The Meaning Behind Lana Del Rey’s Electric “Summertime Sadness”

Lana Del Rey made melancholy fun when she released “Summertime Sadness” in 2012. It is one of the defining tracks of her breakthrough album, Born to Die, and was released as the second single following the fan-favorite “Video Games.” In what’s described as a “sleeper hit,” the song didn’t catch fire until a year later when French DJ and producer Cedric Gervais remixed it, catapulting “Sadness” to the top of the charts and helping solidify it as one of Del Rey’s signature hits. So what is it about the song that resonated so deeply?

Videos by American Songwriter

Meaning Behind the Song

“Image is important, but I’m a writer first,” Del Rey professed to NME in 2012 about songwriting. “I’ve been a writer since I was very young and I’m a singer second…the visuals and the photographs and the movies, those come after.” She proved the power of her pen when she wrote “Summertime Sadness” with frequent collaborator Rick Nowels. She felt compelled to write it during a time when she felt uninspired in life, soaking in the little details of a trip to California that helped inform the song’s lyrics.

“‘Summertime Sadness’ is a song that I love, because I didn’t compromise when I wrote it at all,” Del Rey affirmed to SUPERSUPER! magazine. “I wrote exactly what I felt, and put a melody to it that was perfect for the words. I was staying in Santa Monica, California with my composer and best friend, Daniel Heath. I would sit under the telephone wires and listen to them sizzle in the warm air while he went to work. I wanted to take the electricity and absorb it so it would make me feel alive and electric again. I felt happy in the warm [weather] and started writing about how sad and gorgeous the summertime felt to me.”

[RELATED: Lana Del Rey Settles “Summertime Sadness” Music Video Copyright Lawsuit]

Though it was officially serviced to radio in June 2012, “Sadness” didn’t make a huge splash on the charts, debuting at No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100. But once Gervais got his hands on it, the re-released version to radio shot way up the chart, peaking at No. 6 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. Prior to “Sadness,” Gervais had a hit in the United Kingdom with his song “Molly.”

“After the success of my track ‘Molly,’ a lot of people asked me to remix big artists. To me, it’s not about the money, so I turned down a lot of people. But Lana Del Rey came in. I didn’t even ask how much money, I just said, ‘Please send me the vocals right away,’ and I did the track in one day,” he explained to Billboard. “I wasn’t thinking if it was going to be a hit or not, I just love and respect the artist that she is.”

“Sadness” remains Del Rey’s highest-charting single on the all-genre Hot 100. In 2014, Gervais won Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his work on Del Rey’s song at the Grammy Awards.

Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Darius Rucker Releases New Single “Southern Comfort”