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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 writing at the age of 18 and she signed her first recording contract when she was 22 years old with 5 Points Records in 2007, releasing her first digital album Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant 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. After the song became a viral internet hit with over 20 million views, her second studio 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. To date, her discography includes two full-length studio albums, three EPs, seven singles, and eight music videos. An acclaimed musician and cinematographer, she has won the Q Award for "Best New Thing", a GQ Award for "Woman of the Year", a BRIT Award for "International Breakthrough Act" and another for "International Pop Female Solo Artist", and an EMA for "Best Alternative Act".
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." Before signing to a major record label, Del Rey provided sole production of her music videos. 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 with Lanarkshire roots 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 headed 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 girl. After her uncle taught her how to play the guitar, 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," she revealed.
"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. When she was 20 years old, Del Rey signed a record contract for $10,000 and moved into Manhattan Mobile Home Park, a New Jersey trailer park. 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. Felicia Sullivan of The Huffington Post spoke with Del Rey after the release of Kill Kill about her life in the trailer park.
In 2006, Del Rey had 18 live performances, all of which were in New York City. She performed at open mics at Makor four times (April 17, May 1, May 15, and June 16). On June 22, she was part of the 58th Songwriters Hall of Fame New Writers Showcase at The Cutting Room. She performed at Sin-Ã© on July 22. Del Rey participated in the CATHARSIS open mic at the Cattyshack on September 11. She performed at the Laila Lounge the next day. She participated in the first round of the Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition at The Lucky Cat on September 15 and was picked as a semi-finalist. Two days later, she performed at Rodrigue's, a coffee house on the campus of Fordham University. Del Rey participated in the semi-finals of the Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition at Galapagos Art Space on September 21. The next day, she participated in the finals of the same competition at North Six but did not win. She performed at 169 bar on September 27. On October 14, Del Rey performed at The Loveseat Collective. She performed at Pianos three days later. On November 15, she performed at Laila Lounge. The next day, she performed at Galapagos Art Space. She performed at Sidewalk Cafe on November 29.
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. The following year, Del Rey signed to 5 Points Records and subsequently began working with producer David Kahne, with whom she released her first three-track EP titled Kill Kill in October 2008 and a full-length album in 2010, titled Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant. 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." Del Rey later released her first full-length studio album titled Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant [sic] in January 2010. It was the singer's first professionally produced album, released under Lizzy Grant on an independent label with producer David Kahne. 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.
"When you find everything you love and you lose it, and for me that was music, your ambitions definitely start to change, they have to. My goals have shifted from wanting to become an important artist to becoming an active member of my community. Itâs really nice my music is being played and people are taking notice, but music isnât my primary focus anymore. Not even close. My goal is to be a good person who lives with dignity and grace. I will write again because I have to now. Itâs a luxury and will allow me to concentrate on other interests and pursuits. I wrote one album and no-one listened. Iâm fine with that. I made an exquisite record three years ago which was perfect for me. Iâve learned to do things just for myself, and the fact things have kind of worked out now is just icing on the cake."
After uploading a few of her tracks to her YouTube channel, Del Rey was discovered and was 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's program 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, and that five tracks have already been written, two of them being "Young and Beautiful" and "In the Land of Gods and Monsters" and the other track titled "I Sing the Body Electric," which was performed and announced as one of her songs at the BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend. 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, which she described as the Paradise Edition of Born to Die. Del Rey stated that the new release would have around seven new songs. 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. "It's a little more stripped down but still cinematic and dark. I've been working on it really slowly but I love everything I've done. I've been writing in Santa Monica and I know what the record sounds like. Now I just have to finish it. Musically I've worked with the same three guys," she said. She mentioned that one of the songs off the album would be called "Black Beauty", and she already knows what the music video for it is going to look like. In March, Del Rey recited Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself" for the French fashion magazine, L'Officiel Paris. A demo of the song leaked online on July 19, 2013.
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; it's music video was premiered the previous month on Valentines 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. The song was made available for purchase as a digital download in April 2013 before officially impacting contemporary hit radio the following month as the film's kickoff single. This was the first song in Del Rey's career to receive a release to contemporary hit radio. A snippet of the track appeared in the official trailer for the film and played during the scene where the characters portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan express their romantic feelings for one another. Hip hop magazine Rap-Up called the single "haunting", while MTV called it "somber-sounding". The official music video for "Young and Beautiful" was released on May 10, 2013. Following the song's release, it peaked at 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Del Rey's highest peak on the chart since her first mark, "Video Games", peaked at 91 in 2012. However, Shortly after it's release to contemporary hit radio, the label pre-maturely 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.
Alongside Paradise, Del Rey announced plans to launch a short film titled Tropico that features the songs "Body Electric", "Gods and Monsters", and "Bel Air". "Tropico" was filmed in late June 2013; it was directed by Anthony Mandler, who also directed Del Rey's previous music videos for "National Anthem" and "Ride". Via social media platforms, Del Rey released several promotional images for the film, one depicting Del Rey in a wimple reminiscent of Mary, Mother of Jesus and another with Del Rey holding a snake and posing as Eve, the biblical wife of Adam from Genesis. In August 2013, Del Rey announced on Twitter that the film would have two premieres: one at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles and one in an unspecified location in New York; she referred to the short film as a "farewell". Critics noted that this contradicted other claims by Del Rey that she would release a third studio album, with a demo of the song "Black Beauty" leaking online. 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. On December 3, 2013, Del Rey announced on Facebook and Twitter that Tropico would be screened at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California on December 4, 2013 prior to it's VEVO release. During the meet and greet at the Cinerama Dome, Del Rey clarified that Tropico is a farewell to the Born to Die era and announced that her third album is titled Ultraviolence. That same day, she issued a statement on her YouTube account, stating: "I'm very grateful to have the inner visions of my mind's eye carried out. And now I'm ready for - Ultraviolence".
I would have loved to be part of the indie community. But I wasn't. I was looking for a community, I don't even know any people who are musicians. I never met that indie popular indie, whoever the fuck that is. Who IS indie? First of all, I can't really get my head around what indie music is. Because if you've heard of it, it's sort of pop music, right? Because it's, like, popular? Or is it just that it's not on the radio? It's not like I was in an indie community and then I blew up. It's like, I was living on the street and I'm not â like, for real, you know what I'm saying?
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, Iâm happy. I feel like Iâm happy because Iâm 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 donât 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."
After having recorded the cover of "Blue Velvet" for H&M, filmmaker David Lynch, who was the inspiration behind the song's video, positively commented on the singer, saying, "Lana Del Rey, she's got some fantastic charisma and â this is a very interesting thing â it's like she's born out of another time. She's got something that's very appealing to people. And I didn't know she was influenced by me!" For songs such as "Video Games", "Blue Jeans", "Kill Kill", and "Carmen", Del Rey produced the music videos using her webcam and clips from old home movies on YouTube. Of the video production, she has said:
I'm very swayed by how things look on the outside. Though I have been burned by what's on the inside of them so many times -- don't get me wrong, but I still have love for something that hits my eye right. A flag waving or a Pontiac Grandam [sic] -- I didn't even have to know what those things stood for to know they were beautiful.
Although directed by Yoann Lemoine, the concept for the "Born to Die" video was also written by Del Rey in the form of a treatment she titled, "The Lonely Queen". The video was intended to be set in Heaven, metaphorically represented by a Romanian castle. While the narrator was flanked by tigers, she would recall memories of being with her beloved. Lemoine took Del Rey's concept and reworked it into something doable, she said, and she was satisfied with the outcome. For the compilation done for "Video Games", Del Rey found the video clips by searching through YouTube. In the months following the video's viral success, Del Rey had to hire copyright specialists to track down the copyright holders of each and every clip used in the video. Regarding the quality of the video, she was quoted by Complex as saying: "It's not like the videos are that good. I'd rather them not be up, but whatever. They're fucking weird. It's not like I wanted the videos to look that way; it's just what I was working with at the time. I'm not sure it's a perfect representation of what I would have chosen if Iâd had more money." Despite this, her videos have received nominations and awards from major music associations. At the Independent Music Awards, "Video Games" was nominated for the "Favorite International Video of the Year"; it was also nominated for prominent awards at the 2012 NME Awards ceremony and the SiriusXM Indie Awards, among others. At the UK Music Video Awards, Del Rey won "Best Pop Video - International" for "Born to Die", with "Blue Jeans" and "National Anthem" also being nominated in the same category; that night, "Blue Jeans" was also nominated for "Best Cinematography in a Video" and "National Anthem" in "Best Styling in a Video".
Del Rey possesses an expansive contralto vocal range, which has been described as unique, 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 donât thinkâ¦ I know. Iâve sung one way, and sung another, and Iâve seen what people are drawn to.â, she said on the topic.
Noah Levy, senior news editor at In Touch Weekly magazine, noted that her dedication and talent is undeniable, quoted as saying "I think she cares about the art that she is creating. I don't think that is fake at all." 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 it's 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. On numerous occasions, it has been suggested that Del Rey has had rhinoplasty and lip augmentation, which she denies. She is reported to have been in a relationship with Kassidy frontman 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.