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Lana Del Rey Biography, Songs, Albums, Controversies, and Awards

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Lana Del Rey’s music is vulnerable, emotional, and often infused with nostalgia for America’s past. Del Rey first performed as Lizzy Grant before becoming Lana Del Rey in 2011 with a homemade music video for the song “Video Games.” Del Rey was chastised for a lack of authenticity after “Video Games” became a viral hit; she’s also been chastised for songs that sometimes feature female submissiveness and self-destruction. She has a large fan base and has sold millions of albums, with Ultraviolence (2014) and Lust for Life (2017) both debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Early Life

Del Rey was born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant in New York City on June 21, 1985. Del Rey’s parents worked in advertising in New York City when she was born, but moved to Lake Placid, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains when she was a baby. She had a younger brother and sister. Caroline “Chuck” Grant, her sister, shot the Lust for Life album cover and has taken promotional photos of Del Rey.

Del Rey began drinking heavily as a teenager in the small town of Lake Placid. She had gone to Catholic school, but her parents had sent her to Kent School, a boarding school in Connecticut, due to her drinking.

Although boarding school did not completely cure Del Rey, he was sober by the age of 18. Instead of immediately enrolling in college, she went to live with her aunt and uncle on Long Island, where her uncle taught her to play the guitar. Despite enrolling at Fordham University in the Bronx to study philosophy, Del Rey’s true passion was music.

Early Career

Del Rey, who was still known as Lizzy Grant at the time, began her career with open mic nights and club gigs. She entered a songwriting competition in 2006, but did not win; however, a judge on the panel assisted her in creating a demo, which led to her signing with the indie label 5 Points. Del Rey moved into a trailer park in New Jersey with the $10,000 she earned from this deal.

Becoming Lana Del Rey

Del Rey had decided to work under a new name by the time her first album was released. She considered names like Sparkle Rope Jump Queen and May Jailer before settling on Lana Del Rey, which she chose during a trip to Miami in part because it evoked coastal glamour.

Del Rey regained control of her first album in order to avoid confusion with her new name. She also dyed her blonde hair and adopted a more retro, glamorized image, referring to herself as “gangster Nancy Sinatra” at one point. She wrote “Video Games,” a viral hit, while living in London and focusing on songwriting.

When it was revealed that Del Rey had signed with the label Interscope, some speculated that “Video Games” was a marketing ploy rather than a video she’d created herself. There was also talk that her father was a millionaire who had funded her (Del Rey has said her family was never wealthy). Del Rey appeared on Saturday Night Live in 2012 and was chastised for appearing nervous and singing hesitantly. Her first studio album, however, was a success, as were subsequent releases.


‘AKA Lizzy Grant’

Before assuming the professional name Lana Del Rey, Del Rey released an album titled Lana Del Ray AKA Lizzy Grant (spelling Ray with an “a,” not an “e”). It was released in 2010, but the digital version was only available for a few months.

‘Born to Die’

Born to Die, Del Rey’s first major-label album, was released in 2012. Though the album was not well received by critics, it reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200, sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, and was certified platinum by the RIAA. The Grammy-nominated EP Paradise, which included the songs “Ride” and “Cola,” was also released in 2012.


Ultraviolence (2014), Del Rey’s debut album, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with atmospheric ballads like “Pretty When You Cry,” “Sad Girl,” and “West Coast.” It’s also platinum-certified. Del Rey redid the completed album with producer Dan Auerbach before its release, using single takes and cheap microphones instead of professional equipment.


The dark, critically acclaimed Honeymoon debuted in 2015. According to Del Rey, the album is “a tribute to Los Angeles.” She relocated to California in 2012 and claims to have found more musical collaborators there than in New York. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 in countries such as Australia and Ireland.

‘Lust for Life’

Del Rey released Lust for Life in 2017. Though there are still dark songs on the album, songs like “Love” gave it a more upbeat tone than previous Del Rey projects, and tracks like “Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind” address current events. It’s also Del Rey’s first album with guest appearances from The Weeknd on “Lust for Life,” Stevie Nicks on “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems,” and Sean Ono Lennon on “Tomorrow Never Came.” The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.

‘Norman F*****g Rockwell’

Del Rey released two singles from her upcoming sixth studio album, “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “Venice Bitch,” in September 2018. She then released “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It” in January 2019, named after troubled American poet Sylvia Plath, before releasing a dreamy cover of Sublime’s “Doing Time” in May. Norman F*****g Rockwell debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in August 2019, with “The Greatest” and the title track also receiving single releases before the end of the year.

Notable Songs and Videos

Del Rey’s work does not include many radio hits, but she has created songs and videos that have received over a billion views on YouTube. Her style frequently combines American iconography with darker perspectives.

The viral hit “Video Games” incorporated vintage footage, old cartoons, Hollywood imagery, a shaky Paz de la Huerta outside the Chateau Marmont, and shots of Del Rey herself. Another popular DIY video that came out after “Video Games” was “Blue Jeans.”

The video for “Born to Die” was far more elaborate. It featured two tigers and, with its car wreck ending, alluded to Rebel Without a Cause. Del Rey played both Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe in the “National Anthem” video, alongside rapper A$AP Rocky as John F. Kennedy.

Del Rey also received attention for the August 2019 release of “Looking for America,” which featured lyrics such as “I’m still looking for my own version of America/One without the gun, where the flag can freely fly,” which were inspired by the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Success and Other Projects

Del Rey’s success brought him new opportunities. She modeled for H&M and had her own Mulberry signature handbag, “The Del Rey.” Tropico, a short film and EP, was released by her in 2013. Cedric Gervais made an EDM remix of her “Summertime Sadness” that went platinum that year.

Del Rey performed at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s pre-wedding dinner at the Palace of Versailles in 2014. “Young and Beautiful,” “Summertime Sadness,” and “Blue Jeans” were among the songs she performed. Her song “Big Eyes” was nominated for a Golden Globe for the 2014 Tim Burton film of the same name, and Del Rey sang an updated “Once Upon a Dream” for the film Maleficent (2014).

In 2015, Del Rey toured with Courtney Love, which inspired James Franco and a co-author to write Flip-Side: Real and Imaginary Conversations With Lana Del Rey (2016). Del Rey took part in a major US tour in 2018. She attended the 2018 Met Gala with Jared Leto, wearing a halo with wings and a dress with knives protruding from a gold heart.

However, success has its drawbacks: Del Rey’s home was broken into, and a man was arrested at a concert in Orlando, Florida, in February 2018 for plotting to kidnap the singer. In 2012, Del Rey’s computer was hacked, exposing personal information as well as unreleased songs, many of which have since spread online.

Grammy Nominations

Del Rey has been nominated for six Grammy Awards. Lust for Life received a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Del Rey collaborated on a song for The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness, which was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. The Paradise EP by Lana Del Rey was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album, and her song “Young And Beautiful” from the 2013 film The Great Gatsby was nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media. In late 2019, the artist received two more nominations, with Norman F*****g Rockwell nominated for Album of the Year and the title track nominated for Song of the Year.


In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Del Rey said, “I wish I was dead already” after discussing Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, which Cobain’s daughter chastised her for.

In 2017, Del Rey stated that she is no longer comfortable with the lyric “He hit me and it felt like a kiss” from her song “Ultraviolence.”

Due to similarities to their hit song “Creep,” Radiohead requested some of the publishing rights to Del Rey’s “Get Free” early the following year.

Del Rey was chastised for an Instagram post in May 2020 in which she cited Ariana Grande, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Beyoncé as singers who “have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, f———, cheating, etc” and questioned why she was being condemned for “glamorizing abuse.” Critics questioned why she was singling out women of color, pointing out that the other artists named in her post had also received negative feedback.

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