The Greatest

Album: Norman F---ing Rockwell! (2019)
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Songfacts®:

  • "The Greatest" finds Lana Del Rey missing her ex and the particular period of her life she spent with him in California. She looks back fondly on that era, inserting various pop cultural references to make her point.

    I miss Long Beach and I miss you, babe
    I miss dancing with you the most of all
    I miss the bar where the Beach Boys would go
    Dennis's last stop before Kokomo


    Del Rey also misses her friends in the Big Apple.

    I miss New York and I miss the music
    Me and my friends‚ we miss rock 'n' roll


    The singer spent her early career in New York, playing clubs in Brooklyn.
  • The song title comes into play during the chorus when Del Rey expresses her frustration at how the world has changed since the "good old days."

    I'm facing the greatest
    The greatest loss of them all
    The culture is lit and I had a ball
    I guess that I'm burned out after all
  • During the outro, Del Rey makes some further pop cultural references that invoke feelings of loss; these include the 2018 California wildfires, Kanye West's embrace of President Trump, and the late David Bowie's song "Life On Mars?"

    LA is in flames‚ it's getting hot
    Kanye West is blond and gone
    "Life on Mars" ain't just a song
    Oh, the live stream's almost on


    Del Rey performed at Kanye West's wedding to Kim Kardashian in 2014, and once praised the rapper for his influence on music. However, she feels like she lost Ye after seeing him bleach his hair blond and meet with President Trump in the White House.
  • Del Rey felt compelled to speak out about Kanye West's embrace of President Trump because of the rapper's role as a cultural leader.

    "Kanye just means so much to us," she explained to The New York Times. "And by the way, I'm grateful to be in a country where everyone can have their own political views. I'm really not more of a liberal than I am a Republican - I'm in the middle. But it was more like the mood and the vibe around, Yo, this man is the greatest! Really? The greatest? It hurt me. Did I have to say anything? No. But it's more just a line that represents a lot of things."
  • Del Rey wrote and produced the song with Jack Antonoff, who collaborated on 11 of the 14 songs on the album.
  • This song was featured, along with "F--k It, I Love You," as a double music video directed by Rich Lee, who also worked on visuals for Del Rey's previous album, Lust for Life.
  • In an interview with Mix With The Masters, Antonoff explained how the choice of instruments used on the song reflects its themes. "The idea for the flute and horns is that there's a 'regal-ness' to it," he said. "It sounded like a death march to the end of culture."

    "Hence her lyrics, 'The culture is lit and I had a ball. If this is it I'm signing off.' The whole thing is just this lament of a time gone," Antonoff continued. "So it felt really interesting to have it be almost like a funeral procession."

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