The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
2012 was inarguably a phenomenal year for music. So many iconic songs are turning 10 this year, like Starships by Nicki Minaj, Everybody Talks by Neon Trees, and Die Young by Ke$ha, just to name a few. However, it wouldn’t have been 2012 without the cultural reset that was Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die” deluxe album. To celebrate its 10-year anniversary (!!), I figured we should take a trip down memory lane and rank all 15 era-defining songs.
15. Lucky Ones
Personally, BTD is a no-skip album for me, but if I had to choose my least favorite song, it’d be this one. It’s definitely grown on me as I’ve matured, but I think I was too angsty as a teen to appreciate a sickeningly sweet love song. That being said, labeling “Lucky Ones” as lowest on the list just shows how hard this album went.
I used to love “Lolita”, mainly because of its melodramatic intro instrumentals, but my obsession kind of faded after watching the 1962 movie adaptation of Lolita. This has always been one of Lana’s more controversial songs (aside from “Ultraviolence”– that could be a whole article in and of itself), but after learning about the fairly perverted source material, listening to it hasn’t been the same for me. At 136 BPM, this is one of her fast-paced, energetic songs, which makes placing it at #14 kind of hard for me.
All in all, “Carmen” is a pretty neutral song for me. It’s more of a story than anything, although the actual contents of the story are debated. There’s an overall consensus that it’s solely about struggling with alcoholism, however some people say it’s about prostitution, too. Either way, lines like “Lying to herself ’cause her liquor’s top shelf” and “She laughs like God, her mind’s like a diamond” make it a good song, but I think there are others on the album that stand out more.
12. This is What Makes Us Girls
I like TIWMUG because you can immerse yourself in the stereotypical American high school experience without actually committing to the aesthetic. It’s sort of like the nice little samples they give out at Costco; you don’t have to spend money on the whole product in order to get the gist of it. This is exactly what TIWMUG does, just instead of sampling a tiny piece of coconut shrimp, you’re getting to experience a spark-noted version of high school rebellion (without the consequences). Partying, drinking, running from the cops… the standard Hollywood interpretation of teendom is yours, condensed into 3 minutes and 59 seconds.
11. Dark Paradise
“Dark Paradise” is the ultimate narration of unrequited love, chock full of vivid imagery that turns the song into a siren’s melancholy plea. It’s a eulogy desperately trying not to be one, and oh boy is that a sad concept to digest. All in all, it’s incredibly well done, which makes me want to place it higher, but somber lyrics like “there’s no remedy for memory, your face is like a melody” are hard to hear. Potent stuff. Unless I’m in need of catharsis, I don’t listen to this one too often.
10. Without You
THIS SONG IS A MOVIE. A picturesque movie. “Without You” produces such strong visuals, and although the themes of fame aren’t super relatable, diving into the reality that the song constructs is easy. For me, it falls into the “iconic breakup songs you can sing in a healthy relationship” category: not relatable, but the lyrics are so full of emotion that it’s impossible not to love. The only reason it’s lower on the list is because singing “I’m nothing without you” gives me unhealthy codependent vibes, so I’ve been listening to it less.
9. Blue Jeans
Another exceptional song in the unrequited love hall of fame. This one is a little less painful and more intriguing because it deals with abandoning love for crime. Even if that’s not your thing, it has a breathier, upbeat sound to counteract the moody themes, which adds an edge that “Dark Paradise” doesn’t have. Also, kind of unrelated, but the music video is a cinematic masterpiece and definitely influenced my decision to place this in my top 10.
8. Million Dollar Man
Songs about spiraling romance are my guilty pleasure, and oh myyy goshhhh is this the blueprint. You can literally hear the nosedive in her desperate “I’d follow you down, down, down, anywhere, anywhere”. Ugh wow. Although I’m not a huge fan of the whole “toxic love dynamic” trope, this song is self-aware enough for me to enjoy it. She knows it’s bad, so she’s toying with the idea of losing everything just for the fun of it. Love the concept; it totally speaks to the infectious nature of love.
7. Diet Mountain Dew
Diet Mountain Dew is probably the least sexy soda brand name on the market, but I swear, Ms. Lana can turn anything into a sultry aesthetic. Her voice coupled with the piano scales makes for a slightly jazzy song that belongs in the Ritz-Carlton’s cocktail lounge (or somewhere equally extravagant). I just want to put on a LBD and a fur coat and gaze pensively over the New York City skyline after listening.
6. Born to die
There’s a reason this is the title track. “Born to Die” is the freaking epitome of classic LDR music. It turns the idea of a failing relationship into a glamorous adventure down a dead-end road. There’s something magical about pairing sorrow with soaring string arrangements (coupled with a sample of “Long Red” by Mountain, of course; I guess that’s the secret formula). BTD also gets extra praise from me because the 2012 music video is art on its own.
When recommending Lana songs to new listeners, Radio is one of my top picks. Something about the bittersweet, dreamy chorus always gets me, and it’s even more powerful knowing that the happy songs from this era are few and far between. “Now my life is sweet like cinnamon” is poetry, just like the rest of this gem. Can’t believe I didn’t put this higher on the list, honestly.
4. Summertime Sadness
Is it overrated? I say absolutely not. I know this is the Lana song everyone recognizes, but it still deserves praise. “Summertime Sadness” literally inspired a whole subgenre of aesthetic posts on 2012 Tumblr, and I hear remixes on the radio to this day. I know it’s mainstream, but I couldn’t care less because it’s one of Lana’s dance songs, and if I can dance to it, it automatically makes top 5.
3. Off to The Races
Speaking of songs to dance to: “Off to the Races” has a tempo of 160 BPM, and I can personally confirm that because I feel it in every bone of my body when I violently breakdance to this masterpiece of a creation. There are so many striking lines in OTTR, but one of my favorites is “Glass room, perfume, cognac, lilac fumes” because it flows insanely well. The whole song is the perfect balance of electrified and racy (how fitting).
2. National anthem
I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly patriotic, but this song makes me want to fall in love with someone under Fourth of July fireworks, unironically. “National Anthem” is right up there with “Party in the USA” in my mind; I’ll listen to it all year long and still not be sick of it when July finally rolls around. Also, “He said to be cool but, I’m already coolest” gives off “Brooklyn Baby” vibes, and the self-obsession just makes the whole thing even better.
1. Video Games
I know what I said earlier about sickeningly sweet love songs, but “Video Games” is its own breed, and God, do I love everything about it. The harp. The violins. The soft piano. The romance elements aren’t very grandiose, and yet this is one of the most romantic songs I can think of. Even the remix is good (technically the 16th song on the album, but I’m grouping it with this version).The love she sings about is simple, but it feels (and sounds) like heaven. I’d much rather play video games with someone I love than do anything else, especially if this is the feeling that might come from it. I’ll forever be floored by this song.