Lana Del Rey: A Shy, Hated Singer Turned Idolized, Cinematic Starlet

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Lana Del Rey has fulfilled her own prophecy. In her signature dreamy tone, her 2012 track “Radio” proclaims:

“Their heavy words can’t bring me down / Boy I’ve been raised from the dead.”

It’s a line more appropriate for the singer in 2014 than when BTD emerged two years prior. After years of getting panned by everyone from message board trolls to the New York Times, Lana Del Rey has resurrected as one of the most beloved starlets to take the stage.

In a peculiar progression, she’s gotten her fairy tale ending, marking what some insist will be the beginning of a long career

Her actual first record, a self-titled digital release in 2010, barely caught any ears. It wasn’t until her viral YouTube video for “Video Games” blew up that the fame and hate crept in. Record companies shunned the ballad, deeming it too long and washy. A lawsuit was filed for the video’s montage of copyrighted video footage. YouTube commenters were ruthless to accuse her father, music industry insider Rob Grant, of propping his kid onto a record deal, unfairly placing her on the same platform as people like Rebecca Black.

It was the type of hate that had little to do with Del Rey’s actual musicianship. To the critics, Del Rey merely had to cut the proper checks to the right people in order to find a place in fame.

And then came her infamous Saturday Night Live performance, when Del Rey slurred out a pitchy, wrecked rendition of “Video Games.” Cue the gossip column firestorm.

Things only got worse when Born To Die was released just days after the SNL fiasco. While the numbers don’t lie about the record’s success – the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry places the album at number five on the best-selling records of 2012 – mixed reviews deemed Lana as a weak, anti-feminist Marilyn wannabe begging for attention but without a grasp of musical direction.

The New York Times wasn’t much kinder in its review of the album, but author Jon Caramanica made one crucial remark about Del Rey:

“…the Lana Del Rey-bashing economy moves faster than the actual Lana Del Rey economy, a reminder of how free people feel to clobber someone, especially a young woman, for the crime of art.”

As all this was happening, Lana seemed to move through life in the fetal position. The Americana Patriot left her beloved States for London, and the singer questioned whether to even bother writing another record.

Something here wasn’t making sense. Lana Del Rey was, by all objective accounts, successful. All of this bashing was happening while Born to Die reached number one on 13 national charts, striking platinum in nine countries, double platinum in seven, and triple platinum in two.

She was even voted GQ’s Woman of the Year. In her interview with the magazine, Del Rey opened up about the pain felt from all of the hate she was forced to swallow:

“It didn’t affect my writing, but it affected my happiness. I became depressed. Because I love New York so much. I was born there; it was my city. I was going to die there.”

But alas, love always finds a way, and eventually her fans turned the thick, murky-green waters of hate a lively shade of sunshine yellow.

Admittedly, my own obsession with Lana didn’t begin until I perked up watching Great Gatsby in theatres, when her unrivaled “Young and Beautiful” brought Jay and Daisy’s affection to its crescendo. Released as a single last spring, the track of course earned some condemnation (how dare she call herself “beautiful”?!), but it finally earned much-deserved critical praise, eventually selling over one million copies in the US.

It was a milestone hit more than a year after she released her record, having since released the EP Paradise and a re-issue of Born To Die.

Even today, more than two years after her album dropped, BTD is still charting on Spotify; only last month did it sell its one-millionth copy in the US.

While quite the gradual evolution for the record, it seems almost over night that the adoring fans had finally overpowered the trolls and placed a gleaming, golden flower crown atop the idolized, cinematic starlet’s head. Admirers hang on every word regarding her upcoming record Ultraviolence, teasing the eager with new single “West Coast” which, by the way, has so far been played more than 850,000 times on Spotify since its release April 14, reaching number one on the music streaming service’s Viral 50 chart.

Recently, Del Rey launched her national tour with two sets at Coachella. A gig she once considered out of her league – “I stand there and sing. I’m not that exciting,” she mused – the performances turned into what she described as “life changing.” Oh, and the rest of the tour? It sold on in minutes, setting records at venues in Las Vegas and Phoenix, and causing the jaws of Live Nation talent buyers to drop at every scheduled tour stop over the speed and ferocity of ticket sales.

Somewhere in between the release of Born to Die and “West Coast,” Lana Del Rey turned into a goddess. Unfortunately, much of the confidence she deserves has been diluted by the hate she was forced to swallow. It might be why some critics noticed her uncertainty when she took the Coachella stage for the first time, as if she still doesn’t believe she’s loved – maybe it’s all a trap.

But by the end of her second Coachella set, the once sheepish Lana swooned at her fans, blew smoky kisses and hiked up her dress with drop-dead sex appeal. They love you, Lana. They really love you.

Image via We Heart It

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Carolyn's true passion is pizza, but music comes in at a close second. It may land her homeless on the beaches of Santa Monica, but music journalism is a way for Carolyn to explore the minds behind the music-makers who embellish our lives and adorn the human condition. Free concert tickets are pretty cool, too.