Lana Del Rey
Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
June 21, 1985 (age 32)
Lake Placid, New York, U.S.
Lana Del Rey, Lana Del Ray, Lizzy Grant, May Jailer, etc.
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Robert Grant Jr. (father)
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Elizabeth Woolridge Grant (born June 21, 1985), known professionally as Lana Del Rey, is an American singer, songwriter, and model. Her music has been noted for its stylized and cinematic aesthetic, its preoccupation with themes of tragic romance, glamour, and melancholia, and its references to pop culture, particularly 1950s and 1960s Americana.
Raised in northern New York state, Del Rey embarked on a music career in 2005 after moving to New York City, and first received widespread attention in 2011, when the music video for her single "Video Games" became a viral Internet sensation. Del Rey received further recognition after her major-label debut Born to Die peaked at number two on the United States charts and was the fifth best-selling album of 2012. A remix of its single "Summertime Sadness", produced by Cedric Gervais, peaked at number six in the United States, and her extended play Paradise followed that November, garnering Del Rey her first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Three of the EP's tracks were featured in her short film Tropico (2013).
Del Rey's third studio album, Ultraviolence (2014), became her first album to reach number one in the United States. In 2015, following a North American tour with Courtney Love and Grimes, Del Rey released her fourth studio album, Honeymoon. Both albums received positive critical response. Del Rey's fifth and most recent studio album to date, Lust for Life, was released in 2017. It received critical acclaim, and also became Del Rey's second album to reach number one in the United States, while also reaching the top ten in almost every other country it charted in.
Lana Del Rey was born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant in New York City on June 21, 1985, to Robert England Grant, Jr., a Grey Group copywriter turned entrepreneur, and Patricia Ann "Pat" (Hill), a former Grey account executive turned high school teacher. She has one younger sister, Caroline Grant, and one brother, Charlie. Her paternal grandfather, Robert England Grant, Sr. was a Kidder, Peabody & Co. investment banker, a vice president for Plough, Inc and Textron, and venture capitalist. She is of Scottish descent.
Del Rey grew up in rural Lake Placid, New York, and was raised Roman Catholic. She attended a Catholic elementary school and for one year, a high school where her mother taught. She began singing in her church choir when she was a child, where she was the cantor. At age fifteen, she was sent to Kent School by her parents to deal with her rampant alcohol abuse; her uncle, an admissions officer at the school, secured her financial aid to attend.
Before becoming a singer, Del Rey wanted to be a poet. As a child, her father wrote country songs for personal enjoyment, while her mother was interested in singing; the former introduced her to The Beach Boys, while the latter was a fan of Carly Simon.
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, she enrolled at Fordham University where she majored in philosophy, with an emphasis on metaphysics. Del Rey 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 boarding school and college, and said, "that was when my musical experience began. I kind of found people for myself". She lived in The Bronx and later moved to New Jersey while in college, and volunteered at homeless youth and drug and alcohol outreach programs, as well as helping paint and rebuild houses on an Indian reservation in the western United States. After college, she moved to Brooklyn, where she resided for another four years.
Career beginnings and Sirens
- Main article: Sirens (album)
After returning to New York at 18 years old, Del Rey began studying metaphysics at Fordham College. It was around this time when she quit drinking due to an incident where she lost her parents car, however, without drinking, she felt "out of sync" with campus life. She began making social connections to other musicians who encouraged her to experiment with music. After learning six chords on guitar from her uncle, she began writing music. On learning guitar, she said "I realized I could probably write a million songs with those six chords". The result of her writing was the production of her first album, Sirens. The acoustic album, written entirely by Del Rey under the stage name "May Jailer", was the beginning roots of her musical life and showcased a more fragile and peaceful take on her voice and sound.
She began playing songs in various underground clubs in New York in 2005, and continued writing and performing for the next few years. Her stage name changed many times through this period, beginning with "May Jailer", evolving into "Lizzy Grant & The Phenomena", shortly becoming "Sparkle Jump Rope Queen", and eventually becoming Lizzy Grant. She graduated from Fordham College with a BA in philosophy. Halfway through college, Del Rey received a $10,000 record contract, with the money she rented a $400 a month trailer in New Jersey and began her music career.
Lizzy Grant era
- Main article: Lana Del Ray (album)
Soon, after recording a demo EP in 2007 titled No Kung Fu, Del Rey began work on her first studio album. She sent the EP to various producers with the intent on finding someone to work with her, and after listening to her tracks, David Kahne agreed to collaborate with her. The two began recording in 2008 and recorded every day for three months. Her first EP was released after they begun their sessions, Kill Kill, which included three tracks - "Kill Kill", "Gramma", and "Yayo". The three songs off the EP would later be included in her debut LP, Lana Del Ray. Del Rey had recorded the album previously with her then-boyfriend Steven Mertens but his contributions were ultimately scrapped. The album was released by 5 Points Records on January 5, 2010, to iTunes and Amazon. Shortly after this, it was removed and Del Rey bought the rights to the album back from her label after deciding to proceed with a different musical aim. The record was removed from all circulation, but a re-recording of the song "Yayo" appeared later on Paradise.
Born to Die era
- Main article: Born to Die (album)
Later in 2010, Del Rey began work on her major-label debut album Born to Die. She and Justin Parker began working with each other at this time. She dyed her naturally blonde hair auburn in 2010, and began releasing self-made videos featuring noir cinema clips interlaced with her own videos, made on her Apple computer, in mid-2010. She posted "Video Games" to her Youtube channel on August 19, 2011. The song and video immediately began to garner attention from music critics, who hailed the fragility of her voice and the songs production, and she was signed to Stranger Records the next month. The song was released as a double A-side along with "Blue Jeans" on October 16, 2011. Soon, Del Rey signed with Interscope Records and Polydor Records and began preparing Born to Die for release in early 2012.
Interscope and Polydor introduced Del Rey to various producers, including Rick Nowels and Emile Haynie. She began recording both older songs and new material for the album, and "Born to Die" was released on December 30, 2011, as the second single from the then-untitled album. Del Rey began promotion of the material soon after being signed, and performed in many intimate venues and shows. She made her U.S. television debut on January 14, 2012, alongside Daniel Radcliffe on the comedy show Saturday Night Live. The performance received polarized reviews, with some calling it the "worst performance in SNL history", while some attributed Del Rey's stage presence to stage-jitters, due to the fact that it was her first performance on American television.
Despite the mixed reception of the album, it performed well commercially, especially in non-U.S. territories. The record was the 3rd best selling of the year in the United Kingdom.
- Main article: Paradise (EP)
In an interview with RTVE on June 15, 2012, Del Rey announced she has been working on a new album due in November, and that five tracks have already been written, two of them being "Will You Still Love Me When I'm No Longer Young and Beautiful" and "In the Land of Gods and Monsters" and the other track titled "I Sing the Body Electric" which was performed at the BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend. In an interview with Tim Blackwell for Nova FM in Melbourne, Australia, Del Rey added that her upcoming November release would not be a new album but an EP, which she described as the Paradise Edition of Born to Die. On September 25, 2012, Del Rey released the lead single "Ride" to critical acclaim. The EP was released November 9, 2012 with 8 tracks and one bonus iTunes exclusive track, "Burning Desire".
In June 2013, Del Rey began filming the Anthony Mandler directed short film Tropico, which she called a "farewell" to the Born to Die era. The short film was premiered at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California on December 4, 2013, and released to YouTube and VEVO on the following day. At the premiere, Del Rey announced the title of her second full length major label album Ultraviolence. The short film received mixed reception.
- Main article: Ultraviolence (album)
Del Rey had been working on her Born to Die follow up album since its release, but felt there was no real substance until November 2013 when she sat down with melodies and lyrics she had been working on and wrote the album. Over three weeks in Electric Lady Studios in New York, Del Rey recorded the album with Rick Nowels. By the end of the session the album was complete. However, shortly after Dan Auerbach and Del Rey met in a club and decided to work together. A week later Del Rey rerecorded the entire album with Auerbach using a Shure SM-58 microphone and a live band.
In interviews around this time, Del Rey talked about the development of her album, playing tracks, such as "Black Beauty" and describing the album as dark and spiritual. After "Black Beauty" leaked, Del Rey said "I do feel discouraged, yeah. I don't really know what to put on the record. But I guess I could just put them on and see what happens" leaving the fate of the song on the album uncertain. She added, she was working on Ultraviolence "until my record got leaked last week, 'cause my life is like completely invaded. But yeah, I'm writing songs that I really like right now. They're really low-key and stripped back, all sort of West Coast inspired."
"West Coast" was released as the album's lead single on April 14, 2014. It recieved critical acclaim and performed modestly on the charts, entering the Top 40 in many countries. A music video was released on May 7. "Shades of Cool" was announced to be the album's first promotional single and was released on May 26. The music video for the track premiered on June 17. "Ultraviolence" was the next promotional single followed "Brooklyn Baby" which was released on June 4 and June 8 respectively. A snippet of a music video for the song "Pretty When You Cry" was released through Del Rey's Instagram on June 16.
"Ultraviolence" was released as the album's second single on August 18, 2014 with a music video featuring Del Rey as a bride released on July 30. On November 21, 2014, "Black Beauty" was released as a single exclusively in Germany alongside a remix EP.
In November, 2014, rumours circulated about Del Rey's involvement with Tim Burton's Big Eyes, culminating in the revelation that she had recorded two songs for the film, a titular track, "Big Eyes" and another called "I Can Fly" written with Dan Heath and Rick Nowels respectively, the latter song of which earned Del Rey a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Original Song". During early 2015, Del Rey was featured in Emile Haynie's album We Fall, co-writing and providing vocals for "Wait for Life".
On December 1, 2014, a concert tour supporting the album was announced as the Endless Summer Tour with multiple dates across North America select dates on the tour were supported by one of Del Rey's inspirations, Courtney Love, while others were supported by Grimes. The tour began on May 7, 2015, and concluded on June 16, 2015.
- Main article: Honeymoon (album)
The successor to Ultraviolence was first mentioned in a radio interview in June, 2014, by Del Rey who explained she had a concept for an album titled Music to Watch Boys To that she was developing. In October of the same year, she expressed interest in working with Giorgio Moroder, an influencial disco producer. In an interview with Grazia in December, 2014, she announced she had already written 10 tracks for the album, was working with Mark Ronson and expected the album to be out after her Endless Summer Tour in late August, 2015.
Del Rey confirmed the title of the album to be Honeymoon in an interview with Billboard at the start of 2015. She explained that 9 tracks were completely finished, and she was "looking for a few more songs to tie everything together".
On July 14, 2015, Del Rey uploaded the audio of the song "Honeymoon", the title track from the record, on her personal YouTube account. The video shows Del Rey relaxing in the hills of California for about 30 seconds, and then it transitions into to the lyrics of the song. Despite it's early release, "Honeymoon" was not available for purchase on iTunes until September 9, 2015, when it was released as the second promotional single from the record.
On August 4, 2015, Del Rey announced the lead single "High By the Beach", and that the track would be released on August 10, of the same year. The track leaked on August 7, 2015 onto YouTube and the social media platform Tumblr before the official release on the promised date of August 10. It received general appraise from the public, especially due to the fact that Del Rey explored the sound of "trap." The official music video for the single was uploaded to Del Rey's VEVO YouTube channel on August 13, 2015.
On August 20, 2015, Del Rey announced the track listing of Honeymoon via social media. The album went up for pre-order the next day, and it included "High By the Beach" and the first promotional single, "Terrence Loves You".
The last single from the record was called "Music to Watch Boys To". On June 4, 2015, model Jake Mast tweeted that the music video for the song he had filmed with Del Rey earlier in the year was for the track and would be released in June, however, by the end of the month, no song or video had been released and they were instead released in September. On September 1, 2015, Del Rey posted a photo depicting the behind-the-scenes of the music video for the track on Instagram. A snippet of the song was featured alongside excerpts from "Terrence Loves You", "Freak" and "High By the Beach" in an album sampler released September 8, 2015. On September 9, 2015, Del Rey posted the official artwork of "Music to Watch Boys To" on social media sites along with an announcement that the track would premier later that day on Beats 1 Radio. On September 11, 2015, the single's official audio was uploaded to Del Rey's VEVO YouTube channel, and the song was also on iTunes. On September 30, 2015, the official music video for the song was uploaded to Del Rey's VEVO YouTube channel.
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, California. The video debuted via Del Rey's VEVO on the same date.
Starting in December 2015, Del Rey began announcing festival performance dates across Europe, Canada, the United States, and Mexico to further promote Honeymoon, despite there being no official concert tour to support the album. She performed at these festivals throughout the summer of 2016.
Lust for Life era
- Main article: Lust for Life (album)
In October 2015, Del Rey announced that she planned writing material for her new record. She stated that she wanted the upcoming record to have a "pop-friendly" and "New York style" sound, and to be a little harder, faster, more upbeat, and less dreamy. 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 BRIT Award nomination overall. Del Rey began recording her fourth major-label studio album, Lust for Life, just six months after releasing her third.
During Novemeber 2016, The Weeknd released his album Starboy, which featured two songs that had contributions from Del Rey. She was credited as a featured artist on "Stargirl Interlude ", as well as co-wrote and provided background vocals for "Party Monster".
The lead single from Lust for Life, "Love" was registered online during January 2017 under the alternate title "Young In Love". On February 17, 2017, promotional posters for the "Love" music video directed by Rich Lee appeared across Los Angeles, California. Later that day, the full song leaked online. On February 18, 2017, the single was officially released worldwide on all music services. The official music video for "Love" was published to Del Rey's official VEVO channel on February 20, 2017.
On March 29, 2017, Del Rey announced the that the official title of the album was Lust for Life by releasing an album trailer on her official VEVO channel. 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."
On April 19, 2017, "Lust for Life" (feat. The Weeknd), the second single and title track from the album, was officially released worldwide. The official music video for the song was released on May 22, 2017.
On May 15, 2017, Del Rey officially released a song called "Coachella - Woodstock In My Mind" worldwide as the first promotional single from Lust for Life. She had written the song one month earlier. Two other songs, "Summer Bummer", featuring A$AP Rocky & Playboi Carti, and "Groupie Love" featuring A$AP Rocky were both officially released on July 12, 2017, along with the album pre-order. Lust for Life was officially released worldwide on July 21, 2017. It was received positively by critics and became Del Rey's second number-one album in the United States.
Del Rey's sound has been dubbed "Hollywood sadcore". Her music has been noted for its cinematic sound and its references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of 1950s and '60s Americana. Rolling Stone noted that Del Rey enjoys playing the role of lounge singer. Time said the solid core of her sound was "movie music", laid out over-top a hip hop vocal cadence.Attributed to many styles, Del Rey's sound has been tagged broadly as a sort of dream pop or baroque pop linked to various forms of rock, indie music, and trip hop, and often touching on styles such as hip hop, trap music, and psychedelic rock on particular releases. Of Born to Die, indie music journal Drowned in Sound wrote, "She likes that whole hip hop thing though, has this whole swagger thing going that not many girls like her got", adding that it sounded like a poppier Bond soundtrack. In "National Anthem", "Off to the Races," and "Diet Mountain Dew", Del Rey employs this alternative rapping technique. Under the stage name Lizzy Grant, she called her music "Hawaiian glam metal", while the work of her May Jailer project was acoustic.
Del Rey has been described as a "self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra" and "Lolita lost in the hood". Del Rey has also been called "a torch singer of the internet era" and "the anti-Gaga." Following in the shadow of artists like Prince and David Bowie, Del Rey chose her musical identity because it "reminded [her] of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue".
Del Rey has attributed her work to various stage names including Lizzy Grant, Lana Rey Del Mar, Sparkle Jump Rope Queen, and May Jailer. Settling on Lana Del Rey, the singer claims she selected the name because it was beautiful. First mention of the name Lana Del Rey came from her Spanish-speaking Cuban friends.
Del Rey possesses an expansive contralto vocal range, which spans three-plus octaves and has been described as captivating and highly emotive, being able to transcend from sounding high and girlish in her timbre, down to a low and jazzy sound with great ease, although both these areas of the voice can be conflicting in the contrast of their sound, initially polarizing opinion. 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 Magazine 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.
Del Rey stated 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.
Amongst her musical influences, Del Rey cites several artists, including Elvis Presley, Antony and the Johnsons, Frank Sinatra, Eminem, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, Britney Spears, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, Father John Misty, Bobby Vinton and Kurt Cobain. "[I really] just like the masters of every genre", she told BBC radio presenter Jo Whiley. Her favorite artists include Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen. She covered Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" in 2013. She also cited "strong female characters" such as Courtney Love, Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell as inspirational. Del Rey also cites fellow female artists Marina Diamandis, Florence Welch and Natasha Khan as women she admires and would love to work with.
Janis Joplin's live version of "Summertime" from the Cheap Thrills compilation album is one of Del Rey's favorite songs. Del Rey has also cited "Time of the Season" by The Zombies and "Hotel California" by The Eagles as favorites and inspirations. Her favorite films, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and American Beauty have also inspired her musical style. Inspired by poetry, Del Rey cites Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg as instrumental to her songwriting. Specifically, she enjoys the chapbook "Leaves of Grass" by Whitman and the poem "Howl" by Ginsberg. Her song, "Body Electric" from her third EP, Paradise, alludes to Whitman in the lyric, "Whitman is my daddy". The song's chorus of "I sing the body electric" is a direct reference to his poem "I Sing the Body Electric". She recited Whitman's poem "Song of Myself" for the French fashion magazine, L'Officiel.
Del Rey stated that she suffered from alcoholism at a young age, but became sober during 2004. In late 2012, she told GQ magazine:
"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 currently lives in the Los Angeles area of California, United States. Del Rey was in a relationship with photographer Francesco Carrozzini from June 2014 to November 2015, but due to disagreements on settling down together, the two broke up. She was also in a relationship with Barrie James O'Neill from 2011 to June 2014, but they ultimately decided to end their romance (because they had a "dark" relationship, Del Rey claimed). She previously had a relationship with Steven Mertens who produced her first record Lana Del Ray prior to David Kahne's involvement, as well as an alleged relationship with a music industry executive. During July 2017 Del Rey stated that she currently has a boyfriend, his name is unknown.
- Main article: List of tattoos
Del Rey has multiple tattoos, including the word "paradise" and an "M" on her left hand, "trust no one" and "die young" on her right, "Chateau Marmont" on her left arm, "Whitman Nabokov" on her right arm, "Nina Billie" on the left side of her collarbone, and "Whitney Amy" on the right side of her collarbone.
- Main article: Discography
- Sirens (2006)
- Lana Del Ray (2010)
- Born to Die (2012)
- Ultraviolence (2014)
- Honeymoon (2015)
- Lust for Life (2017)
- Young Like Me (2005)
- From the End (2005)
- No Kung Fu (2007)
- Kill Kill (2008)
- Lana Del Rey (2012)
- Paradise (2012)
- Tropico (2013)
- Born to Die Tour (2011—2012)
- Paradise Tour (2013—2014)
- Endless Summer Tour (2015)
- Festival Tour (2016)
- Main article: Videography
Awards and nominations
- Main article: List of awards and nominations
Del Rey has accumulated 14 awards from 54 nominations since her major label debut, including winning an Ivor Novello Award for "Best Contemporary Song" with her single "Video Games" in 2012, receiving Grammy Award nominations for "Best Pop Vocal Album" with Paradise, and "Best Song Written for Visual Media" with "Young and Beautiful" in 2014. In 2015, her song "Big Eyes", which featured in the film of the same name, was nominated by the Oscars in the "Best Original Song - Motion Picture" category. Also in 2015, Del Rey won the MTV Europe Music Award for "Best Alternative", and in November, 2015, she won the "Trailblazer" Award provided by the Billboard Music Awards. In February, 2016, Del Rey received the "Best Female Artist of the Year" award from The ELLE Style Awards by ELLE magazine.