Lana Del Rey
American singer-songwriter Lizzie Grant makes divisive, yet compelling pop music under the stage name Lana Del Rey. The three studio albums she has penned since 2010 evidence an original voice able to blend a heartfelt nostalgia for mid-century Americana with wider influences from jazz, rock, and hip-hop.
Del Rey was propelled in a flash to notoriety with her 2011 re-release of the single “Video Games”, where the singer’s emotive contralto vocals, coupled with expansive strings and flickering, nostalgic images of Californian summers made for a sudden, and sizable hit. Though Lana Del Rey, the 2010 debut digital album self-released by Grant, and “Video Games” were lauded by many, the singer’s boy-meets-girl lyrics came under fire for projecting a simplistic, anti-feminist message, and Del Rey’s rumoured wealthy background led some to doubt the authenticity of the bad girl image integral to many of her hits. Nonetheless, Del Rey’s star has continued to rise, with her follow-up studio albums Born To Die and Ultraviolence, released in 2012 and 2014 respectively, garnering critical praise from mainstream press and charting highly.
It is, intriguingly, the same aspects of Del Rey’s work which fuel both her detractors and her ardent supporters. While naysayers may find her manufactured, maverick figures like noise musician William Bennett find her a breath of fresh air in the world of monochrome pop. Lana Del Rey’s audience-splitting fascination is perhaps best evidenced on her 2012 track “Ride”, where the combination of euphoric American road movie nostalgia and strangely harrowing subject matter makes for an uncomfortable listen. At the heart of the singer’s music, however, lies a solid songwriting craft, such that her music remains distinctive, despite experimenting with a variety of production styles from album to album, such as on the rock-led Ultraviolence. The core strength of Del Rey’s songwriting is nowhere more evident than on stage, where the singer upholds the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” with an ease which feels anything but fabricated.