Tapes had two sides, both 45 minutes long. You had that long to say what you needed to say and then it was time to move on. We’re bringing that challenge back. 45 minutes to convince someone why they should like a certain band, artist, genre, or era.
I’ve claimed to be a Lana Del Rey stan on this website before. How about I attempt to live up to that name by cramming as many amazing Lana moments into 45 minutes that I can. Full mixtape can be found at the bottom of the post or here.
I’m starting with an early career highlight, the soaring ‘Ride’. Taken from the Paradise EP and released at the peak of Lana’s initial burst of popularity, I love the way the drums roll in and out of focus underneath this song. The crash into the chorus is dramatic and it feels like the definitive example of the tone and atmosphere that Lana was capturing on her early records. This just feels like an opening moment.
Shades of Cool (5:42)
I’ve started with a trio of songs that capture a somewhat similar ‘vibe’, but do so in starkly different ways. ‘Shades of Cool’ is pure luxury, like being draped in velvet while lay across a chaise lounge. The way the vocals are produced on this song make Lana sound like she’s singing through a haze of psychedelic smoke, the operatic moments on the hook making the screeches of guitar in the second half even more impactful. The first song I’ve chosen from Lana’s greatest album Ultraviolence sounds like nobody else.
Blue Jeans (3:31)
Next we have probably the first song that truly sold me on Lana Del Rey as an artist. ‘Blue Jeans’ was released 3 times, once as a double A-Side with breakthrough hit ‘Video Games’, next as the B-Side of album title track ‘Born To Die’ and then finally on its own. The way this song infuses Trip-Hop with distorted guitar, and then layers it underneath sultry breathy vocals was so exciting for me at the time. The way Lana’s voice melds in and out of each lyric, like she’s dueting with herself is truly unique. Just be sure to never mention that infamous SNL performance again.
Summer Bummer (featuring ASAP Rocky and Playboi Carti) (4:21)
Switching things up quite a lot we jump to 2017 and a much more straightforward Hip-Hop sound with this track from Lust For Life. I quite enjoy that this song really leans into rap, rather than leave ASAP Rocky’s appearance as just a ‘feature’. It’s interesting that some fans can’t hear the hip hop influences in just about everything Lana has released but on a song like this you can really hear how much she feels inspired by the genre. The first time you could probably dance to a song on this mixtape (Don’t worry it won’t last long)
fuck it I love you (Single Version) (3:38)
Taking it right up to one of Lana’s most recent, and most critically acclaimed albums, Norman Fucking Rockwell we have the equally expletive filled ‘fuck it I love you’. One of my personal standouts of a brilliant record, I’ve included the single version here as it’s beefed up production does wonders for such an otherwise nonchalant song. “If I wasn’t so fucked up I think I’d fuck you all the time” is one of the most straightforwardly to the point moments of Lana’s career too.
Art Deco (4:55)
2015’s Honeymoon is the obvious black sheep of the albums that Lana Del Rey has released since her major label debut (I haven’t even mentioned her often forgotten self titled album from 2010). I found it quite hard to choose something from it here, as it just never connected with me in the same way as all of her other albums have, but ‘Art Deco’ stands out here as a sort of alternative take on ‘Blue Jeans’. One thing I like is the flickers of saxophone that start to appear as the song goes on, not something we usually hear on a Lana Del Rey record.
Old Money (4:32)
In case you didn’t think things could slow down even more we have the piano and string led ‘Old Money’ from Ultraviolence next. There’s a bittersweet feeling across so many Lana Del Rey songs, but on ‘Old Money’ this feels even more intense. Probably one of my favourite vocal performances from the early albums, the simplicity of this song before it builds and builds using nothing more than strings is beautiful.
There’s a sort of conversational clunkiness to the lyrics on American that I absolutely love, “Springsteen is the king don’t you think//I was like, hell yeah that guy can sing”. These moments of dialogue, or even a monologue are something that’s a hallmark of Lana’s writing style over the years, where there’s no pretense dressed up in a metaphor. It gives songs like this a timeless quality which is how a song as straightforward as American could become a personal favourite of mine.
hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have, and I have it (5:25)
I really wanted to pick more than 2 songs from Norman Fucking Rockwell, which contains so many of Lana’s all time greatest moments, but the likes of ‘Mariner’s Apartment Complex’ and ‘Venice Bitch’ are literally 10 minutes long. Instead we have the closing track which stands as the starkest moment in Lana Del Rey’s entire discography. Her most confessional song too, it gives you a glimpse into er experiences as a celebrity, as an artist and as a woman in 2019. “A modern day woman with a weak constitution//’cause I’ve got monsters still under my bed that I could never fight off”. It’s honest and one of the few times that you get truly know that the subject of the song is Lana herself and had to be included here.
National Anthem (3:51)
If ‘hope is a dangerous thing’ was the final track, then ‘National Anthem’ is the encore. In fact it was the encore for the only time I’ve ever had the chance to see Lana Del Rey live (Thanks to the NFR tour being cancelled completely). A performance in which Lana signed autographs, hugged the audience on the front row and consoled crying fans for around FIFTEEN MINUTES while the band vamped their way through the verse and chorus over and over again. The song itself? This has just about everything that defines a Lana Del Rey record. Half ironic patriotism? Check. Drugs, sex and cars? Check. A troubling relationship built around money? That too. If you’ve made it to this point of this playlist and don’t find yourself singing along to the “Tell Me I’m you’re National Anthem” hook, then being a Lana Del Rey stan is probably not going to work out for you. (Also final shout out to the fact that ‘National Anthem’ was co-written with actual winner of Fame Academy David Sneddon)
What other artists, genres and eras of music should we be sum up in 45 minutes? Let us know in the comments below or over at @PickyBs on Twitter.
Words by Sam Atkins