Lana Del Rey (formerly Lizzy Grant) introduces herself as the ‘gangster Nancy Sinatra’. It’s an eyebrow-raising boast, but seems a perfect fit for the smokey-voiced Lake Placid native. Del Rey’s praises have already been sung by the likes of the Guardian and Vogue Italia, and she’s now sold out shows on both sides of the Atlantic – all without even having released a single.
‘Video Games’, along with B-side ‘Blue Jeans’, will be released as Del Rey’s debut single on October 8 and easily ranks amongst the best of this year’s new music. Hers is a unique brand of cinematic pop that blends a sense of faded old-Hollywood glamour and modern urban-pop. ‘Video Games’ is built around sweeping Frank Sinatra strings which cushion her striking, breathy voice: ‘I heard that you like the bad girls / honey is that true?’ Her captivating vocals transition from high-pitched Lolita to weathered Marianne Faithful. Her delivery is near unreadable. The single’s lyrics at once seem both romantic and tragic: ‘heaven is a place on earth where you/tell me all the things you want to do.’
B-side, ‘Blue Jeans’ is equally transfixing. She coos, ‘I grew up on hip-hop’, and it shows. The track could sit comfortably on any urban release from Nineties-era Aaliyah to 2011’s The Weeknd. The minimalist beat almost recalls early Timbaland, but with plenty of Del Rey’s retro leanings. Lines that could be lifted straight out of a rap hit (‘you’re so fresh to death and sick as cancer’, ‘love you more than those bitches before’) flow seamlessly into the chorus’s tragic promise, ‘I will love you til the end of time, I would wait a million years.’ B-sides should never sound this good.
Equally as striking as her sound are the accompanying DIY-style music videos. Lana’s scenes are filmed on her own webcam, spliced together with clips of old Hollywood movies, home video of skateboarding teens, cartoons and paparazzi film of stumbling starlets (namely Paz De La Huerta in her most arresting on-screen role). The striking Lana is perfectly poised with her bouffant hairstyle, smokey eyes and cosmetically exaggerated Angelina Jolie-pout. It all adds up to a truly entrancing slice of Americana and shows huge promise for Del Rey’s debut album.
The danger for Lana Del Rey is clear: the spell she’s cast may be broken as soon as she’s forced to open her mouth to actually promote her record. It may all deflate like her apparently collagen-filled lips, but until then Del Rey is possibly the break out star of the year. The faded-Hollywood styling is perfectly polished and Lana is, as she says herself, ‘glamorous but I’m deranged yeah’. She’s announced a handful of international shows – Los Angeles, New York, London and Berlin – all of which are already sold out. Only time will tell if Lana Del Rey can transfix a live audience, but it’s looking very likely.
‘Video Games/Blue Jeans’ is released October 8.