Lana Del Rey’s glamorous face first appeared on the internet in July this year when her Video Games music video appeared on music blogs. The song is an alluring yet desolate ballad with lyrics like “Singing in the old bars / Swinging with the old stars / Living for the fame”. The homemade music video features vintage stock footage and inebriated Hollywood celebrities with Lana Del Rey’s collagen-enhanced pout delivering the song into a home video camera.
The song and video promptly appeared on hundreds of music blogs since May. It’s a wonderful song. Perhaps one of the best of the year. The B-side to that particular song Blue Jeans repeats the trick with the same aesthetic but with its appearance, came some information about her past that called into question the authenticity of her promotion.
It turns out that the artist (real name Lizzy Grant) had previously released an album under the very similarly titled Lana Del Ray back in January of 2010 (see an album listing at Amazon). Grant looked a lot different back then, her bouffant brunette hair and collagen lips are nowhere to be seen for one thing. That album was recorded over the course of three months in 2009 with a big-name producer who had worked with Paul McCartney, Cher, The Bangles and Bruce Springsteen. That record has since been deleted and is unavailable.
While there’s nothing wrong with an artist changing their name or style and having another stab at it, there appears to be much more calculated things going on behind the scenes. Grant whose father is successful internet domain name investor Rob Grant, has previously admitted to arriving at her chosen moniker with the help of “a series of managers and lawyers” not exactly the behaviour of a struggling indie musician. Lana Del Rey’s current single, while signed to Stranger Records is at the very least, distributed by Universal Music. In a post on popular snarky pop culture site Hipster Runoff, the site’s persona Carles posted pictures of Lizzy Grant with Miley Cyrus along with a light-hearted exposé of her as “a failed mainstream artist who is being ‘rebranded’ behind major label dollars”.
To a music blogosphere that often prides itself on coverage of independent music that’s not featured elsewhere yet deserves more ears, this whole “Lanagate” controversy has resulted in a crisis of confidence as well as questions about authenticity and transparency. So the question is: have big independent blog and music sites like Pitchfork, Gorilla vs. Bear, Stereogum and Prefix Mag been duped by a major-label backed campaign who saw the music blogosphere as a marketing tool that they could engineer to suit themselves?
What seems true is that Lana Del Rey is a manufactured artist and has been masquerading as an independent one in order to break into public consciousness. As Pitchfork and others introduced Video Games as her debut single – a complete inaccuracy, another question has also been asked. With the increased dominance of sites like Pitchfork in breaking new artists, shouldn’t it be held to the same journalistic standards as its print cousins?
At the very least, away from the industry machinations, one thing most people agree on, is that thankfully Lana Del Rey’s songs are worth investigation.