Having an opinion about Lana Del Rey is almost as cool as having an opinion about Taylor Swift — almost. Self-professed arbiters of Good Taste called Lana a talentless hack when she gave an (admittedly) weak performance on SNL. They called her fake when they discovered that her (gasp!) birth name was not actually Lana Del Rey, and that she had been born into a wealthy family. And then she shocked the viewing public when she became the first ever celebrity to get plastic surgery. I mean, can you believe the nerve of this girl?
Really, though, Lizzy Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Rey is way underrated, and I’m not just saying that to prove a point about h8ers on the internet. Because when it comes to authenticity, creativity, writing ability, and straight-up vocal chops, Lana is the “bestest.” Here are some career highlights, if you don’t believe me.
For K (Part 1) – Sirens – “Funny I don’t feel free, even though it’s not me.”
Before Lizzy was Lana, she was May Jailer. The 2006 album itself is simple, a nod to Vietnam-era songwriters, acoustic guitars and coffee shops. It was her debut before she debuted, and in its own way, “For K Part 1” serves as a sort of Compact Lana Del DictionaRey. I’m not entirely sure who this mysterious “K” figure is, but his influence on fresh-faced Lana is the driving force behind so much of her music. Also, note the strong vocals toward the back half of the song. She experiments a lot with the tone of her voice, but here it seems to be almost entirely unaffected.
Kill Kill – Kill Kill EP – “I’m in love with a dying man.”
Lizzy traded in her acoustic guitar for a drum machine and started making home-made music videos for her self-released music. The Kill Kill EP (2008) contained only three songs: “Kill Kill,” “Gramma,” and “Yayo,” all of which make appearances on later releases. While this song is far from her best work, it’s also a major milestone for Lana as the first step toward finding her own voice.
Yayo – Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant – “Let me put on a show for you, daddy.”
“Yayo” is easily her most talked about song, at least among critics. Lana has released and re-released it frequently enough that it certainly bears mentioning. It’s slow and woozy with a building intensity that makes it truly affecting. Her voice is never more interesting than it is when she sings this song.
For K (Part 2) – Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant – “All right, you caught me, I don’t play a good guitar.”
The ever mysterious “K” makes another appearance, only this time, Lana seems to be remembering the good times instead of lamenting the bad. Is this the same guy she was writing about in “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans?” I honestly don’t know, but just listen and decide for yourself, because this is easily one of my favorites.
National Anthem (Demo) – “He says to be cool, but I’m already coolest.”
Nearly all of the songs that appear on Born to Die exist in demo form on the internet, but not because some die-hard fans hacked Lana’s computer and leaked them — released homemade videos for them herself. “National Anthem” is my personal favorite, because it shows how charismatic she can be when she wants. Most of her performances lately have been kind of subdued and somber, but the demo for “National Anthem” is pretty balls-to-the-wall.
Video Games – Lana Del Rey – “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you.”
Without a doubt, this is both her most well-known and her most widely celebrated song. The 2012 music video for “Video Games” went viral and launched Lana’s career. There’s a reason a bunch of found footage spliced together has over 34 million views on YouTube.
Radio – Born to Die – “Now my life is sweet like cinnamon, like a fucking dream I’m living in.”
The quintessential summertime driving with windows down kind of song. Never underestimate the power of good driving music, ok?
Carmen – Born to Die – “Lyin’ to herself ’cause her liquor’s top shelf.”
THIS IS A WELL-EXECUTED LITERARY ALLUSION TO LOLITA AND YOU WILL DEAL WITH IT.
Ride – Paradise – “I am fucking crazy, but I am free.”
This is, without a doubt in my mind, Lana’s masterpiece. It would be too easy to write-off the 10 minute music video as an attempt to ride on the coattails of Lady Gaga’s tradition, but I would write-off that criticism as bullshit. This video proves that Lizzy Grant is both an accomplished singer and a very seriously talented poet. The video is visually, sonically, and lyrically coherent, and I will not apologize for loving every second of it.