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Elizabeth Woolridge Grant (born June 21, 1986), known by her stage name Lana Del Rey, is an American singer-songwriter. Del Rey started songwriting at the age of 18 and signed her first recording contract with 5 Points Records in 2007, releasing her first digital album Lana Del Ray in January 2010. Del Rey bought herself out of the contract with 5 Points Records in April 2010. She signed a joint contract with Interscope, Polydor, and Stranger Records in July 2011.
After she released her debut single "Video Games" in June 2011, a music video created by Del Rey for the song was posted on YouTube in August 2011. Her sophomore album, Born to Die, was released in January 2012. The album has sold over 5 million copies worldwide to date, and was the fifth best-selling album of 2012. Charting across Europe, this album spawned numerous top ten hits, including the title track "Born to Die", "Blue Jeans", and "Summertime Sadness". With the release of her third EP, Paradise, Del Rey spawned her second top ten album in the United States, debuting at number 10 on the Billboard 200 with 67,000 copies sold in its first week.
Del Rey's music has been noted for its cinematic sound and its references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of the 1950s and 1960s Americana. The singer has described herself as a "self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra". Musically, she draws influence from what she deems to be the masters of each genre, including Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Nirvana,Eminem, Bruce Springsteen, and Britney Spears, as well as from poetry and film noir.
Lana Del Rey was born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant in New York City on June 21, 1986, to former Grey Group copywriter turned entrepreneur, Rob Grant, and former Grey account executive, Pat Grant. She is of Scottish descent, and has two younger siblings. Del Rey grew up in Lake Placid, New York until age 15, when she was sent to Kent School, a boarding school in Connecticut, for three years to deal with her alcohol dependence. Around age 18, she moved to The Bronx to attend Fordham University, studying a branch of philosophy known as metaphysics because "it bridged the gap between God and science. I was interested in God and how technology could bring us closer to finding out where we came from and why." She said, "that was when my musical experience began. I kind of found people for myself." She stayed in the Bronx for four years and Brooklyn for another four years.
She began singing in the church choir when she was a child. After her uncle taught her how to play the guitar when she was 18, she "realized [that she] could probably write a million songs with those six chords," and she began performing in nightclubs around the city under various names such as Sparkle Jump Rope Queen and Lizzy Grant and the Phenomena. "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 BrooklynâI have good friends and devoted fans on the underground scene, but we were playing for each other at that pointâand that was it."
"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."
On April 25, 2005, a seven-track compact disc was registered under Elizabeth Woolridge Grant with the United States Copyright Office. The application title was "Rock Me Stable" with another title "Young Like Me" also listed. The track titles are currently unknown. Between 2005 and 2006, the album Sirens was recorded under the name "May Jailer" and leaked in May 2012.
At her first performance in 2006 for the Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition, Del Rey met Van Wilson, an A&R rep for 5 Points Records, an independent label owned by David Nichtern. In 2007, Del Rey signed a record contract for $10,000 with 5 Points Records while still a senior at Fordham University and moved into Manhattan Mobile Home Park, a New Jersey trailer park, and subsequently began working with producer David Kahne, with whom she released her first three-track EP titled Kill Kill in October 2008. 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." Her album, however, was shelved, causing her to shift her focus. Instead, she began to work in community service. "Homeless outreach, drug, and alcohol rehabilitationâthat's been my life for the past five years," she told Vogue UK in 2012. Her debut full-length album, titled Lana Del Ray, was released in January 2010. Her father, Robert Grant, helped with the marketing of the album, which was available for purchase on iTunes for a brief period before being withdrawn. David Kahne, who produced Grant and previous label owner David Nichtern have both stated that Grant bought the rights back from her label, 5 Points, as she wanted it out of circulation to "...stifle future opportunities to distribute itâan echo of rumors that the action was part of a calculated strategy. About choosing her stage name, she has said: "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. She has said that her lawyers and managers made up the name Lana Del Rey and persuaded her to adopt the stage name. On September 1, 2010, Del Rey was featured by Mando Diao in their MTV Unplugged concert at Union Film-Studios in Berlin.
After uploading a few of her tracks to her YouTube channel, Del Rey was discovered and signed by Stranger Records to release her debut single "Video Games". She told The Observer, "I just put that song online a few months ago because it was my favourite. To be honest, it wasn't going to be the single but people have really responded to it." The song earned her a Q award for "Next Big Thing" in October 2011 and an Ivor Novello for "Best Contemporary Song" in 2012. The same month, she signed a joint deal with Interscope Records and Polydor to work on her second studio album Born to Die. Del Rey built anticipation to the album by doing a number of live appearances, such as promotional concerts at the Bowery Ballroom and at the Chateau Marmont, and with performances at television shows such as De Wereld Draait Door, and Later... with Jools Holland. Del Rey also performed two songs from the album on Saturday Night Live on January 14, 2012 and received a negative response from critics and the general public. Del Rey's performance was defended by the evening program's guest host, actor Daniel Radcliffe, despite not having seen her performance. She had earlier defended her spot on the program, saying: "I'm a good musician [...] I have been singing for a long time, and I think that [SNL creator] Lorne Michaels knows that [...] it's not a fluke decision." The following week on SNL, Kristen Wiig impersonated del Rey where she humorously defended herself during Weekend Update.
Born to Die was officially released on January 31, 2012 worldwide, and reached number one in 11 countries, though critical reaction was divided. The same week, Del Rey said that she bought back the rights to her 2010 debut album, and had plans to re-release it in the summer of 2012 under Interscope Records and Polydor. Contrary to Del Rey's press statement, her previous record label and producer David Kahne have both stated that she bought the rights to the album when she and the label parted company, due to the offer of a new deal, in April 2010.Born to Die sold 3.4 million copies in 2012, making it the fifth-best-selling album of 2012. In the United States, Born to Die charted on the Billboard 200 album chart well into 2012, lingering at number 76, after 36 weeks on the chart.
In an interview with RTVE on June 15, 2012, Del Rey announced she has been working on a new album due in November, in an interview with Tim Blackwell for Nova FM in Melbourne, Australia, Del Rey added that her upcoming November release would not be a new album, but more like an EP. Mid-September saw the official announcement of Paradise's lead single, "Ride". On September 19, 2012, the music video for "Blue Velvet" was released through H&M. One day later, on September 20, "Blue Velvet" became available for purchase as a promotional single. "Ride" became available for purchase on September 25, 2013. The music video for "Ride" was premiered at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California on October 10, 2012. Critics panned the video as pro-prostitution and antifeminist, the latter being a word attributed to Del Rey's work since "Video Games". Del Rey's Paradise Edition of Born to Die was set to be released on November 12. With the release of her third EP, Paradise, Del Rey spawned her second top 10 album in the United States, debuting at number 10 on the Billboard 200 with 67,000 copies sold in its first week. At the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards, Del Rey received nominations in the categories Best Alternative, Best Push, and Best New Act. Winning Best Alternative, Del Rey presented the award for Best Female to Taylor Swift.
At the 2013 BRIT Awards, she won the award for International Female Solo Artist, making it her second BRIT Award to date. Del Rey's win surprised critics who highly anticipated Taylor Swift to win the award. She is currently working on her third studio album which she described as being "more stripped down but still cinematic and dark." In March, Del Rey recited Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself" for the French fashion magazine, L'Officiel Paris.
Del Rey's seventh single, "Dark Paradise", was released as a single in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland on March 1, 2013. Del Rey won the ECHO Awards for Best International Newcomer and Best International Pop/Rock Artist on March 21, 2013. A music video for Del Rey's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel #2" was released on March 27, 2013. The following month, in April 2013, another self-produced video was released; it showed Del Rey and her boyfriend, Barrie-James O'Neil, covering "Summer Wine", by Lee Hazlewood. "Burning Desire" became available for purchase as a stand-alone download on March 19, 2013 as the second promotional single from Paradise; its music video was premiered the previous month on Valentine's Day of 2013. Together with the film's director, co-writer, and co-producer Baz Luhrmann, Del Rey penned the original song "Young and Beautiful" for the soundtrack of the 2013 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Following the song's release, it peaked at 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Del Rey's highest peak on the chart. However, shortly after its release to contemporary hit radio, the label prematurely pulled it and decided to send a different song to that format; on July 2, 2013, a Cedric Gervais remix of Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness" was sent there; a sleeper hit, the song proved to be a success, surpassing "Young and Beautiful", reaching number 6 and becoming her first American top ten hit. The remix won the Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical in 2013.
Alongside Paradise, Del Rey announced plans to launch a short film titled Tropico.Tropico was filmed in late June 2013 and directed by Anthony Mandler. On November 22, 2013, an official trailer for Tropico was released; at the end of the trailer, it was announced that the film would be uploaded to Del Rey's official VEVO account on December 5, 2013. The short film premiered on December 4 at Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California. Before showing the film, Del Rey told the audience "I really just wanted us all to be together so I could try and visually close out my chapter before I release the new record, Ultraviolence." Journalists identified the phrase from the Anthony Burgess' dystopian novella A Clockwork Orange (1962), but reports were conflicting as to whether or not the title was stylized as one or two words. On December 6, 2013, an EP, also titled Tropico, was made available for purchase via iTunes; it includes the film itself along with the three aforementioned songs.
On January 23, 2014, it was announced that Del Rey would be covering the song "Once Upon a Dream" (from the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty) for the 2014 dark fantasy film Maleficent. The single was released on January 26. On February 20, Del Rey posted a picture of herself and Dan Auerbach on Twitter with the caption "Me and Dan Auerbach are excited to present you Ultraviolence". Del Rey and Auerbach were rumoured to be working together at Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee in January and he was said to be producing her upcoming album. In March, Rufus Wainwright revealed in an interview that he was currently working with Del Rey. The first single of Ultraviolence, "West Coast", was released on April 14.
She has been described as a "self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra" and "Lolita lost in the hood" and her music has been noted for its cinematic sound and its references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of 1950s and '60s Americana.Rolling Stone noted that Del Rey enjoys playing the role of lounge singer. Del Rey has also been called "a torch singer of the internet era" and "the anti-Gaga." Born Lizzy Grant, Del Rey has attributed her work to various stage names including Lana Rey Del Mar, Sparkle Jump Rope Queen, and May Jailer. Settling on Lana Del Rey, the singer claims she selected the name because it was beautiful. First mention of the name Lana Del Rey came from her Spanish-speaking Cuban friends. Following in the shadow of artists like Prince and David Bowie, Del Rey chose her musical identity because it "reminded [her] of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue."
Del Rey has stylized her musical sound as "Hollywood sadcore".Time said the solid core of her sound was "movie music", with a fairy-dusting of harp and an ominous timpani, laid out over-top a hip hop vocal cadence. Her vocal style has been likened to rap. Of Born to Die, indie music journal Drowned in Sound wrote, "She likes that whole hip hop thing though, has this whole swagger thing going that not many girls like her got," adding that it sounded like a poppier Bond soundtrack. In "National Anthem", "Off to the Races," and "Diet Mountain Dew", Del Rey employs this alternative rapping technique. Under the stage name Lizzy Grant, she called her music "Hawaiian glam metal", while the work of her May Jailer project was acoustic. Attributed to many genres, Del Rey's sound has been primarily linked to indie and baroque pop; experimenting with hip hop and trip hop genres.
Del Rey has appeared numerous times in PR photo-shoots and music videos adorned in gauzy dresses and floral headdresses; she has been recognized as being less flashy than other mainstream female pop singers. Lyrically, "Born to Die" was described as sad. Del Rey elaborates: "I'm not sad, I'm happy. I feel like I'm happy because I'm at peace with the way that things are... I did have a darker filter on sometimes, but that slowly lifted through doing a lot of different things. And finding true love is something that really did inspire me, lyrically. Because I felt so much the same for so much of my life and then when you find someone exciting, you don't know that you could actually feel differently than you did before. I was inspired." Del Rey writes her own lyrics, drawing on various experiences she had while living in New York City, and she has said that her lyrics "sound like stories".
Del Rey possesses an expansive contralto vocal range, which has been described as captivating and highly emotive, being able to transcend from sounding high and girlish in her timbre, down to a low and jazzy sound with great ease, although both these areas of the voice can be conflicting in the contrast of their sound, polarizing opinion. When recording in the studio Del Rey is known for vocal multi-layering, double tracking and overlays which, as it has been noted, is difficult for her to replicate within a live setting, especially with the lack of backing singers to fill out the original vocal style.Contemporary music critics have called her voice "smoky", "gravely", and reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe.
Del Rey stated the use of her lower vocals on the tracks from Born to Die, claiming that "people weren't taking me very seriously, so I lowered my voice, believing that it would help me stand out. Now I sing quite low... well, for a female anyway." "I sing low now, but my voice used to be a lot higher. Because of the way I look, I needed something to ground the entire project. Otherwise I think people would assume I was some airhead singer. Well, I don't think... I know. I've sung one way, and sung another, and I've seen what people are drawn to", she said on the topic.
Amongst her musical influences, Del Rey cites several contemporary artists such as Elvis Presley, Antony and the Johnsons, Frank Sinatra, and Eminem. "[I really] just like the masters of every genre", she told BBC radio presenter Jo Whiley. Her favorite artists include Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen. She covered Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel #2" in 2013.
Janis Joplin's live version of "Summertime" from the Cheap Thrills compilation album is one of Del Rey's favorite songs. Del Rey has also cited "Time of the Season" by The Zombies and "Hotel California" by The Eagles as favorites and inspirations. Her favorite films, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and American Beauty have also inspired her musical style. Inspired by poetry, Del Rey cites Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg as instrumental to her songwriting. Specifically, she enjoys the chapbook "Leaves of Grass" by Whitman and a poem called "Howl" by Ginsberg. Her song, "Body Electric" from her third EP, Paradise, alludes to Whitman in the lyric, "Whitman is my daddy". The song's chorus of "I sing the body electric" is a direct reference to his poem "I Sing The Body Electric". She recited Whitman's poem "Song of Myself" for the French fashion magazine, L'Officiel Paris. Before becoming a singer, Del Rey wanted to be a poet. As a child, her father wrote country songs for personal enjoyment, while her mother was interested in singing; the former introduced her to The Beach Boys, while the latter was a fan of Carly Simon.
On January 4, 2012, it was reported she had signed a deal with NEXT Model Management agency.H&M confirmed that Del Rey would be modeling and recording a cover version of the popular 1950s prom anthem "Blue Velvet" for their 2012 Autumn Campaign. H&M's 2012 Winter campaign, featuring Lana Del Rey, was released on October 12. This is the second H&M campaign Lana Del Rey is featured in. On August 22, 2012, executives announced that Del Rey would endorse their new Jaguar F-Type which was unveiled by Del Rey at the Paris Motor Show in September 2012. Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar's global brand director, explained their choice, saying Del Rey had "a unique blend of authenticity and modernity."
The song "Burning Desire", which was initially available for immediate digital download upon pre-ordering Del Rey's third EP, Paradise, was later made available for purchase on Amazon.com and 7digital as a stand-alone download on March 19, 2013, one month after its music video hit YouTube. The song serves as the title track to a 13 minute promotional short film for the Jaguar F-Type, called Desire. The film, directed by Adam Smith, was produced by Ridley Scott and stars Damian Lewis.
Del Rey stated that she has suffered from alcohol dependence. At the age of 15, she was sent to Kent School, a boarding school in Connecticut, for three years to get sober. In September 2012, she told GQ magazine:
I was a big drinker at the time. I would drink every day. I would drink alone. I thought the whole concept was so fucking cool. A great deal of what I wrote on Born To Die is about these wilderness years. When I write about the thing that I've lost I feel like I'm writing about alcohol because that was the first love of my life. My parents were worried, I was worried. I knew it was a problem when I liked it more than I liked doing anything else. I was like, 'I'm fucked. I am totally fucked'. Like, at first it's fine and you think you have a dark side â it's exciting â and then you realise the dark side wins every time if you decide to indulge in it. It's also a completely different way of living when you know that...a different species of person. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me.
Del Rey's left hand is tattooed with the letter "M", referencing her grandmother, Madeleine, and the word "paradise". Her right hand is tattooed with the phrase "trust no one". She also has the phrase "die young" tattooed on her right ring finger. She has been in a relationship with Kassidy ex-member Barrie-James O'Neill since August 2011. Del Rey has two apartments, one in New York City and one in Los Angeles, where she lives with her sister and brother. Del Rey is Roman Catholic. She is a supporter of the English Premier League team Liverpool and Scottish Premier League side Celtic.
Del Rey's work has earned her numerous awards and nominations; she has won the Q Award for "Best New Thing", a GQ Award for "Woman of the Year", two BRIT Award for "International Breakthrough Act" and "International Pop Female Solo Artist", and an EMA for "Best Alternative Act". In 2013, she received her first Grammy nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. These nominations include Best Pop Vocal Album for Paradise and Best Song Written for Visual Media for "Young and Beautiful".