Sometimes stars emerge. Sometimes stars are thrust upon us. And sometimes stars simply slip into the atmosphere as if propelled by something otherworldly. It is into this last category that the astonishing presence, voice, look and feel of Lana Del Rey falls. Musical stardom is not an option with Ms. Del Rey. It is her vocation. She calls herself the ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra’ and defines her genreas ‘Hollywood pop/sadcore’, a dramatic new loop for pop music. Her look she describes as ‘Lolita got lost in the ‘hood’. Get used to it all. This isn’t just soundbite, it’s Lana’s reality.
Lana Del Rey grew up Lizzy Grant in Lake Placid on the outer edges of New York State. Herein some of her unique musical flavour was incubated. ‘It has an epic, nostalgic feel. It’s in the middle of a nationalpark that is six hours from New York City. But it’s also a struggle because it’s a town built on tourism that no‐one goes to anymore.’
At 18, she fulfilled her lifelong ambition of decamping to New York City. ‘Since I was little I knew I would end up there,’ she says, ‘Every day is a pleasure there. Every single day I walk out of the door is a good day. I like everything about it. New York totallyrewards me for my love of it.’
The process of her astonishing reinvention, fulfilling a natural propensity towards stardom, began on day one. ‘It’s nice to be able to try and build the life you want for yourself. All the things you start off with are given to you by somebody else. You have to be brave and try to start again. It might be a little scary. Not many people say “let’s start life overand do it again the way I want to.”’
Lizzy Grant did, starting with the scrapping of her birth name. Lana Del Rey was born.
Lana opened her musical hand at an open mic night in the hipster New York suburb of Williamsburg. She was 19 years old and terrified. ‘The first open mic was shocking to me. I was wearing jeans and a yellow shirt. It was at the Lilo Lounge. No-one was playing New Yorkanymore then. I had my acoustic guitar. Everybody stopped. It was fucking embarrassing,I couldn’t believe it. It was a rock bar. I didn’t belong there. I sang a ballad, sort of exactly like Video Games that I had written with three chords. The whole room stopped fighting and just went silent. They didn’t even clap at the end. It stayed quiet. I said ‘thank you’, left my jacket at the bar stool and justran out of the place. It was an interesting dynamic. I thought if I could just stop people, then that might be enough.’
Clearly something special was happening. The interlocking sounds of her mesmerising, hushed voice and the bruised luxury of her music alerted ears; immediately people expressed interest. ‘Somebody ran out after me and said “you should come to a night I’m doing next week andplay some songs for me.” I was afraid of everything. If they had laughed at me that night I would have never come back on stage. Ever.’
Her direct influences were visual as well as musical; David Lynch, soundtracks for ‘50s black and white movies, the whirring sound of the Ferris at Coney Island, fame itself. She lived in a New Jersey trailer park and decked her homestead in flags, streamers andseasonally inappropriate Christmas lights. ‘All the things I love,’she notes. This was Lana’s world now and it needed to sparkle.
After scrapes in and out of the music industry, holding onto the fastidious dreams of the possibilities for Lana Del Rey, a breathtaking musical landscape has emerged. Brittle, emotional, cascading with cinematic reference points, her songwriting was starting to turntechnicolor. The tainted glamour of Video Games, with its lyrical leanings towards the verbal loquacity of hip hop and its noir-ish melodic feeling for torch singing, was a beginning for her.
‘I had found a sound that thrilled and intrigued me. Shockingly enough, Video Games was a key moment for me. I was chasing hits, fast songs. I would be wondering ‘how am I going to pole-dance in the spotlight...
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