V75: The Ballad of Lana Del Rey

V75: The Ballad of Lana Del Rey


V75: The Ballad of Lana Del Rey

Cyberspace's Controversial Chanteuse Filled a Viral Vacuum With "Video Games"—Igniting a Backdraft of Debate in the Process. Now She's Ready to Set the Story Straight With a Record That Reminds Us We're All Born To Die

Cyberspace's Controversial Chanteuse Filled a Viral Vacuum With "Video Games"—Igniting a Backdraft of Debate in the Process. Now She's Ready to Set the Story Straight With a Record That Reminds Us We're All Born To Die

Photography: Karim Sadli

Styling: Jay Massacret

Text: Paul Flynn

The first time I met Lana Del Rey was in the U.K., during the dismal summer of 2011. I parted company with her at a bus stop outside of the Topshop flagship on Oxford Street in London. The rain was beating down, bouncing from the lacquer of her exceptionally coiffed shoulder-length ’50s blowout. Her enormous, ghetto hoop earrings were crashing against her face in the wind. She was wearing a white miniskirt, heels, and a silk Formula One racing jacket. Palpably, everyone noticed her. Outside of the obvious physical evidence, she’d said several things in the preceding interview that convinced me of her specialness. There was a throwaway observation in the midst of her musings on fame about Simon Cowell being “the cross between the American Dream and American Psycho,” and then there was the fact that she wore a wedding ring on public transit to divert attention from men. She looked, felt, and sounded like a star.

The last time I spoke to Lana Del Rey, backstage in Cologne on her debut European tour, she was one. The first flushes of fame can throw its denizens into a tailspin. Weirdly, they seemed to have calmed Lana. “Oh my God,” she said in Cologne, “so much has happened in that short time. I didn’t even have a record deal then. In the space of four weeks everything just...happened.” By the time her first tour bus revved its engine at the start of autumn, she had become a glossy cover star, a viral marketer’s fantasy totem, an award winner, and a number-one recording artist on iTunes in Holland, France, the U.K., and Germany—courtesy of her exquisite noir ballad “Video Games”. It was a song she had crafted as the opening part of a breathy trilogy devoted to the broken heart, a subject she’d clearly learned much about in her twenty-five years of youth. The track placed her directly in the lineage of Nancy Sinatra and Marianne Faithfull, and at absolute odds with tabloid sirens Rihanna and Katy Perry. It seemed to understand the intersection of glamour and danger in love as if by instinct. The trilogy expanded to include the song’s counterpoint, “Blue Jeans,” and the title track of her sublime opening suite, Born to Die. The title harkens back to Notorious B.I.G. “Quite accidentally, I might add,” she demurred, when asked.

A beautiful young woman with a transcendent talent, a distinct look, and a stage name—one that seemed hotwired to the finely tuned smoke and mirrors of arcane pop theatricality—Lana (née Lizzie Grant) inevitably caused online contention. She was subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous Web-speak. Again, the dolorous texture of rumour around her seemed to have informed a new serenity in the singer. Hey, we all have a past. I suggested that the Oscar Wilde quote “the only thing better than being talked about is not being talked about,” might be playing into her hands. “Oh no, honey,” she rebuked gently, “I have had an entire life of not being talked about. That’s fine.” She seemed to mean it, too. “You talk about all these things that have happened to me in this short space of time, but the one thing that has really changed is that I now have an audience. I turn up in Glasgow or Manchester or Amsterdam and there are good people waving at me from the crowd. That’s amazing. There are people outside the venue at sound check that want to chat and take a photo.” She has found peace in this response. “Someone showed me their ticket stub and asked me to sign it. You know how much it costs to come and see a show?” She paused. “These people really wanted to see me.” She sounded quietly flabbergasted.

“I’m not competing with those girls,” she said of her MTV-flooding generational contemporaries. “I’m not competing with anybody.

Prior to meeting her, Lana’s management had sent me a link to some twenty-odd songs she had in a locked file, accessible only by password on the Internet. It has since been deleted. I liked the way she sounded bred on witty hip-hop rhyme schemes and subjected them to the confines of classic songwriting, like Carly Simon incubated in the early ’80s Bronx. I loved her simultaneous reading of high and low culture. When we had said farewell at that bus stop in London, she told me she was flying to L.A. in two days to meet a heavyweight hip-hop producer that wanted to work with her. “I decided not to,” she said in Cologne. “I’ve kept it family. The beats are being looked after by my beat man. The arrangements are being done by my string man.” There will be no industry grooming for the current and future pop star Lana del Rey. Mostly, she came to the conclusion of this at the record’s playback. You really want to know why Lana Del Rey suddenly found Zen? “I made a really good record. That’s my defense,” she said. That is all.

Credits: Makeup Pamela Cochrane using Chanel (OBrepresents)  Hair Anna Cofone using Shu Uemura Art of Hair (Emma Davies)  Manicure Mike Pockock using Nail Rock (Streeters)  Digital capture Edouard Malfettes (Digit Art, Paris)  Photo assistants Antoni Ciufo and Antoine Breant  Stylist assistants Olivia Kozlowski, Mara Palena, Vera Calcagno, Maria Sbiti Colorist Marc Ramos  Makeup assistant Katie Nixon  Retouching Imagin’ Location Spring Studios, London  Creative consultant Johnny Blue Eyes (OBrepresents)  Special thanks Andy Silva, Kimberley Brown (Purple PR), Town Hall Hotel and Apartments


Heroes: Barbra Streisand
Perhaps No Other Artist Has Achieved as Much Commercial and Critical Acclaim as Babs, and She's Still Going Strong