Elizabeth Woolridge Grant (born June 21, 1985), known professionally as Lana Del Rey, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, poet and music video director. Her music has been noted by critics for its stylized cinematic quality, its preoccupation with themes of tragic romance, glamour, and melancholia, and its references to pop culture, particularly 1950s and 1960sAmericana.
After graduating, Del Rey was accepted to the State University of New York at Geneseo, but she decided not to attend and instead spent a year living on Long Island with her aunt and uncle while working as a waitress. During this time, Del Rey's uncle taught her how to play guitar, and she "realized [that she] could probably write a million songs with those six chords." Shortly after, she began writing songs and 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", Del Rey said. "When I got to New York City when I was eighteen, I started playing in clubs in Brooklyn--I have good friends and devoted fans on the underground scene, but we were playing for each other at that point--and that was it."
The following fall, at age 19, she enrolled at Fordham University where she majored in philosophy, with an emphasis on metaphysics. She has said she chose to study the subject 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." According to Del Rey, she had trouble making friends in both boarding school and college. She lived in The Bronx while attending Fordham. Before graduating in 2008, she moved to North Bergen, New Jersey. She was also a Brooklyn resident for four years.
In college, Del Rey volunteered work at homeless youth and drug and alcohol outreach programs, as well as helping paint and rebuild houses on an Indian reservation in Utah. She would cite this trip as integral in her decision to become a songwriter: "I remember exactly when I decided that I wanted to be a singer. I was in college, [and] we went to the Indian reservation. That day I realized that I had only two options: either making music or volunteering for a good cause. I chose the first option. If it [had] not [worked], I would [have] probably [done] social work in any small town."
2005-2010: Musical beginnings
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.
--Del Rey explaining why she went into the music industry.
On April 25, 2005, a seven-track extended play 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. A second extended play, titled From the End, was also recorded under Del Rey's stage name at the time, May Jailer. Between 2005 and 2006, she recorded an acoustic album titled Sirens under the May Jailer project, which later leaked on the internet in mid-2012.[b]
At her first performance in 2006 for the Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition, Del Rey met Van Wilson, an A&R representative for 5 Points Records, an independent label owned by David Nichtern. In 2007, while a senior at Fordham, Del Rey submitted a demo tape of acoustic tracks titled No Kung Fu to 5 Points Records, who subsequently offered her a recording contract for $10,000. Del Rey used the money to relocate to Manhattan Mobile Home Park, a trailer park in North Bergen, New Jersey, and subsequently began working with producer David Kahne, with whom she released a three-track EP titled Kill Kill in October 2008 as 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." The album, however, was shelved, causing her to shift her focus: 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, and moved in with Mawson "for a few years." When choosing her stage name, she 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." The name was based on a compound of actress Lana Turner and the Ford Del Rey sedan.[additional citation(s) needed] On September 1, 2010, Del Rey was featured by Mando Diao in their MTV Unplugged concert at Union Film-Studios in Berlin.
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 favorite. 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 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, she announced she had 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, she announced her new album would be out in November. Mid-September saw the official announcement of Paradise's lead single, "Ride".
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.
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.
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.
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. 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 novel 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.
Ultraviolence was released on June 13, 2014, and debuted at number one in 12 countries, including the United States and United Kingdom. The album sold 880,000 copies in its first week, worldwide. She described her third studio album as being "more stripped down but still cinematic and dark".
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. She told 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, she 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. For the film, she also covered one of Johnston's songs, called "Some Things Last a Long Time", from his album 1990. For the cover, she collaborated with producer Justin Parker. Also in November 2015, Del Rey received the Trailblazer Award at the Billboard Women in Music ceremony and won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Alternative.
2016-2017: Lust for Life and collaborations
Del Rey performing at the Flow Festival in 2017
In October 2015, Del Rey announced that she planned writing material for her new record. In January 2016, Del Rey was nominated with the "Favorite Female Artist" award at the People's Choice Awards, and she also received a Brit Award nomination for International Female Solo Artist, her third nomination in the category and fourth overall. In February and March 2016, Del Rey and her managers, respectively, officially revealed that she began working on her fifth studio album, just months after releasing her fourth.
On February 9, 2016, Del Rey hosted a premiere for the music video of her song "Freak". It was located at The Wiltern, in Los Angeles. The video debuted via Del Rey's VEVO on the same date. In December 2015, Del Rey started announcing festival dates for Europe and North America to promote Honeymoon. She performed at these festivals from June 2016 to November 2016.
On March 29, 2017, Del Rey released a trailer online announcing her new record, Lust for Life. About the album, Del Rey stated "I made my first 4 albums for me, but this one is for my fans and about where I hope we are all headed." During a livestream in February, Del Rey described the aesthetic of the album as having a "retro sensibility with a futuristic flair". She released the official cover art for Lust for Life on April 11, 2017.
In August 2018, Del Rey received criticism after announcing her debut performance in Israel at the Meteor Festival due to controversy surrounding Palestinian-Israeli conflicts. Del Rey defended her then-upcoming performance by tweeting "I believe music is universal and should be used to bring us together ... Performing in Tel Aviv is not a political statement or a commitment to the politics there, just like singing here in California doesn't mean my views are in alignment w[ith] my current government's opinions or sometimes inhuman actions." Although Del Rey references Tel Aviv, the Meteor festival is scheduled to take place at Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan in the Upper Galilee region. Del Rey cancelled her performance due to not being able to schedule an accompanying stop in the Palestinian territory.
After Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment and assault allegations gained widespread public notoriety in 2017, Del Rey announced she was retiring her 2012 track "Cola" from live shows. Del Rey publicly admitted how she did have "a Harvey Weinstein/Harry Winston-type of character in mind" when she wrote the song, hence the lyric "Harvey's in the sky with diamonds and he's making me crazy", an apparent reference to Weinstein's alleged illicit sexual activities involving female stars.
Del Rey's musical sound has been dubbed "Hollywood sadcore" by music critics. Her music has been repeatedly noted for its cinematic sound and its references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of 1950s and 1960s Americana.[c] 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."
Del Rey's subsequent releases would introduce variant styles, particularly Ultraviolence, which employed a guitar-based sound akin to psychedelic and desert rock. Kenneth Partridge of Billboard noted this shift in style, writing: "She sings about drugs, cars, money, and the bad boys she's always falling for, and while there remains a sepia-toned mid-century flavor to many of these songs, [Del Rey] is no longer fronting like a thugged-out Bette Davis." Upon the release of Honeymoon, one reviewer characterized Del Rey's body of work as being "about music as a time warp, with her languorous croons over molasses-like arrangements meant to make clock hands seem to move so slowly that it feels possible, at times, they might go backwards."
Prior to coming to prominence under the stage name Lana Del Rey, she performed under the names Lizzy Grant, Lana Rey Del Mar, Sparkle Jump Rope Queen, and May Jailer. Under the stage name Lizzy Grant, she referred to her music as "Hawaiianglam metal", while the work of her May Jailer project was acoustic.
Del Rey possesses an expansive contraltovocal range, which spans three-plus octaves and has been described as captivating and highly emotive, ranging from high notes in a girlish timbre to jazzy ornaments in her lower gesture with great ease. 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 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. Upon the 2015 release of Honeymoon, her voice was compared by Los Angeles Times critic Mikael Wood to those of Julee Cruise and Eartha Kitt.
Del Rey started 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.
Critics have noted Del Rey for her typically simple, but authentic live performances. A September 2017 concert review published in The New York Times noted: "For more than an hour, Ms. Del Rey was eerily casual, singing and smiling with the ease of someone performing at singer-songwriter night at the local coffee shop." Another review by Roy Train published in The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 noted "a distance in her bonhomie, obvious even from my perch at the opposite end of the stage high above the fray, the chill still palpable."
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.
In May 2012, British fashion house Mulberry released the "Del Rey" bag, inspired by its namesake's signature style. On August 22, 2012, executives announced that Del Rey would endorse their new JaguarF-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.
In 2014, James Franco announced his plans to release Flip-Side: Real and Imaginary Conversations with Lana Del Rey, which was slated for release in February 2015, but left unreleased for unknown reasons.
In 2015, Del Rey donated funds to help produce Hi, How Are You Daniel Johnston?, a short documentary on singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. Upon attending the film's premiere with Johnston and director Gabe Sunday, she said: "The one thing I hoped is that he [Johnston] understood that while he's home alone doing his art still – he says he writes every day – that he knows that he really did make a difference in people's lives. He made a difference in mine."
In an interview for L'Officiel's first American edition in early 2018, when asked about Del Rey's interest in making a movie she responded that she had been approached to write a Broadway musical and had recently begun work on it. When asked how long it would be until completion of the work, Del Rey coyly replied, "I may finish in two or three years."
On November 3, 2018, Del Rey was announced to be the face for Gucci's Guilty Fragrances, alongside Jared Leto. The duo are expected to star in a print-and-television campaign, slated to debut in January 2019.
Prior to the release of her debut major label album Born to Die in 2012, Del Rey was the subject of several articles discussing her image and career trajectory.[d] One article by Paul Harris published by The Guardian just a week before the album's release noted the differences between Del Rey's perceived persona in 2008, when she performed as Lizzy Grant, and in the present, as Lana Del Rey. Harris wrote:
The internet has allowed figures like [Del Rey] to come rapidly to the fore of the cultural landscape, whether or not their emergence is planned by a record executive or happens spontaneously from someone's bedroom. It has speeded up the fame cycle. It is worth noting that the huge backlash to Del Rey is happening before her first album has even been released. This reveals a cultural obsession with the "authenticity" that fans, artists and corporations all prize above all else.
Tony Simon, a producer who had worked with Del Rey in 2009, defended her against the public claims of inauthenticity and allegations that she was a product of her record label: "To be clear, all the detractors saying she's some made-up-by-the-machine pop star are full of shit. While it's impossible to keep the businesses' hands out the pop when creating a pop star, the roots of where this all comes from are firmly inside of Lizzy Grant."
Del Rey would later respond to this in a 2017 interview, stating: "I didn't edit myself [on Born to Die] when I could have, because a lot of it's just the way it was. I mean, because I've changed a lot and a lot of those songs, it's not that I don't relate but... A lot of it too is I was just kinda nervous. I came off sort of nervously, and there was just a lot of dualities, a lot of juxtapositions going on that maybe just felt like something was a little off. Maybe the thing that was off was that I needed a little more time or something, and also my path was just so windy just to get to having a first record. I feel like I had to figure it out all by myself. Every move was just guesswork." Del Rey has been labeled a "sad girl" through her music and image.
Having been labeled as antifeminist multiple times in the past, Del Rey dismissed feminism in June 2014, telling The Fader: "For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. I'm more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what's going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I'm like, God. I'm just not really that interested."
She also defended herself against the accusations of antifeminism, saying "For me, a true feminist is someone who is a woman who does exactly what she wants. If my choice is to, I don't know, be with a lot of men, or if I enjoy a really physical relationship, I don't think that's necessarily being anti-feminist. For me the argument of feminism never really should have come into the picture. Because I don't know too much about the history of feminism, and so I'm not really a relevant person to bring into the conversation. Everything I was writing was so autobiographical, it could really only be a personal analysis."
In February 2017, Del Rey implied she had plans to take part in a magic binding ritual against Donald Trump on or about February 24, March 26, April 24, May 23, which she again confirmed in July 2017.
Del Rey stated that she suffered from alcoholism at a young age, but has been sober since 2004. In September 2012, she told GQ:
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 - it's exciting - 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 moved to a home near Hancock Park in Los Angeles in June 2014 (after living in New York City and London, England in the previous years), and she resided there with her siblings, Caroline and Charlie, for some time. She relocated to a secluded beach-front home in Malibu, California, in June 2015, after dealing with trespassers at her former house. She also purchased two adjacent mansions (in addition to her Malibu home) in Studio City, Los Angeles in September 2016.
^It was noted in articles published in Rolling Stone the Irish Independent,Clash, and Yahoo that Del Rey attended the Kent School on financial aid.
^In mid-2012, Spinner and NME published articles regarding the leak of an album titled Sirens, recorded circa 2005 and attributed to Del Rey, who had recorded the songs under the stage name May Jailer.
^Both critics and Del Rey herself have noted a persistent theme of Americana in her music. Articles published in The Huffington PostThe New Yorker,Idolator,Art+Action, and Vulture have noted this.
^Several articles were published prior to the release of Born to Die that noted critical and public perceptions regarding the evolution of Del Rey's image. The presence of such thinkpieces circulating was noted in a 2011 Pitchfork article, and would later be written on extensively in articles published in The Guardian and Spin.
^ abHiatt, Brian (July 18, 2014). "Lana Del Rey - The Saddest, Baddest Diva in Rock". Rolling Stone (1212): 44. Del Rey is four days away from her 29th birthday (for reasons she can't explain, she's usually reported to be a year younger), but looks, at the moment, like a college junior home for the summer.; Jackson, Ron (July 4, 2008). "July 4, 2008 Post". Domain Name Journal. Archived from the original on July 25, 2014. Retrieved 2014.; "Girl, Interrupted: Lizzy Grant Becomes Lana Del Rey". Blurt. 2009. Archived from the original on July 27, 2014. Retrieved 2014.