Lana Del Rey has one of the most enigmatic personalities of modern pop, and it’s won her one of the most devoted audiences of the 2010s.
Elizabeth Woolridge Grant (b. June 21, 1985), best known by her stage name Lana Del Rey, is an icon of modern alternative singing and songwriting.
At age 18, Lana began performing in clubs around Brooklyn, NY under various monikers including Lizzy Grant, May Jailer, and Sparkle Jump Rope Queen. Around the same time, she began attending Fordham University in The Bronx, where she majored in philosophy with a specific focus on metaphysics.
I was interested in God and how technology could bring us closer to finding out where we came from and why
Is what she said about her degree when asked. The theme of God and science remains persistent in all of her music. Alongside her college major, some of her song themes were the effect of attending a Christian high school.
She signed her first recording contract with 5 Points Records in 2007 and her first digital album, Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant, was released in January 2010.
Traces of this era can still be found online but this commercially unsuccessful epoch was ultimately abandoned to make way for the rebrand of Lana Del Rey.
In 2011, a homemade music video for “Video Games” was uploaded to Lana’s YouTube channel. The track became a viral sensation, sparking widespread interest in the artist, and she signed with Interscope/Polydor in the October of that year. On the acknowledgements for her fifth studio album, Lust for Life she wrote
Abel, I still think of the day u posted video games on your Tumblr. Grateful for u.
Here, she is referring the R&B-Hip-Hop singer and frequent collaborator, The Weeknd. Their friendship eventually blossomed into a collaboration on the title track for said album as well as “Stargirl Interlude” on The Weeknd’s album Starboy.
Since then, Lana has delivered a flair unlike any other artist of her generation, praised for its cinematic sound and references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of the 1950s and 1960s Americana.
After many studio releases that were removed from streaming platforms to make way for her rebrand, Lana explained the meaning of her stage name and how it was influenced by her time in Florida while in college.
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.
Before using Del Rey, she initially chose the alternate spelling Lana Del Ray and released an album under that name, but ultimately chose the latter moving forward.
On January 27, 2012, Lana’s first major-label project, Born to Die, was released. Despite mixed reviews from critics, it is the second-longest charting album on the Billboard 200 by a female artist, and gave Lana her best-known smash hit “Summertime Sadness”.
Two years later, the atmospheric album Ultraviolence was released, showcasing a slightly darker sound and theme. The term comes from the Anthony Burgess novel, A Clockwork Orange, and refers to excessive or unjustified violence.
2015 saw the arrival of Honeymoon which Lana described as being “a tribute to Los Angeles”. The album became the subject of much critical acclaim, garnering the most praise of all of her projects before it, with some even calling it her best work yet.
Her fifth studio album Lust For Life followed in 2017, packing some high-profile features with artists including The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti and Stevie Nicks. Billboard called it a “new-age folk” record and it was named in the Top 50 Best Album of the Year lists by several high-profile music publications.
After much anticipation, teasing and at least one deferred release date, on August 30, 2019, Norman Fucking Rockwell! was debuted to the world. This album earned her Grammy nominations and places on year-end lists, launching her further than ever into the limelight.
Only days after NFR!’s release, in an interview with The Times, Lana confirmed that a new project entitled Chemtrails Over the Country Club (originally called as White Hot Forever) was in the works with a potential release in 2020. Nearing the end of 2019, Lana also announced she would be releasing a spoken word poetry album on January 4th, 2020, as the book itself was taking long to hand-bind.
Similar to the way Chemtrails Over The Country Club was announced, Lana took to Instagram after the release of Chemtrails to announce a follow-up eighth studio album called Blue Banisters (which was originally supposed to be called ‘Rock Candy Sweet’) that was expected to be released on July 4th, 2021, however was delayed for October 22nd of the same year. Three singles from Blue Banisters were released on May 20th, 2021.
After more than a year’s time of not releasing music, Lana released a statement on November 30, 2022 which stated that an announcement would be made in a week regarding music. After the week’s worth of waiting, Lana released the album’s intended release date, called Did you know that there’s a tunnel under the Ocean Blvd: March 10th, 2023. She finally revealed that she was pushing the release date back two weeks to the 24th of March of the same year. Although the reason was originally undisclosed, it was soon uncovered that in the midst of Miley Cyrus' album’s release date being the same, she was forced to push it back to avoid drama.
A visual artist as well as performer, Del Rey has released a number of music videos, including a short music film that she wrote, directed and starred in, titled Tropico. The piece features dark undertones and haunting scenes of vintage technicolor.
Lana’s lyrics explore a broad range of intricate topics such as love and relationships, famous icons and her idols, her own experiences with fame, pop culture, religion, patriotism and nostalgia.
She uniquely encapsulates a mix of magic, glamour and beauty, intertwined with grit, destruction and sadness. Vogue UK published an interview with Lana in late 2011 where it was revealed that she refers to her musical artistry as “Hollywood sadcore”.
Lana’s catalog of work is not made up of a constant stream of mainstream radio hits, and she continues to remain singular in her style of writing and singing, showing no similarity to any artist in modern pop or alternative music.