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 genre as ‘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 National Park 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 totally rewards me for my love of it.’
Starting with the scrapping of her birth name. Lana Del Rey was born.
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 and seasonally 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 turn technicolour. 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 to this, then?’ I put up Video Games for myself. It was slow, it was a ballad, it kind of had no chorus. I put it up on Youtube and it worked. Every day there were thousands more views. I just sat there wondering where these people were coming from. I had no idea how they’d heard it but people came and started talking to me because of that song. It was not what I expected. But what a relief. If I could have a shot at singing my Hollywood glam ballads as well as my more upbeat gangsta brother versions of those songs, that would be great. Just not having to try and sing like other people.’
At 24 years old Lana has faced the fear and clocked up strong experiences to back up her magical musical storytelling. ‘I don’t fall in love easily. I’m so particular. But at the same time I do fall in love maybe stupidly. High impact love. I can tell everything I need to know in about one minute. It doesn’t always mean it’s going to end good but it definitely strikes me right away. I want to find someone who’s really magnetic but who isn’t going to do anything bad to me. It’s hard.’
All of these intimacies will coalesce on the debut Lana Del Rey album pencilled tentatively for early 2012. Complementing the lush orchestration of Video Games, there is a mountain of music that she has crafted lovingly in the studio since first facing her fear. From the gorgeous timbres of Hey Lolita Hey to the hip hop influenced National Anthem, Lana Del Rey’s music sounds unique like it has arrived bespoke to the artist.