Words and curation by Stella Jopling, cover art by Mick Clarke as ever
Born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant in New York, Lana Del Rey made her name performing in bars and clubs in NYC. However, her breakthrough song ‘Video Gamesʼ and its accompanying self-made music video, is what elevated her to stardom. So distinctive was the construct, some suspected a one hit wonder. But Del Rey has successfully built momentum with each and every one of her four albums (and Paradise EP), expertly walking a line between celebrity and credible musical artist. Far from a one hit wonder, she has effectively become a modern day pop icon.
Inspired by an amalgam of mellow pop, classic rock and even rap (ASAP Rocky is featured on her latest album ‘Lust for lifeʼ) and equipped with that lush, angelic voice, Del Reyʼs records take you to another place, unless perhaps, you already live in Southern California. Widescreen American landscapes occupied by exotic strangers drifting through scene after scene of rolling highways, vintage cars, cocktail bars and cupcake stalls, all washed in pastel colour.
While she has become influential, Del Rey has done so through being a highly skilled alchemist of her own influences. David Bowie comes to mind as the model she herself has followed. However, her life has not always been as dreamlike as her music. After having become reliant on alcohol at the age of 15, Del Rey had to leave her family and friends to go to boarding school away from her hometown — perhaps this being the inspiration for her songs ‘This Is What Makes Us Girlsʼ and ‘Ultraviolenceʼ. Del Rey describes herself as a sad child, and clearly music has always played a part in evoking her emotions. As an 11 year old watching Kurt Cobain sing ‘Heart Shaped Box’ on TV, she said that she has never related to anyone’s sadness as when seeing his performance.
Whether you are a fan of Lana Del Rey or simply if you have paid attention to the odd song, it’s clear that she is an incredible writer. While the stylings of the music blend melancholy and glamour perfectly, her lyrics strive to express a deeper purpose and meaning that many modern pop songs do not possess. Del Rey is influenced by classic modern literature too. The track ‘Lolitaʼ for example, is after Vladimir Nabokov’s beautiful yet chilling novel, while her much anticipated new album is rumoured to be named ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ after the infamous American painter. She is said to be writing her own poetry book, that she states she will drop off in a little random bookshop one day, a classic Del Rey move that only adds to the air of mystique.
The 15 tracks on this playlist are accompanied by 14 of her biggest influences. With some songs, for example Julee Cruiseʼs ‘Fallingʼ and The Beatles ‘And I Love Herʼ, it is clear there is a direct musical influence. However with others, for example Elvis Presleyʼs ‘Love Me Tenderʼ and Bowieʼs ‘Space Oddityʼ there is more of an all round imbibing of the artist, the song and the art. An interesting, and perhaps surprising track, given that he has roasted her on another of his songs, is Eminemʼs ‘When Iʼm Goneʼ. Del Rey has talked about the fact that she is so inspired by the way he openly talks about his personal life in his songs, and for her, Eminem was one of the first artists she listened to express this cathartic style, something she has very much adopted. I’ve included classics by The Eagles, Dylan and Amy Winehouse along with Springsteen and Sinatra. The playlist is proof that in order to impress a fresh idea upon the modern culture, it pays to study the classics. With the passing of time Lana Del Rey herself will be known undoubtedly as a classic artist.
Playback notes: goes without saying that listening in scheduled order is best, but the playlist kinda works on shuffle even. Listen: https://www.songsommelier.com/lana-del-rey
Stella Jopling is an A Level student and film director based in London. Her documentary ‘London at 16’ profiles six 16-year-old friends growing up in London. The girls discuss social issues, relationships, futures and what it feels like to grow up in this generation, whilst living in the city. You can watch it on her YouTube channel.