Of the countless musicians on YouTube, very few ever attract much of an audience. For a long time, Lizzy Grant found herself among that crowds of lookalikes and wannabes. Then she became Lana Del Rey and rocked the blogosphere with a grand total of two songs. When asked in her first on-screen interview after receiving a Q award why her song “Video Games” skyrocketed in popularity, she had no answer. But don’t worry Lizzy, here are eight reasons why people know who Lana Del Rey is:
When New York singer/songwriter Lizzy Grant decided to change her image and name, she candidly swiped the names of 1940s Hollywood actress Lana Turner and the ultra-’80s Ford Del Rey car (although admittedly not by a decision of her own). If she was still Lizzie Grant, people might have just continued to pass her off as just another singer/songwriter.
The creation of her moniker plays an important role in every part of Lana’s branding of style. She is 1940s meets the 1980s meets 2011 in every aspect of her music and identity. Her image strives for authenticity, but it’s also what makes people suspicious.
Even if you’re a big fan of the music itself, you’d be a fool to think that Lana Del Rey’s vintage fashion sense isn’t a big part of why she blew up. Need evidence? Just read this MTV article about why “Singer Lana Del Rey’s Vintage Style Is So Gangster Nancy Sinatra”.
In the video for her song “Video Games,” there are constant shots of Grant looking into the lens of what is clearly a webcam and lip-syncing; something you wouldn’t be surprised to find on YouTube in the first place. She’s both the next big thing and the girl next door.
Lana Del Rey’s amateur filmmaking skills (including the webcam shots mentioned above) are clearly not the creation of a big studio. They’re charming in the same way your childhood videos are charming. Her actual participation in the music-making process itself has become a little foggy, but in one interview she called herself “a writer first and a singer second.” This isn’t stuff isn’t the self-produced, self-recorded bedroom pop she wants it to be, but she’s also not Britney Spears.
Enough about style and branding, what about the music itself? Lana’s voice is probably the first thing most people noticed about her music and is really what makes the songs what they are. In a world where soulful voices in pop music are mostly of the Adelle and Florence Welch type, Lana Del Rey’s deep alto is a breathe of fresh air.
Although her music is being given the unfortunate label “Hollywood Sadcore,” the two official songs, “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans,” are catchy, darkly cinematic and wonderfully written, soaking in their own self-gratifying tragedy. When asked how she’d describe her music, she said this: “Think Nina Simone singing a Cat Power song over Lil Wayne’s track. It’s Sick.” Although we fear “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans” might be the best of what Lana Del Rey has to offer, the truth is we haven’t heard enough to make a good call.
The caps-addicted Twitter account, the award-show appearances, the outrageous ego-driven statements. If there’s one thing we learned from Kanye West, it’s that indie culture loves controversy and the caricature of celebrity as much as anyone else. Whether you think she’s a manufactured fraud or the next indie soul queen, ultimately Lizzy Grant owes the controversy over her name, background, and lip injections for putting up the name of Lana Del Rey in lights.