Video Games (song)

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For other songs, see Video Games (disambiguation).
"Video Games"
Single by Lana Del Rey
from the album Born to Die
B-side "Blue Jeans"
Released October 7, 2011 (2011-10-07)
Genre Baroque pop[1]
Length 4:42
Producer(s) Robopop
Lana Del Rey singles chronology
  • "Video Games"
  • (2011)

"Video Games" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey for her second studio album, Born to Die (2012). The song was produced by Robopop. The lyrics and musical composition are attributed to Del Rey and Justin Parker, author of her songs, "Blue Jeans" and "Born to Die" from the same album. It was first released to the Internet on June 29, 2011, was later released on her extended play, Lana Del Rey, and re-released as the lead single from her second studio album, Born to Die on October 10, 2011, through Interscope Records. Musically, "Video Games" is a baroque pop ballad, that lyrically refers to a girl who finds solace in the simple moments in life, such as watching her boyfriend play video games. The song garnered acclaim from music critics, many of whom praised the uniqueness of Del Rey's vocal performance.

"Video Games" was a commercial success, peaking at No. 1 in Germany and Luxembourg, reaching a top 10 position in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom among others. The song's accompanying music video was directed and edited by the singer herself, combining scenes of Del Rey performing the song filmed on a webcam with clips of archive footage. Certified platinum in four countries, the song won an Ivor Novello Award for "Best Contemporary Song" in 2012 and was nominated for several other awards shortly after release. "Video Games" peaked at number 91 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, leading to a gold certification in 2013 when the RIAA changed how it calculated certifications. Following the release of her third EP, Paradise, the song returned to their Top Heatseekers chart at number 11.


"I wanted to be part of a high-class scene of musicians. It was half-inspired because I didn't have many friends, and I was hoping that I would meet people and fall in love and start a community around me, the way they used to do in the '60s. I wanted to be seen as a good singer, and not much more than that."

—Del Rey, on the difficulty of her career beginnings[2]

Del Rey was born in New York City in 1985[3][4] and was raised in Lake Placid.[5][6] At age 14, she was sent to boarding school in Connecticut,[7][8] before moving to New York City at 18 to study metaphysics at Fordham University.[6][9][10] Del Rey explained that while at university: "that was when my musical experience began. I kind of found people for myself".[6] After her uncle taught her how to play guitar, she realized that she could probably write "a million songs with those six chords".[11] She then began performing in clubs in New York City, using various stage names such as Sparkle Rope Jump Queen and Lizzy Grant and the Phenomena.[11] According to Del Rey: "I was always singing, but didn't plan on pursuing it seriously. When I got to New York City when I was 18, I started playing in clubs in Brooklyn – I have good friends and devoted fans on the underground scene, but we were playing for each other at that point – and that was it".[6] At 20 years old, Del Rey signed a $10,000 recording contract and moved to a trailer park outside of New York City.[6] The album that she recorded was later shelved, "causing her to shift her focus". Instead, she began work in community service and for the next five years worked at homeless outreach, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers.[6]

A few years later, Del Rey signed to 5 Point Records, an independent record label owned by David Kahne. With the label, she released the three-track EP Kill Kill in October 2008 and a full-length studio album Lana Del Ray in 2010.[12][13] She explained that: "David asked to work with me only a day after he got my demo. He is known as a producer with a lot of integrity and who had an interest in making music that wasn't just pop".[14] Del Rey also explained why she then changed her stage name from Lizzy Grant to Lana Del Rey: "I wanted a name I could shape the music towards. I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba – Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue".[15] While being interviewed by Rosie Swash of The Observer, Del Rey revealed that initially "Video Games" would not be released as a single,[16] feeling it would struggle to gain airplay.[17] However, after it received positive reactions from music critics and the general public, Del Rey's label decided to release it.[16]

Music and lyrics[edit]

A 28-second sample of the song's final chorus, features Del Rey using lower vocals over a background mixed with swathing strings and harps.[18][19][20]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Video Games" is four minutes and 42 seconds long (4:42).[21][22] The song was written and composed by Elizabeth Grant (Lana Del Rey) and Justin Parker in the key of F minor.[23] Set in time signature of common time with a tempo of 61 beats per minute, Del Rey's vocal range spans from E3 to A4.[23] Lindsey Johnstone of The Scotsman described the song as an "ode to being ignored and the exquisite pain of clutching at an illusion of happiness".[24] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian praised how Del Rey's vocal performance, against ballooning orchestration and pizzicato strings, overlapped the subdued theme of an aloof, beer-drinking boyfriend figure.[20] Del Rey described her music and day-to-day style as "gangsta Nancy Sinatra",[19] with contemporary critics noting the song as a doom-filled ballad that unapologetically displays vulnerability.[19] Prominent lyrics in the song include, "I heard you like the bad girls, honey, is that true?";[25] "Heaven is a place on earth with you/ Tell me all the things you want to do"; and "open up a beer... and play a video game?"[26] In an interview for British online magazine The Quietus, Del Rey stated that the inspiration for the song came from her ex-boyfriend, commenting, "I think we came together because we were both outsiders. It was perfect. But I think with that contentment also comes sadness. There was something heavenly about that life – we'd go to work and he'd play his video games – but also it was maybe too regular."[14] The singer also stated that she used lower vocals for "Video Games" because she felt that the public did not see her as a serious artist.[18] Thematically, the lyrics have been labeled as antifeministic.[27][28] Of the musical composition, MTV lauded the cinematic atmosphere of the song, adoring its feathery violins, echoing electronic thumps, and melancholic crescendos — wound into a dramatic exhibition.[29]


Critical response[edit]

"Video Games" was met with critical acclaim from music critics. Following the release of the single, Ian Cohen dubbed the song "Best New Music" on Pitchfork Media commenting, "on her stirring debut single, New York singer-songwriter Lizzy Grant transforms into the more bombastically named Lana Del Rey and absolutely wallows in it."[26] Digital Spy writer Robert Copsey noted Del Rey "combines a near-identical [Nancy Sinatra] vocal with her own fascination for the tragically glamorous — or 'Hollywood sadcore' as she succinctly labels it."[19] Lewis Corner, also of Digital Spy, said, "New York-born, London-based Lana Del Rey is currently working on her debut album, but if this newly released preview track/video is anything to go by, it's going to be avant-garde pop at its very best."[30] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian considered "Video Games" the best song of 2011 and added, "it's tempting to say with a song that good it doesn't matter who sings it, but that's not strictly true. As pop divas who collaborate with Eg White go, Lana Del Rey sounds hugely understated."[20]

In a poll performed by NME, readers ranked it as the tenth best song of the year.[31] Maura Johnston of The Village Voice, however, called the song and the accompanying music video overproduced,[22] while New York magazine contributor Amanda Dobbis commented that "it's hard to totally separate Del Rey's looks from the criticism that's been bubbling around her."[32] In responses to this controversy, Paste‍ '​s Luke Larson said, "when 'Video Games' first hit the web, people weren’t freaking out about Lana Del Rey or fake lips or Lizzy Grant. People were freaking out because they had stumbled upon a fresh voice and a beautifully written song and ultimately, does the rest really matter?"[33] Krystina Nellis of Drowned in Sound said the single reminded her of something from a David Lynch movie.[34]

Additional, Drowned in Sound wrote of "Video Games":

Above all the noise of the internet, ‘Video Games’ still works and is magical; I still have to listen on quiet because whenever I do I become convinced something absolutely terrible is about to crash through the window; it might as well be sung by Laura Palmer and be about the Bobs at the end of your bed. Either way, it is a brilliant, beautifully-executed pop song, a proper shivery, proper classic.[35]

The Village Voice‍ '​s Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll ranked "Video Games" at number seven to find the best music of 2011, tied with Britney Spears's "Till the World Ends". The British magazine NME named "Video Games" the best single of 2011.

Commercial performance[edit]

"Video Games" attained commercial success across Europe, reaching number one in Germany and top-ten positions in Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.[36][37][38] The song was also voted number six in Triple J's Hottest 100 songs of 2011.[39]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Video Games" was directed and edited by Del Rey. It features video clips of skateboarders, cartoons and shots from old movies, as well as paparazzi footage of Paz de la Huerta falling down while intoxicated.[32] These are interspersed between shots of Del Rey singing, which she filmed herself using a webcam.[32] When asked if she would change anything about the video's production, Del Rey stated, "Had I known so many people were going to watch the video, I'd have put some more effort into it. I would have got my hair and make-up done and tried not to be so pouty, seeing as everyone talks about my face all the time. And I'd have put more of a storyline into it."[18] The singer also revealed that she was "trying to look smart and well turned-out, rather than 'sexy' [in the music video]. Of course I wanted to look good, but 'smart' was the primary focus."[14]

New York magazine contributor Amanda Dobbins noted the music video "predictably [...] garnered some attention" from the public.[32] Rya Backer of MTV questioned Del Rey's originality, saying, "it's hard to know what to make of Lana Del Rey at first glance. Is she as Jools Holland once dubbed her an 'Internet phenomenon' worth no more than a few salacious blog posts? Or is she a legitimate chanteuse wrapped in the hyper feminine, yet innately American (and admittedly well-curated) image she's projected in videos for such tracks as 'Video Games' and 'Blue Jeans'?"[40] Pitchfork Media's Ian Cohen commented that the music video "fits between surrendering to romance and depression, moving with the elegant wastefulness of the kind of day drunk that's a true privilege of the beautiful, idle class."[26]

Directed by Ben Coughlan, Del Rey filmed a second video for the song, titled "Video Games (Live At The Premises)".[41] Uploaded to her official VEVO account on October 18, 2011, the song features Del Rey in jean shorts and a white T-shirt, singing into a microphone barefoot, while accompanied by a pianist. The Huffington Post wrote that the video was "loaded", indicating that the title was a contradiction and not, in fact, a live performance whatsoever.[42] Additionally, they wrote: "we understand the takedowns of her hype (there is a lot of hype), but that doesn't change the fact that "Video Games"—the tune Lana's singing live this time—is one helluva song."[42] Aside from criticizing her pillowy lips and long fingernails, The Guardian applauded Del Rey for amping up on the coquettish glances and hushed vocals as she devastatingly delivers the line, "I heard that you like the bad girls, honey, is that true?"[25]

Live performances and usage in other media[edit]

Del Rey performing "Video Games" during a concert held in Amsterdam in November 2011

"Video Games" was performed by Del Rey in a number of live appearances, including for MTV Push,[43] and at the Bowery Ballroom, where, according to Eliot Glazer of New York, "the polarizing indie hipstress brought her 'gangsta Nancy Sinatra' swag".[44] Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone commented that, despite Del Rey being nervous and anxious while performing the song live, the singer "sang with considerable confidence, though her transitions from husky, come-hither sexuality to bratty, girlish petulance could be rather jarring".[45] Del Rey also performed the song on Dutch television program De Wereld Draait Door,[46] on British music television show Later... with Jools Holland,[47] and in an intimate show at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, California.[48] On January 14, 2012, Del Rey performed the song on Saturday Night Live (along with "Blue Jeans"). Her performance soon came under scrutiny and was even criticized by NBC anchor Brian Williams. Williams referred to the performance as "one of the worst outings in SNL history".[49] Actor Daniel Radcliffe, who hosted the show the night Del Rey performed, quickly came to her defense, stating that criticism toward her was less about the performance and more about "her past and her family".[50] Del Rey performed ″Video Games″ live at ECHO Awards in Berlin, March 22, 2012.

"Video Games" has been covered by a few artists, including Boy George, TYP, John Mayer (on guitar), Bristeil (in the Belarussian language), Ben Howard, Maverick Sabre, Tyler Hilton, Amanda Palmer, Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus, Patrick Wolf, Tom Odell[51] and English rock bands Bombay Bicycle Club and Kasabian.[52][53][54][55] The song was featured in the Ringer "If You Ever Want a French Lesson..." episode from its first season.[56] A remix was also featured in 666 Park Avenue's "The Dead Don't Stay Dead". On February 25, 2012, Masha covered "Video Games" on her popular YouTube channel.[57]

Track listings[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label(s) Ref.
Germany October 7, 2011 Digital download [61]
Switzerland [62]
United Kingdom October 17, 2011 7-inch vinyl Stranger Records [112]
Germany October 25, 2011 [113]
November 4, 2011 CD single Vertigo Records [114]
December 2, 2011 Maxi single [115]
Belgium January 6, 2012 Digital download
  • Polydor Records
  • Interscope Records
Finland [60]
Luxembourg [116]
Netherlands [117]
United Kingdom Digital EP Polydor Records [118]
January 23, 2012 Maxi single [119]
United States February 28, 2012 Remix EP
  • Polydor Records
  • Interscope Records


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  119. ^ "Video Games – Remix Ep". Retrieved December 10, 2014. 

External links[edit]