GIRL, INTERRUPTED Lizzy Grant Becomes Lana Del Rey

2009: young Garden State dancing queen begins making herself into This Year’s Model. “One
time I dyed my hair brown, but I got in some trouble for that.”

 

BY THE EDITORS, w/SARAH GRANT

 

This week Lana Del Rey’s “official” long-playing debut was
issued by Interscope. Titled Born to Die and
preemptively buoyed by the success
of 2011 single “Video Games” b/w “Blue Jeans,” it’s already being greeted by a
deafening, though wildly contradictory, chorus of cheers and jeers signifying
the songbird’s rapid blog-fueled ascent and the accompanying backlash.

 

 

 

 

The New York Times,
for example, last week dismissed the record as “an anticlimax” full of underwhelming
and slow-to-the-point-of-plodding tunes; the newspaper ultimately concluded, “Ms.
Del Rey has an idea about her presentation, which counts for something – to
some it counts for everything – but her singing still sounds like a road test.”
Then on Monday, erstwhile indie rock blog-turned-hipster-tastemaker Pitchfork awarded a miserly 5.5 (out of
10) rating and a rambling, navel-gazing review that focused on the record’s
inherent femininity (or lack thereof), writing that Born to Die “never allows tension or complexity into the mix, and
its take on female sexuality ends up feeling thoroughly tame. For all of its
coos about love and devotion, it’s the album equivalent of a faked orgasm – a
collection of torch songs with no fire.” Spin,
likewise, see-sawed between jargon-laden j’accuse (for not living up to the very hype that media outlets such as Spin fueled) and lyric-analysis
incoherence (the review quoted extensively from the songs, tossing around snarky
terms like “Miley Cyrus noir” while conveniently avoiding the fact that in pop
music, lyrics almost always take a back seat to the beats and the hooks – and
if you don’t believe that, try this one on for size from a few seasons ago: “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah/ She loves
you yeah, yeah, yeah…”

 

“Anticlimax.” “Faked orgasm.” Wow. Why not just call the gal
a hooker and be done with it, folks.

 

(Aside: To
be totally fair to Spin, the review
did open up promisingly enough, with a contextual point well-worth restating.
Offered their writer, “‘Bob Dylan’ is
not his real name. The ‘Ramones’ were not related. ‘Sun Ra’ was from Alabama,
not Saturn…. Yes, Internet, and God bless you for devoting most of the past
half-year exclusively to pointing this out, Lana Del Rey is a pose, a persona,
a version 2.0, at least, the contrivance of a messy, wayward, unformed,
aspiring pop star rummaging through closets and clutching at borrowed pearls.” Keep
all that in mind, and read on.)

 

 

***

 

Over in Britain – where last year bloggers and critics alike
embraced Del Rey as if she were the Second Coming of Morrissey; at one point CDR
promotional copies of the aforementioned single were trading hands on eBay in
England for upwards of $125 – The
Guardian
was considerably more generous and even expressed sympathy for the
Internet barbecue Del Rey had been subjected to. Awarding the album 4 out of 5
stars, they lauded its “magnificent melodies” and hooks that “sink deep into
the listener’s skin… What it is, is beautifully turned pop music, which is more
than enough.”

 

Meanwhile, back in the State our very own Contributing
Editor A.D. Amorosi weighed in on Born To
Die
a couple of days ago, and he was also more forgiving with his 7-out-of-10
star review in which he first chastised the media for mounting impossible
expectations of Del Rey, then – while noting that it’s a far from perfect
record – it’s “produced with weirdly atmospheric hip hop warmth by Emile Haynie
[and] has more hits than misses and more solidly strange fabulously femme
fatale interludes than naff ones.”

 

Far be it from BLURT, then, to not jump on the media bandwagon as we troll for eyeballs. Mindful
that “Lana Del Rey” is an intermittent trending topic and a hot search engine
term this week, we decided to dig up an early story about Del Rey that we
published in the fall of 2009, in issue #7, as part of a series of short,
fashion-forward profiles of then-up-and-coming female musicians. At the time
Del Rey was still performing under the name Lizzy Grant and had released one
EP, Kill Kill, in 2008. Yet as the
title of the full length – Lana del Rey
aka Lizzy Grant
(Five Points Records) – that was subsequently released on
iTunes in 2009 suggests – she was already in the process of remaking herself. Interviewed
by contributor Sarah Grant (no relation), she already knew what she wanted, but
didn’t seem 100% sure of how to achieve it.

 

***

 

Lana Del Rey/Lizzy Grant
2009 Interview:

 

“I’m in the process of a name change,” Lizzy Grant whispers.
The transformation from New York City bar star to glamour girl “Lana Del Rey”
has not been easy for the New Jersey native, who grew up looping around The
Cyclone and idolizing Elvis like a teenager in the 1950s.

 

Del Rey’s October-bound album has been in the works for over
a year and a half, which has given her a chance to experiment with the sound
that works for her voice. On “Yayo” she drags her airy vocals up and down the
minor scale, while slinking around in bed sheets, looking remarkably like one
of her fashion icons, the doe-eyed Tuesday Weld. A more recent recording,
“Hundred Dollar Bill,” has her sounding like a retro Gwen Stefani, singing
deadpan against a thick hip-hop beat.

 

When the saucy Lana Del Rey reverts back to 24-year old
Lizzy Grant, she admits to owning an embarrassing amount of self-help books:
“It’s gotten to the point where I can’t hide it anymore!” she giggles. She is
also hesitant to call herself a “blonde bombshell,” despite all her
Harlow-esque come ons. “One time I dyed my hair brown,” she says, “but I got in
some trouble for that.”

 

***

 

Such prophetic words. Just the same, the David
Kahne-produced record failed to make an impact, and as every current Del Rey
profile now takes pains to point out, it was unceremoniously yanked from the
market after a couple of months. (Scroll to the bottom of this article to view
a list of early Del Rey/Grant tracks and links to downloads, courtesy the “Lana
Del Rey aka Lizzy Grant” Tumblr blog
. Note that according to the BBC, Lana del Rey aka Lizzy Grant will
probably resurface officially soon, as Del Rey has recently purchased the
rights to the master tapes. “I’m re-releasing it, maybe in late summer,” she
told the BBC
.)

 

 

 

 

Del Rey/Grant next basically disappeared from view, busied
herself writing new material and creating a series of quirky/charming home
music videos. After the “Video Games” song and video went viral, the rest is
history – including, it should be noted, all manner of piling on by members of
the media and blogosphere who questioned the woman’s “authenticity” and groused
about her “overnight success.” This despite the fact that Del Rey had been
performing since she was 18, had both and EP and an LP under her belt, and
evidently decided to learn from the failure of the latter and bear down on
becoming a stronger artist.

 

It will be awhile, of course, before she attains genuine pop
diva status (if at all), and there’s no doubt that her artistic credibility has
taken a considerable hit. The backlash already feels like overkill; even
mainstream outlets like Time and USA Today set their best assassins on Del
Rey, hot on the trail for the pungent odor of faked orgasms. The young lady may
or may not be stunned by the level of attention; she may or may not have
colluded with her handlers in shaping her current image to result in some of
the most brazen manipulation of the entertainment media we’ve witnessed in
recent years. But if she’s smart, and there’s a strong likelihood she is,
she’ll figure out a way to leverage all the attention for the long haul.

 

Born to Die is everywhere this week. You won’t have
any trouble locating it. Let’s rewind to Del Rey’s pre-Lana period and decide
for yourself how all that fits into the contemporary picture.

 

(Below image is the
actual page from issue #7 of BLURT. Note how the singer’s first name is
spelled, per her publicist at the time. By early 2010 most profiles were using
the alternate “Lizzy” spelling.)

 

 

 

 

DISCOGRAPHY & DOWNLOADS
(source: Tumblr)

 

Demos as Lizzy
Grant (2007-2008)

Disco (originally
billed as “Lizzy Grant and the Phenomena”)
For K Part 2 (ditto; later
featured on Lana Del Rey aka Lizzy Grant)
Elvis
Axl Rose Husband

Kill Kill (EP as Lizzy Grant, 2008 – these songs are
also on the LP)

Kill Kill
Yayo
Gramma (Blue Ribbon Sparkler
Trailer Heaven)

Lana Del Rey aka Lizzy Grant (LP, 2009)
Queen of the Gas Station
Oh Say Can You See
Jump
Mermaid Motel
Raise Me Up (Mississippi
South)

Pawn Shop Blues
Brite Lites
Put Me In A Movie
Smarty

Born To Die (upcoming LP, 2012)
Video Games
Blue Jeans
Born To Die

Miscellaneous Demos and B-Sides
Lolyta
Hundred Dollar Bill
What Makes Us Girls
Driving in Cars With Boys
On Our Way
National Anthem
Kinda Outta Luck
Kinda Outta Luck (Video
Version)

You Can Be The Boss
Video Games (Video Version)
Diet Mtn. Dew
Daddy Issues (feat. Aaron
LaCrate)

Trash (Live)
End of the World (Live)

 

 

Photo credit (top) Edward
Smith

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