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Sunday 23 November 2014

Why Lana Del Rey was born to deliver

It being January, the race is on to unveil and hype up the new gunslingers in the pop industry. And those looking into their crystal balls have already hit pay dirt, as a promising new singing siren is threatening to dethrone the pop juggernaut that is Adele.

Lana Del Rey is a glamorous shot in the arm for the pop charts and the similarities to Adele are hard to ignore. With their love of winged eyeliner and nude lips, both look like Bardot throwbacks. While Adele channels Dusty Springfield in her ballads, Del Rey's smoky vocals could be mistaken for Nancy Sinatra. Both boast a devilish streak, but are not unwilling to conform to the mainstream industry. And Del Rey is also turning her own heartbreak into art, writing her single Video Games about a deadbeat boyfriend.

"I would come home and watch him play video games," she said in a recent interview. "I never joined in as I'd get killed straight away. It was just about us being together in the same room."

Of course, the song's overwhelming popularity is the real story here. Without being released as a single, Del Rey created a video for Video Games, put it up on YouTube and racked up half a million views within a month. Her first UK concert sold out in 30 seconds. In short, she had become a world phenomenon and pre-sales for her debut album, out at the end of this month via Universal Ireland, have been healthy.



Domination

However, the path to world domination hasn't run smoothly for Del Rey. Almost immediately, her photogenic Priscilla Presley-meets-Angelina-Jolie look became a talking point with many bloggers commenting on her voluminous lips: "They said I looked really fake and posed, and stuff about my lips . . . it just really hurt my feelings," Del Rey told Social Stereotype Magazine. "If they said I was a bad singer that would be one thing because I know it's not true, but when they say, 'Oh, look at her face, she looks so plastic . . .' that, as a girl, hurts your feelings."

Bloggers also unearthed Del Rey's true identity. Far from owning a retro-cool moniker in real life, Lana Del Rey is known to the taxman as Lizzy Grant. And the 25-year-old is far from an overnight sensation. Del Rey put in many, many hard yards to get her career off the ground. Born in Lake Placid in upstate New York (a ski resort dubbed the 'playground of North America'), she was sent to boarding school in the leafy state of Connecticut (her dad is internet millionaire Rob Grant). And while Del Rey has referred to herself as a 'gangsta Nancy Sinatra', her first forays into the pop industry were a damp squib. After moving to New York at 18 to become a singer, she trawled New York's thankless open-mike circuit.

"When I left school I wanted to do music because I thought I was good at it," she is quoted as saying. "My uncle taught me to play guitar and I did these little shows."

In 2009, she released her Kill Kill EP under the name Lizzy Grant and with the help of producer David Kahane, but the EP failed to break into the mainstream. And despite the fact that Del Rey came to prominence via YouTube, she admits that her career isn't as organic as first meets the eye.



origins

"I wanted to be a band but the label I was with and the team I had around me absolutely wanted me to be a solo artist," she admits of the origin of her name. "Lana Del Rey came from a series of managers and lawyers over the past five years who wanted a name that they thought better fit the sound of the music.

"It's the exact same person, babes. Just with a different name," she told Social Stereotype. "I prefer Lana, it's pretty. I think the songs came first and then the name and probably a lot more hair and make-up after that."

Irked by her meteoric rise to fame, some critics revelled in revealing Lana's not-so-hipster past -- with less pillowy lips -- online.

She may be the most divisive artist in recent years but so far critics have been unanimous about one thing: her songs are as close to musical perfection as a female artist has managed in recent memory.

Already with a Q Award nomination under her belt and a Jools Holland appearance in the bag, 2012 is set to become her year. For now, she is based in London: "I relocated to London because there were a lot of writers and producers who wanted to work with me," she says. "They don't expect me to dumb anything down here. They're all about the smart."

And, like Adele, there could be more public tears on the horizon. "To be honest, it wasn't going to be the single but people have really responded to it," she says of the haunting Video Games. "I get very sad when I play that song. I still cry sometimes when I sing it."

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