Nirvana, Nina Simone, Britney Spears and more
Alexandra Pollard
11:56 20th June 2014

Lana Del Rey is a musician who is both original and, in many respects, timeless. But hers is an innovation that is drawn from a number of iconic bands and artists. Del Rey's talent for taking inspiration from the biggest and the best of multiple genres and sprinkling them into her own music, without ever going as far as copying, is second to none. 

Given that neither Born To Die or Ultraviolence seems intrinsically tied to the era from which they come, it's hardly surprising that her influences span so many decades. Here's the 10 albums that sit perfectly alongside Ultraviolence. 

  • Nirvana - In Utero: The influence of Nirvana's brand of grunge-rock is even more noticeable on Ultraviolence, but the band have inspired Del Rey for many years. "When I was 11, I saw Kurt Cobain singing 'Heart Shaped Box' on MTV" she told Sirius FM, "and it really stopped me dead in my tracks. I thought he was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Even at a young age, I really related to his sadness."

  • Nancy Sinatra - Nancy & Lee. Almost every profile of Del Rey mentions that she once called herself the "gangster Nancy Sinatra." Del Rey's music, and indeed her image, are heavily influenced by Sinatra. The track 'Summer Wine', which Del Rey covered, features on this collaboration album with Lee Hazlewood. Another stand-out track, which is as darkly romantic as many on Ultraviolence, is 'Some Velvet Morning'.

  • Britney Spears- In The Zone: Yes, really. Though many of Del Rey's influences are either male or dead, Britney is neither. Del Rey has cited the 'Toxic' video as an influence, and, like all those aged between 20 and 30, she probably grew up listening to her whether she liked it or not. "I'm not really interested in a ton of female musicians but there is something about Britney that compelled me - the way she sings and just the way she looks."

  • Thomas Newman - American Beauty soundtrack: Both Born To Die and Ultraviolence are undeniably cinematic - both in terms of their orchestral sound (which was stepped up a gear on Ultraviolence), and the narratives they create. This particular soundtrack, which is both unnervingly upbeat and darkly sinister, just like the film itself, has been cited by Del Rey as an influence on her music.

  • Portishead - Dummy: The minimalist trip-hop routes of Born To Die draw more obvious comparisons with Portishead, but their influence remains lurking under the surface of Ultraviolence. Make sure you listen to the mash-up of 'Blue Jeans' and the incredible 'Glory Box' that's on YouTube.

  • Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Leonard Cohen: Cohen's narrative-driven songs are known for being slow-paced... dreary even. And yet there's a power and emotion behind his songs that excuses, even justifies, the 'dreariness'. Just like with Ultraviolence.

  • Black Keys - Turn Blue: The Black Keys' influence over Ultraviolence was a direct one - Dan Auerbach produced the album. His influence is made most obvious by the addition of messy-sounding, psychedelic guitar and a generally heavier rock sound.

  • Nina Simone - Nina Simone At Town Hall: Ultraviolence includes a cover of 'The Other Woman', the song made famous by Simone on her live album Nina Simone at Town Hall. Her rich, deep, soulful vocals are iconic, and her influence over Del Rey's sound is clear.

  • Janis Joplin - Pearl: Ultraviolence takes on a more downbeat, jazz/blues sound - a sound which Joplin perfected with what was, tragically, her posthumous final album. Tracks like 'Cry Baby' are raw and pained - though they're sung with a defiant power that Del Rey only occasionally hints at.

  • Eminem - Curtain Call: He's not the first artist that would probably spring to mind when listening to Ultraviolence, but Eminem's focus on intelligent, meaningful lyrics inspired Del Rey's own narrative driven work. Tracks such as 'Stan' and 'Lose Yourself' create a troubled, fictitious persona, just as much of Ultraviolence does. In Del Rey's own words: "When I found Eminem for the first time, he really changed my life because, I didn't know that music could be intelligent.. He was talking about his own life and like, he wasn't just rhyming over music just for rhyme's sake."

More about:


Photo: Lana Del Rey Facebook