best ballads of the 21st century and is still jaw droppingly perfect 10 years on. Flanked by Born To Die, Blue Jeans, National Anthem and Summertime Sadness, it’s an album filled with essential Lana. But the bad is BAD. Carmen is terrible, there’s far too much samey filler and Lolita is the worst song she’s ever released. Born To Die is iconic, but its occasionally shoddy writing and the fact it’s overproduced to the point of comedy so frequently holds it back. But at its best, it doesn’t get any better.

6. Ultraviolence

I love when albums can transport you to an exact time and place. Ultraviolence for me is finishing sixth form and preparing to move to uni. In 2o14, it was all change for me, and that distinct style change Lana Del Rey went for for Ultraviolence hit me perfectly. It’s an incredible album and a fan favourite for a reason. The five track punch at the start of this record is astounding. Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys executively produced this record with Lana, and his rock influence permeates every track. Cruel World is a woozy, bleak masterpiece. Ultraviolence is a masochistic song of destruction that is as dark as Lana has ever gotten. Shades of Cool is the Lana Bond theme we’ve been robbed of. Brooklyn Baby is a wittily written ironic takedown of hipster culture. And West Coast? A career highlight – that g-funk shrill synth by the end of the song is perfection. What lets Ultraviolence down is a middle album slog. Money Power Glory is boring, Sad Girl is just okay, The Other Woman a pointless cover.

For many, Ultraviolence is their favourite Lana Del Rey album, and every argument for that being the case is valid. It’s intoxicating. Everything about it feels dark and dangerous.

5. Lust For Life

I have this theory that all artists have their albums that are great, but all over the place. For Britney Spears, it’s Circus. For Kylie Minogue, it’s X. And for Lana Del Rey, it’s Lust For Life – sitting comfortably at the midpoint of her albums ranked. Lust For Life is a chaotic album, but one I love very much. Love, the lead single that showcased Lana beaming a huge grin for the first time, signalled a stylistic change. It’s her most radio-ready album, featuring pop moments from ASAP Rocky and The Weeknd, but also the likes of Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon. It’s her longest album and one where it most feels like things could have been left on the cutting room floor. But with the exception of the truly dreadful Groupie Love, there’s so much to love here. Cherry is one of Lana’s most instantly arresting songs. 13 Beaches is sprawling and lush. The second half of the album is folky and rich, God Bless America And All The Beautiful Women In It with its gunshot motif, Tomorrow Never Came and Beautiful People Beautiful Problems are heavenly duets and When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing is arguably the centrepiece of the album. It’s a transitional record that amplifies the best sounds from her first albums and foreshadows the highs her next three will go to.

4. Paradise

Whilst technically an EP for the rerelease of Born To Die, at nine tracks long and running at nearly 40 minutes I think Paradise deserves its own spot and conversation separate from its mother album. Paradise is for Born To Die what Monster is for Lady Gaga’s The Fame. It’s everything Born To Die does, but more mature. More honed. Every one of Paradise’s nine tracks does something special. Ride is one of the greatest songs of Lana’s career, a cinematic odyssey that sounds like a sunset over the dusty highway. The iconic opening “my pussy tastes like Pepsi cola” drawl of Cola should be memorialised in the Great American Songbook. Body Electric feels like a fever dream horror film, flanked by its sequel Gods and Monsters. Paradise is both bombastic and fragile, Lana at her most outspoken and heavenly. It’s rich and gorgeous across the board. Listening to Bel Air in bed, under your duvet with your eyes closed makes you feel like you’re flying.

3. Chemtrails Over The Country Club

The first of two albums released in 2021, it will be Chemtrails Over The Country Club that will be lost to the Lana ether. Overshadowed by the greatness of Norman Fucking Rockwell that came before it and the swirls of dramas that engulf Del Rey over the pandemic, Chemtrails Over The Country Club’s beauty is underestimated. It’s a pretty much perfect album of folk and singer-songwriter excellence. It’s really okay that not every album an artist releases is their magnum opus. It isn’t Norman Fucking Rockwell and doesn’t want to be. Let Me Love You Like A Woman is a warm hug of a lead single. I listen to it and feel like I’m a babe being cradled by my mother. The title track is pure euphoria, “Well, I don’t care what they think, drag racing my little red sports car, I’m not unhinged or unhappy – I’m just wild” Lana sings as the music video shows her spiralling through a tornado and devouring men with her friends as a pack of werewolves. Then we get to White Dress – the best song on the album and one of the best of her career. Sung in one take, it’s a bewildering and fascinating opener that has her experimenting with her vocals like we have never heard before.

Chemtrails Over The Country Club is Lana’s cosy album. It’s the album I want to listen to at Christmas. Besides White Dress, it’s her least adventurous and most straight forward. But it is so rich, so beautiful. Her vocals are mesmerising and that random jazzy breakdown in Dance Till We Die makes me want a full Lana New Orleans tinged jazz album NOW.

2. Blue Banisters

When I first heard Blue Banisters the other week on release day, I sort of hated it. It’s strange. The songs are written bluntly and unexpectedly, the production is sparse and the whole record is hard to unpick. But this is Lana’s most intricate and fascinating body of work, and every listen reveals something a bit more interesting. The way she writes her songs here has never felt more personal. So many read like diary entries, a peek inside her mind that comes across incredibly down to earth. An artist with nothing more to prove and just making music that she loves. The title track is extraordinarily moving – a motif around painting her banisters moves from a romantic gesture with her partner to a healing process with her friends after the relationship ends. The final verse is just a list of activities with her family, name checking her dogs Tex and Mex and her sister Chuck. It has a Little Women-esque feel of family life and a house full of love. To convey that in a verse of a song is very special indeed.

Lana makes her body a geographical canvas on Arcadia, in some of the best songwriting of her career. Her body is a map of LA, and when her lover traces his hands over her hips and chest she describes him as both a Toyota AND a Land Rover. Lucky guy, and a great example of how Blue Banisters’ writing toes the line of funny and beautiful. The random “fuck you, Kevin” lyric in Sweet Carolina (written alongside her dad and sister) being a prime example. If you don’t click with Blue Banisters on first listen, just press play again. It unfolds like a map of LA, just be patient.

1. Norman Fucking Rockwell!

“God damn, man child. You fucked me so good that I almost said I love you.” I mean, come on. When you start an album with a lyric as sharp as that, it’s game over. Everyone else can go home. Norman Fucking Rockwell is Lana Del Rey’s magnum opus. It is what she will be remembered for in history. Every song here feels like the culmination of what Lana has been working towards her whole life. The main character energy of Mariners Apartment Complex, the sprawling 10 minute odyssey of the iconically titled Venice Bitch. The laidback beach energy of Fuck It I Love You. The breathtaking opening verse of Love Song. The existential crisis of The Greatest. The sing along, drunk with the girls spirit of the breakdown in Happiness Is A Butterfly. The fragile closer of the ridiculously named Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It. It takes the top spot of Lana Del Rey albums ranked with casual ease.

If you’ve never listened to Norman Fucking Rockwell, this is your sign to. Press play right now. Or even if you have, play it again. It’s a record for all occasions. An album that sinks inside you and becomes part of you. It is not only the best Lana album, but one of the best albums ever made.

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