Lana Del Rey is a singer, songwriter, and model known for her singles "Video Games", "Off to the Races", "Ultraviolence" and "Summertime Sadness".
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Lana Del Rey Bio
Lana Del Rey (born June 21, 1985 as Elizabeth Woolridge Grant), is an American singer, songwriter, and model. Born and raised in New York, Del Rey embarked on a music career in 2005 and first received widespread attention in 2011, when the music video for her single “Video Games” became a viral internet sensation. Del Rey received further recognition after her major-label debut Born to Die peaked at number two on the U.S. charts and was the fifth best-selling album of 2012. A remix of its single “Summertime Sadness“, produced by Cedric Gervais, peaked at number six on the U.S., and the Paradise EP followed that November, garnering Del Rey her first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Three of the EP’s tracks were featured in her short film Tropico, which premiered in December 2013. In 2014, Del Rey released her third studio album, Ultraviolence, to positive critical and commercial reception; it became her first number-one record in the United States. In 2015, following a North American tour with Courtney Love, Del Rey released her fourth studio album, Honeymoon, to further positive critical and commercial response; it had the fourth highest first week sales by a female artist in 2015. As of 2015, she is the most streamed female artist on Spotify in the United States, and the fourth worldwide. Her music has been noted for its cinematic style, its preoccupation with themes of tragic romance and melancholia, and its references to pop culture, particularly 1950s and 1960s Americana.
2005–10: Career beginnings and Lana Del Ray
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 trailer park in North Bergen, New Jersey, 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 rehabilitation—that’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 it—an echo of rumors that the action was part of a calculated strategy. Del Rey met her current managers, Ben Mawson and Ed Millett, three months after Lana Del Ray and they helped her to get out of her contract with 5 Points Records, where, in her opinion, “nothing was happening”. Shortly after, she moved to London, England and moved in with Mawson “for a few years”. About choosing her stage name, “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. 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.
2011–13: Born to Die and Paradise
After uploading them to her YouTube channel in 2011, Del Rey’s videos for the songs “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans” became viral internet sensations, and she was signed by Stranger Records to release “Video Games” as her debut single. 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. When asked how long she was able to enjoy her success before she started receiving backlash, Del Rey said “I never felt any of the enjoyment. It was all bad, all of it”. 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, 2012. The music video for “Ride” was premiered at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California on October 10, 2012. Some 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. In March 2013, 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 off Ultraviolence, “West Coast“, was released on April 14. On May 23, Del Rey performed three songs at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West‘s pre-wedding celebration at the Palace of Versailles. West had previously played Del Rey’s “Young & Beautiful” during his proposal to Kardashian in October 2013. “Shades of Cool“, the second single, was released on May 26, 2014. The third single and title track, “Ultraviolence“, was released on June 4. June 8 saw the release of the fourth single, “Brooklyn Baby“. Ultraviolence was released on June 13, 2014, and debuted at number one in twelve countries, including the United States and United Kingdom. The album sold 880,000 copies in its first week, worldwide. Del Rey described her third studio album as being “more stripped down but still cinematic and dark”. A Rolling Stone article revealed that Del Rey would be a guest on Brian Wilson‘s forthcoming studio album No Pier Pressure. Two new songs by Del Rey, “Big Eyes” and “I Can Fly”, featured in Tim Burton‘s 2014 biographical film Big Eyes, which focused on the American artist Margaret Keane. “Big Eyes” was co-written by Daniel Heath, while “I Can Fly” was co-written by Rick Nowels.
In December 2014, Del Rey announced she would be headlining a tour in Summer 2015, deemed “The Endless Summer Tour“. Eight of the shows featured Courtney Love, and ten of the shows featured Grimes. Also in December 2014, in an interview with Galore Magazine, Del Rey revealed she began working on a new album, which she said would be released sometime in 2015. Del Rey also stated to Grazia Magazine about how she wanted to introduce orchestrations with monumental choruses with a touch of subdued grunge for the album, “I played Mark Ronson ten songs that I have composed for this next album. It explores a sound close to the golden age of jazz”, she said. Earlier that month, Del Rey also mentioned to Galore Magazine that she is already at the recording stage for the album and that “[she’s] also always writing small pieces for independent films etc. Dan Heath and Rick Nowels are two of my dearest friends and producers and we are always up to something”. In January 2015, Del Rey stated in an interview with the LA Times that a song on her new record would be titled “Music to Watch Boys To”. The same month, a song she recorded for Emile Haynie‘s album titled Wait for Life was released. She also recorded “Life is Beautiful”, a song featured in the trailer for the movie The Age of Adaline. In June 2014, she said “I have this idea for this record called Music to Watch Boys To, so I’m just kind of thinking about that and what that would mean”. Del Rey later confirmed in an interview with Billboard that her new record would be entitled Honeymoon. On January 15, 2015, Del Rey received a BRIT Award nomination for International Female Solo Artist, her second nomination in the category and third overall. On July 14, 2015, Del Rey released “Honeymoon“, the first and title track from the album. She revealed that the album would contain fourteen tracks, describing the songs with “a muddy trap energy and some inspired by late-night Miles Davis drives”. On August 4, 2015, Del Rey revealed the first single “High by the Beach“, which was released on August 10, 2015. On August 4, 2015, The Weeknd also revealed the track listing for his upcoming second studio album Beauty Behind the Madness which features a collaboration with Del Rey entitled “Prisoner“. On August 21, 2015, Del Rey released “Terrence Loves You” as a promotional single, available instantly with the pre-order of the album. The title track was later released as a promotional single on September 7, 2015. Honeymoon was released on September 18, 2015 to general acclaim from music critics, who praised the music and Del Rey’s sophistication and vocal performance. In November 2015, Del Rey executive produced a short film “Hi How Are You Daniel Johnston” documenting the life of Daniel Johnston, in which she also covered his song “Some Things Last a Long Time” from his album 1990, for the cover, she collaborated with the producer Justin Parker. Also in November 2015, Del Rey won the Billboard Trailblazer Award 2015 and MTV Best Alternative 2015. On February 9, 2016, Del Rey hosted a premiere for the music video of her fifth single from the album “Freak“. It was located at The Wiltern, in Los Angeles, California. The video debuted via Del Rey’s VEVO on the same date.
2016: Fifth studio album
In October 2015, Del Rey announced that she has early thoughts about the material for her new record. It has been claimed that one of the producers for the album is Justin Parker. Del Rey has stated that the upcoming record might have a “pop-friendly” and “New York style” sound, and that it would be different just because it would be a little harder, faster, more upbeat and less dreamy. In January 2016, Del Rey was nominated with the “Favorite Female Artist” award at the People’s Choice Awards, and she also received a pending BRIT Award nomination for International Female Solo Artist, her third nomination in the category and fourth overall. In March 2016, Lana Del Rey announced tour dates for Europe and Canada to promote “Honeymoon“, and she revealed that she’s begun working on her fifth studio album, just six months on from releasing her latest album.
Del Rey’s sound has been dubbed “Hollywood sadcore“. 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. Del Rey elaborated on this in an interview with Artistdirect, saying “I wasn’t even born in the 50s but I feel like I was there.” Rolling Stone noted that Del Rey enjoys playing the role of lounge singer. Time said the solid core of her sound was “movie music”, laid out over-top a hip hop vocal cadence. Attributed to many styles, Del Rey’s sound has been tagged broadly as a sort of dream pop or baroque pop linked to various forms of rock, indie music, and trip hop, and often touching on styles such as hip hop, trap music, and psychedelic rock on particular releases. 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. Del Rey has been described as a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra” and “Lolita lost in the hood“. Del Rey has also been called “a torch singer of the internet era” and “the anti-Gaga.” 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 attributed her work to various stage names including Lizzy Grant, Lana Rey Del Mar, Sparkle Jump Rope Queen, and May Jailer.
Voice and timbre
Del Rey possesses an expansive contralto vocal range, which spans three-plus octaves and 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, initially polarizing opinion. Following the release of Ultraviolence, which was recorded live in single takes and lacking Pro Tools vocal editing, critics fell into favor with Del Rey’s vocal ability, praising her large range, increased vocal confidence, and uniquely emotive delivery. When recording in the studio Del Rey is known for vocal multi-layering, 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. Stage fright has also been noted as a major contribution to Del Rey’s struggles with live performances. However, journalists noted in 2014 that her live performances had increased exponentially in confidence. Billboard Magazine deemed the Coachella debut of West Coast to be a “star-making performance” and lauded the singer’s vocal abilities. Contemporary music critics have called her voice “smoky”, “gravelly”, 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.
Del Rey cites several artists as influences, including Elvis Presley, Cat Power, Axl Rose, Antony and the Johnsons, Frank Sinatra, Eminem, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, Britney Spears, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, Nancy Sinatra, The Eagles, Julee Cruise, Lou Reed, The Crystals, Father John Misty, Bobby Vinton, Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. “[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 the poem “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 Whitman’s poem “I Sing The Body Electric“. She recited Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” for the French fashion magazine, L’Officiel Paris. Del Rey has also cited the surrealist film directors David Lynch and Frederico Fellini and the surrealist painters Mark Ryden and Pablo Picasso as influences.
In 2010, Del Rey acted in a short film called Poolside, which she made with several friends on a reported budget of $400. 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.
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