Perhaps the only reaction the name Lana Del Rey
never gets is "Wait, who?" Mention Del Rey or play one of her songs, and you'll get feedback from both extremes. Some find her music creepy or claim that they can't stand her melancholic persona. Others (the cool people) proclaim how much they love her, even using phrases like 'spirit animal'. We are definitively on the right side of the line, with an admiration for Del Rey and much hype building for the July 21st release date of her latest album Lust For Life
. Here are just ten of the best reasons to love Lana Del Rey.
1. A Quirky Early Alias
Way before she had her big break with "Video Games" in 2011, Lana played open mics in the New York City area under various stage names, including Sparkle Jump-Rope Queen. I've only done one open mic in NYC, and I was nervous enough introducing myself by my given name. You have to give major props to anyone with the guts to announce themselves as Sparkle Jump-Rope Queen.
2. The "Video Games" Music Video
Speaking of "Video Games", Del Rey's DIY video for the song jump-started her career as the noir pop queen we know today. It's easy to see why the video went viral. The fuzzy footage of carefree skateboard tricks and people doing cannonballs into a backyard pool contrasts disturbingly with the deeply sad track, making the video reminiscent of an episode of Dateline
. The close up shot near the video's end of a girl's smiling face against a spinning background is downright chilling as the song dies away in fading piano chords. Del Rey's first music video is definitely an unexpected visual interpretation of "Video Games", proving her creativity even at the outset of her career
3. Dynamic Duos
Lana's new album contains some exciting collaborations with artists ranging from The Weeknd, who features on the upcoming album's title track as well as the music video for the song, to Stevie Nicks and A$AP Rocky. Del Rey and Rocky have collaborated in the past, both on the video for Lana's "National Anthem" and in A$AP Rocky's "Ridin'". Lana's previous two albums are devoid of features, but her work with The Weeknd promises some solid pairings on Lust For Life
4. "This is What Makes us Girls"
This is a gem of a song off Lana's first album,
Born To Die
. It initially sounds like the casually recalled escapades of youth, but takes a dark turn to end in tears when Lana gets sent away from her friends. This is Del Rey's most openly autobiographical song, providing romanticized flash frames of her childhood struggles that are both youthfully harmless and sinister at the same time. While the song often glorifies Lana and her friends basking in male adoration and is not overtly empowering, it is a bit of a backhanded anthem of solidarity, calling the desire for affection Lana describes a "curse" and pleading "Darlin' little queens don't you know what you're worth?"
5. The Comeback
Lana Del Rey's 2012 SNL performance received a deluge of criticism both for her vocals and her usual spacey demeanor. Considering this rough patch occurred before her first album was even released, it is truly impressive that the then rising star continued on to her current level of fame. She has also shown that she is a much better live singer than one rough performance indicates. We have proof below.
Lana writes all of her own lyrics, and most of them are inspired by her personal experiences. In a musical era where ghost-writing for top 40 artists can be almost as lucrative as being
a top 40 artist, this shows the authenticity that Lana's critics love to claim she lacks.
7. Movie Soundtrack Appearances
Like the old Hollywood actress after which she models herself, Del Rey has made an impact on the film world, with several of her songs featuring in movie soundtracks. The most well known is her contribution of "Young and Beautiful" to the 2013 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
The song perfectly captures the superficial decadence that appears throughout both the book and its film version and is worthy of its current status as a symbol of love and tragedy in the roaring 20's. Lana also received a Golden Globe nomination for the song "Big Eyes", which she wrote for Tim Burton's film of the same name.
9. Russian Literature References
Whether she's rocking straight dark hair as in her Ultraviolence album cover, her natural strawberry blonde, or the platinum blonde she favored in her days as Lizzie Grant, Lana still looks absolutely gorgeous.
For all my fellow nerds out there who still aren't won over by Lana Del Rey, it might change your minds to know that her music is heavily inspired by and makes numerous references to Russian author Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita
. In addition to Born To Die
's bonus track, "Lolita", Del Rey's song, "Carmen", is inspired by a poem that appears in the novel and the line "Light of my life, fire of my loins" that Lana murmurs throughout "Off To The Races" is a direct quote from the novel's famous opening lines.
10. "National Anthem"
I don't want to sound like a poser, but this song... I don't even know where to start. Depending on your perspective, "National Anthem" could be the frivolous tale of a young woman's affair with a wealthy man or a brutally ironic hymn to the gods of money and status. I shiver every time I hear Lana's description of a "love story for the new age" as it spirals through "Excessive buyin', overdose and dyin'" to end in "Dark and lonely/ I need somebody to hold me". This song epitomizes Lana Del Rey's tragic beauty queen aesthetic, and the video features her and A$AP Rocky as first lady and president, a scenario you can't help but support in these trying times.