On January 30th, 2012 Lana Del Rey released the darkly glamorous “Born To Die” (Polydor). Her album debuted at #1 in the UK Charts and #1 on iTunes in eighteen countries and has totaled over a million in sales worldwide, achieving great reviews such as "stunning" (NME) and "brilliantly realized" (BBC).
Many of her fans’ initial encounter with the singer-songwriter was through her DIY video for “Video Games.” But Del Rey—who filmed and edited the video on her Macbook—had already been recording music and making moody homespun videos for eight years when "Video Games" was posted on YouTube. Its distressed and disquieting Americana imagery and the vintage sophistication of Del Rey’s style was iconically resonant, and “Video Games” has since garnered over 32 million views.
Music blogs took to “Video Games” and influential BBC Radio One DJ Fearne Cotton became enamored with the track. Within weeks the video soared to a million views and by the end of July of 2011 she landed a worldwide deal with Universal Music.
Lana Del Rey was born Lizzy Grant, the oldest of three children, in the quietly rustic environs of Lake Placid, in Upstate New York. "It has an epic, nostalgic feel. It's in the middle of a National Park,” she says of her home, Growing up she sang in the church choir. Her formative soundtrack included such diverse sounds as Nirvana, The Beach Boys, Daniel Johnston and Bruce Springsteen.
As a teen she discovered the literate irreverence of beat-poet Alan Ginsberg. His lush wordplay made an indelible impression and remains a keystone conceptual influence on Del Rey’s music. She told SPIN magazine. “The way I ended up having relationships and living life, it sometimes mimics those more wild relationships.” At 15 she found Ginsberg’s epic poem “Howl.” “It was one of the first pieces of literature that ever resonated with me. The fact that I related so closely to Ginsberg’s manic, drug-fueled rantings was a sign of very dark but creative times to come,” she said in Fader.
At eighteen, Del Rey moved to New York City to study philosophy at Fordham University and began honing her lushly romantic sound. "When I first got to New York City I was playing acoustic sets. Stylistically, I think my music has kind of stayed the same since then," Del Rey revealed to Papermag. "My songs have always had a darker undertone just because...it came naturally." Her first break was singing in a songwriting competition which landed her a record deal with the indie 5 Points label. She used the recording advance to move into a New Jersey trailer park where she lived for a year and a half while she made her first record with David Kahne.
Del Rey made her performance debut when she was 19 at an open mic night in Williamsburg. The interlocking sounds of her mesmerizing, hushed voice and the bruised luxury of her music made an impression that night. “Somebody ran out after me and said ‘You should come to a night I’m doing next week and play some songs for me.’ I was afraid of everything. If they had laughed at me that night I would have never come back on stage. Ever,” she reveals. Around this formative period she changed her name. “It’s nice to be able to try and build the life you want for yourself. All the things you start off with are given to you by somebody else,” she says. “You have to be brave and try to start again. It might be a little scary. Not many people say ‘let’s start life over and do it again the way I want to.’”
"I wanted a name I could shape the music towards,” she specified in a UK Vogue interview. "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."
In addition to her visual flair, Born To Die’s cinematic quality is also due to Del Rey’s affinity for classic arrangements. Her ability to fuse mannered torch song balladry with hip-hop bravado imbues the music with a sense of drama that feels familiar yet new. The 12-track Born To Die is dynamically expansive, from the rugged hip-hop flavor of “Off To The Races” to the mesmerizing grandeur of “National Anthem.” Del Rey’s producers and conceptual co-conspirator Emile Haynie helped her realize her musical vision, with Haynie capturing her sound in his intimate studio filled with vintage vinyl and recording equipment. Born To Die is rife with such contrasts as organic spy-movie guitars and swooning strings, grimy samples and juicy hip-hop beats.
In recent months, Del Rey revealed her gorgeous “Born To Die” video, directed by Yoann Lemoine, a tragic epic with the distinction of being the first ever video the French allowed to be filmed at the majestic Fontainebleau. After making her TV debut on the UK's Later With Jools Holland to great acclaim, she won Q Magazine's Next Big Thing Award and has since appeared on top programs across Europe and the US, including Saturday Night Live, Late Show With David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live, American Idol, Tonight with Jonathan Ross, twice on France’s Le Grand Journal, and Germany’s Echo Awards. Her refreshingly eclectic style has been praised in UK Vogue and New York Times’ T Style Magazine, and she’s graced a dozen covers including Billboard, Complex, Q, NME, UK Vogue, Wonderland and Interview Magazine (Germany). By January 2012, Lana won Best International Breakthrough Artist prize at the Brit Awards.
Her next single, "Blue Jeans," will feature an alternate video to the signature montage-style one her fans discovered last year on YouTube along with "Video Games," this one shot in LA is a beautiful film noir style black and white video, acting as a prequel to Born to Die, it represents the dangerous beginnings of the relationship that she is reflecting back to in the video for 'Born to Die.' She's currently finalizing her 2012 tour plans, as her loyal fan base grows worldwide. For the 25-year old it's an overnight success eight years in the making.