Ranking all the songs on Born To Die by Lana Del Rey, in honour of its 10th birthday
I made this album my entire personality 10 years ago and never looked back x
My dad didn’t have a music magazine subscription, but every month, his mate would shove a crumpled up and well read copy of last month’s Q magazine through the door. I soaked in my secondhand music journalism about a month after everybody else because of this. I found Q to be a bit white-men-with-guitars leaning for my taste, but I always read it nonetheless. One month, the cover star was a woman I’d never seen or heard of before but was instantly enamoured with. Lana Del Rey practically radiated star quality off the print, blood running down her face in a tiara wearing cover shoot that was paying homage to Carrie. I remember going straight to YouTube and soaking in every Lana Del Rey song I could find – Video Games, Born To Die, Blue Jeans. I’d never so quickly felt like I’d found an artist I was going to spend the rest of my life being obsessed with.
10 years later, and the Born To Die era easily defined and soundtracked an entire generation coming of age, and left in its wake a new cohort of alt-pop female artists who cite it as the reason they now make the music they do. Here’s every song on Born To Die by Lana Del Rey reflectively ranked, a birthday present from me to an album that I’ve listened to more than literally any other album.
The worst song on Born To Die by a mile. It was my worst song on the record 10 years ago and it’s my worst song on it now. I also think it’s not just the worst song on Born To Die, but the worst song in the entire Lana Del Rey discography. The lyrics are crap, the melody unlikeable, the chorus shouty and annoying and the production tinny. A complete misfire.
14. Lucky Ones
I’m laughing a lot thinking about 16 year old me hearing this and saying it’s going to be my first dance song at my wedding. Can you imagine? Everyone would just be silently and awkwardly watching me and my new husband sway to a saccharine song that has the ugliest cymbal crash in the world stomping all over its chorus.
The thing about Born To Die is it’s so iconic and we look back with such nostalgia, but the fact of the matter is it’s often a real mess. Carmen is so dated, but I adored it when the album first came out. A bad girl fable. Carmen was a lost soul, bless her.
12. Million Dollar Man
Lana’s first Bond song. Non canonical of course, but it’s always felt SO James Bond to me. I love how woozy the pre-chorus is. It kind of reminds me of the way Rihanna sounds drunk when she sings Love On The Brain. Million Dollar Man is at its best when Lana sings it live, occasionally belting the final chorus up the octave and leaning into a really theatrical performance. I love how Lana uses her baby voice on this track – such a trademark of the era.
11. Dark Paradise
Dark Paradise sounds like it’s been written by one of those TikTokkers that create songs in the style of artist’s trademark styles. It’s so many stereotypical Lana Del Rey tropes all bundled into one package, a dark cinematic melodrama about wishing you were dead and lover’s that have left. Early Lana summed up in a song.
10. This Is What Makes Us Girls
The final song on the standard edition of BTD, This Is What Makes Us Girls is a high school coming of age film in a pop package and a reflection on Lana’s rebellious teenage years back in Lake Placid (she was actually sent away to boarding school by her family to try and combat the behaviour). The lyric where she sings “Lana how I hate those guys” is one of the most serotonin inducing moments of the album.
9. Without You
“Everything I want I have, money, notoriety and rivieras / I even think that I found God, in the flashbulbs of your pretty cameras.” The first and best of the bonus tracks, the opening lyrics are engrained into my memory forever because Lana used to have them as het Twitter bio and I thought it was stunning. I still do. The “Hello hello c-can you hear me” is so iconic.
8. Diet Mountain Dew
The effortlessly cool and breezy Diet Mountain Dew sounds as cool now as it always has – I love that rush of euphoria when the first chorus drops and the verse boots in. People who think Lana Del Rey just makes depressing music to weep to never really looked hard enough – she was producing bops like this from day dot. “Let’s take Jesus off the dashboard, got enough on his mind.”
7. Off To The Races
Absolute chaos in the best way. Sounds like nothing else on Born To Die and is one of the most unique songs Lana Del Rey has ever released – a slow verse that gets more and more frenetic with an ever-changing vocal delivery that goes from so deep to the sickliest, baby head voice. The way Lana gargles the “I’m your little scarlet starlet” changed the entire world.
6. Summertime Sadness
Forget the Cedric Gervais remix, the OG mix bangs as hard as it needs to! This is Lana at her most commercial, a fave for the locals and the straights but still great and iconic in its own right. Even if the chorus is low key and underwritten, the pre chorus is so historically important that it should be studied in music textbooks.
5. National Anthem
Responsible for what is perhaps still her greatest music video ever, National Anthem is all 4th of July weekend fireworks and American dreams crumbling and burning. “Money is the anthem, GOD you’re so handsome” is such a fun refrain to build a jaded song about opulence around, and stands with Off To The Races as one of the most distinct things Lana Del Rey has ever put out. It’s full pop star.
The best album track, and a fan favourite for a reason. Radio is just a lush spectacle, all grandeur and great lyricism in a dreamy package. “Yeah my life is sweet like cinnamon / like a fucking dream I’m living in” feels like the soundtrack to every 2012 pastel grunge Tumblr blog.
3. Blue Jeans
That guitar. THAT GUITAR. It both changed and ended lives. I can’t think of many opening verses more iconic than Blue Jeans’ actually – the first time I heard it I was HOOKED. The blue jeans / white shirt combo has never been the same. Every thing about Blue Jeans feels epic, but it’s the bridge that really solidifies it as a stone cold classic.
2. Born To Die
The fact that a song this perfect isn’t even the very best on the album really hits home how incredible and influential Born To Die is. The title track sums up the record’s atmosphere perfectly. It’s cinematic, grand and it all feels instantly doomed. There’s a constant sense of dread that permeates through. One of the best choruses of all time as far as I’m concerned – so crystal clear in its visual world that it’s building.
1. Video Games
Not only the best song on Born To Die, but the best song of the decade. Sits comfortably amongst the greatest songs ever made, too – and when Rolling Stone did their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and put Summertime Sadness in over Video Games I wanted to slap their keyboards out of their hands. Video Games is THEE song, it’s always been THEE song. 10 years on and it’s a song that you only need to spend one minute in the company of and know exactly why it was the megahit that it was.
Video Games made a superstar of one of the greatest singer songwriters we have – with good reason. It’s the centrepiece of Born To Die, the song that defined an era and helped solidify the record into such a classic. It’s songs like Video Games that have made Born To Die an album we’re all looking back on 10 years later as so seminal.
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