Real or fake? Lana Del Rey, the internet sensation who will break your heart
Lana Del Rey is a name you’re going to hear a lot of over the next few months. She’s the internet sensation whose debut song Video Games is already the ‘Single Of The Year’ pre-release, having attracted almost a million and a half page views on YouTube. Her first UK show (in November) sold out in about 30 seconds and she makes the buzz over Nikki Minaj seem like a shrew’s fart. Her lips alone have a CEO (probably). This, my friends, is Lanageddon.
Interest in the artist – who has only two songs to her (current) name – is propelled by the charge against her: that she is a big fat phoney. Let me explain. The 24-year-old New Yorker is actually called Lizzy Grant – she admits the name Lana Del Rey was made up by “a series of managers and lawyers”. She tried to make it as a mainstream artist in 2009, releasing a three-track EP. This failed, so she went away, wrote some more songs and returned transformed. Bigger hair, bigger eyes, bigger lips, bigger tunes.
She calls her shtick “Lolita in the hood” or “the gangster Nancy Sinatra”. The video for Video Games is certainly heavy with nostalgia. It’s filmed like a home movie with stills from old films, classic motorbikes, skateboards and 50s fashion. Despite looking like a duck doped up on Quaaludes, Del Rey is very beautiful and it's a gorgeous video. But it hasn't stopped people ripping her apart.
Music blogs hiss and froth about her "authenticity". There are rumours she is a puppet controlled by a group of wealthy, clever producers. That her father is a multi-squillionaire although she claims she lived on a trailer park. There's mention of cosmetic surgery. The vanishing of her old music online in place of the new has led writers to call her the "Frankenstein of Indie".
Take the top eleven favourite tracks she chose for The Beat Juice. Each one seems to be a vehicle for the Del Rey narrative. She chose the theme tunes to The Godfather and American Beauty. And Lil Wayne’s Lollipop. Lil Wayne’s Lollipop. Either they were picked out by record executives chuckling into their blue M&Ms, or Del Rey has unusually bad taste in music.
The problem with Del Rey is this: her song is actually bloody good. Music bloggers agree almost unanimously: the voice, lyrics, arrangements, melody – it’s all there. Video Games is an earworm which will surely top both mainstream charts and trendy bloggers’ top tens this year. This leaves us in a conundrum. Becoming a fan of an artist is like embarking on a relationship. We commit to them, they comfort and support us. We open our wallets, they’re there for the dancing and the tears. We overlook their bad habits or dodgy political views because we want to grow old with them. But Lana Del Rey in her current incarnation would be the girl your mother warns you about. We simply don’t know how much of her is real or not and it would be difficult to put our trust in her if it's true she’s a hologram concealing a load of greedy, soulless record executives in suits.
But is there anything so wrong with pop stars self-embellishing? Bob Dylan created his own back story after all. Pop doesn’t do ‘keeping it real’. It never has. It never will. The lives of artists don’t detract from the quality of their art. We don’t even really know who wrote Shakespeare’s plays, but it doesn’t lessen our enjoyment of them. David Bowie dressed up as all sorts of lunatic and we adored him for it.
All we know for sure is this: the song is good, and she’s much more than just a pretty face.