When she posted a low-budget film for her haunting song Video Games online last summer, Lana Del Rey seemed to arrive from nowhere as a fully formed star.
Styling herself as ‘the gangster Nancy Sinatra’, she certainly looked the part. With her bee-stung lips and big hair, she harked back to Sixties fashion and the faded glamour of old Hollywood.
The clip, supposedly homemade, also had the desired effect. Video Games has been viewed 20 million times online, making this album, out on Monday, one of the year’s most anticipated releases.
There have been mutterings that the singer is not quite what she seems. Her critics claim she has had the support of a major record label, Interscope, all along, and there have even been suggestions, denied by Del Rey, that those pouting lips are not entirely natural.
Some things we do know. She was born 25 years ago and raised — as plain old Elizabeth Grant — in the small, rural town of Lake Placid.
Her upbringing was respectable, and she started singing in a church choir.
It was when she moved to Brooklyn as an 18-year-old student that she began to take her music seriously. Influenced by Elvis Presley and Jeff Buckley, she wrote a few songs, played a few club gigs as Lizzy Grant and released an independent album under her real name.
What Del Rey — and an army of co-writers — have made is a mix of Sixties-tinged balladry and modern pop. The vocals smoulder. The backing tracks are a blend of twangy guitars, orchestral flourishes and shuffling, electronic beats.
The most disappointing thing is the lack of variety, with most songs sticking to the template established by Video Games.
Del Rey slips between a series of bad girl roles. On Off To The Races, she plays the hell-raiser, purring: ‘God, I’m so crazy,’ as she wreaks havoc.
With National Anthem, she is a gold-digger chasing a playboy from the New York suburbs. Blue Jeans laments an errant lover who looks like James Dean but departs for pastures new.
The stories are vivid, entertaining and sung with bruised regret. And, as long as one isn’t expecting the searing honesty or depth of feeling conveyed by an Amy Winehouse or Etta James, Born To Die is a promising beginning.
Who knows? Del Rey might yet transcend her carefully constructed mystique and develop into a true original.