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Lana Del Rey is the stage name of American singer-songwriter Elizabeth Grant (born June 21st, 1986). Formerly known as “Lizzy Grant”, Del Rey rose to fame in 2011 after renaming herself and releasing her hit single “Video Games.”
The website LanaDelRey.com was registered on June 3rd, 2009. The official Lana Del Rey YouTube channel was created on May 5th, 2011, accumulated over 34,000 subscribers in less than 8 months and receives approximately 140,633 video views per day. Del Rey’s official Twitter account has 121,238 followers and her Facebook page has 425,516 likes as of January 20th, 2012.
Debut Single: Video Games
The track “Video Games,” written and composed by Del Rey and producer Justin Parker, was released online on June 29th, 2011 and the music video was uploaded to Del Rey’s YouTube channel on August 19th, 2011. The video accumulated over 20 million views in the first five months of upload:
On October 1st, 2011, a literal parody of the “Video Games” music video was uploaded to YouTube by user DoLeaveItOutMate. The video has since been taken down due to a copyright block by Universal Music Group. On October 4th, Del Rey was interviewed by the rock music and pop culture blog The Quietus, in which she claimed the song was inspired by an ex-boyfriend:
“I think we came together because we were both outsiders. It was perfect. But I think with that contentment also comes sadness. There was something heavenly about that life – we’d go to work and he’d play his video games – but also it was maybe too regular.”
The track has inspired several pages worth of remixes on the music sharing website SoundCloud.
SNL Live Performance
On January 14th, 2012, Del Rey made her national broadcast debut with a live performance session on American late-night live television show Saturday Night Live, which was widely regarded by the viewers as lackluster and falling short of expectations.
Following the broadcast, the singer’s live performance was instantly met by confused reactions on Twitter, with harsh commentaries from celebrities like Juliette Lewis and Eliza Dushku. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton also chimed in with criticism: “Just watched SNL. Not only was @LanaDelRey vocally WAY off, but watching her utter lack of stage presence was cringe-worthy. #DontBuyTheHype.” Meanwhile, British actor Daniel Radcliffe, who hosted the SNL episode that evening, described her performance in a more positive light in an interview with MTV:
“It was unfortunate that people seemed to turn on her so quickly … I don’t think [the performance] warranted anywhere near that reaction.”
Throughout the third week of January, online reaction to Del Rey’s Saturday Night Live performance was reported by various music blogs and news sites such as The Examiner and MTV. Hipster Runoff also published a post titled “Lana Del Rey EFFING TANKS on SNL. Is her career ‘effing over’?” and summed up the general reaction to her SNL performance:
What was supposed to be Lana Del Rey’s introduction to Middle America turned into a nightmare, with even the lamest of lamestreamers turning to their social media network of choice to say, “Who be dis bitch, yall? She can’t sing 4 shit."
In addition, YouTube channel BitCandyMusic posted a Hitler Reacts video commenting on her poor performance:
Album Release: Born to Die
On January 27th, 2012, Lana Del Rey’s second studio album “Born to Die” was released and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 77,000 copies in its first week. Billboard described her debut as "the highest entry for a female artist’s full-length major-label debut since Jackie Evancho’s “Dream With Me” bowed at number 2 in July 2011. The album received mixed critical reviews; Pitchfork rated the album with a score of 5.5, describing the album’s message as “awkward and out of date” and Metacritic reported an similar score of 58/100 based on 30 mainstream reviews, which indicates “generally mixed reviews.”
The popularity of Del Rey has been intensely debated since her breakout debut “Video Game” in 2011, with many music bloggers criticizing her online success as formulaic or overhyped and others asserting that her mainstream debut was aided by her father’s personal connections within the music industry. Following the release of her major label debut in January 2012, The Atlantic published a lengthy article titled “Lana del Rey, Internet Meme” which drew a comparison between her controversial transition from YouTube celebrity to mainstream pop icon and the well-known “Electric Dylan Controversy” of musician Bob Dylan at the height of folk music scene in 1965.
Lana Del Rey’s Lips
On September 13th, 2011, alternative culture blog Hipster Runoff published a blog post reporting that Del Rey’s lips were not nearly as plump when she was performing as “mainstream artist” Lizzy Grant, accompanied by several photos showing the performer’s transformation:
The single topic blog “People With Lana Del Rey Lips” was created in October of 2011, featuring photos of celebrities with Del Rey’s lips edited over their own. The photoshop meme was subsequently mentioned on both BuzzFeed and the fashion blog Refinery29.
On October 7th, 2011, the music review blog Complex published an interview in which Del Rey claims her lips had not been surgically altered:
“I haven’t had anything done at all. Anyone who’s known me will tell you that. I’m sorry, but I was living in a trailer park for a few years. I didn’t even have enough money to buy Cocoa Puffs. It’s not like I crawled from under the bridge and got surgery. I’m quite pouty. [Laughs.] That’s just how I look when I sing.”
Lana Del Rey Dances Everywhere
On February 5th, 2012, The Huffington Post published a slideshow of cinemagraph animated GIFs in which a spinning Del Rey is edited into a variety of different photos. In April, the single topic blog Lana Del Rey Dancing launched, collecting previously posted GIFs as well as soliciting submissions and Buzzfeed featured a best-of series of the GIFs.
Search queries for “lana del rey” rose significantly in the summer of 2011, shortly after her “Video Games” single was released.