Vintage vixen Lana Del Rey doesn’t revel in the spotlight. She admits she’s uncomfortable onstage and cringes at being featured in The Sun’s gossip pages. (The article in the London rag was about how well she wears short shorts.) But since the 25-year-old’s eerie clip for “Video Games” stormed YouTube in August—juxtaposing 8-millimetre film footage of retro pool parties, actress Paz de la Huerta stumbling up to the Chateau Marmont, and the singer herself pouting into a camera with prom-night perfect bangs and a sad smoky eye—she’s gotten used to unexpected attention.
The ’60s-style singer’s music has become the soundtrack for everything from fashion week shows in London (Christopher Kane, Emilio de la Morena) and New York (Prabal Gurung) to CW soaps Gossip Girl and Ringer. In October she won the Next Big Thing award from British music magazine Q at their annual awards ceremony. Dozens of publications have called her “the gangster Nancy Sinatra,” a line pilfered from her Facebook profile. “I had 300 fans on my Facebook page two months ago,” she says on the phone from New York City, her baby-doll voice a sharp contrast to the dusky tone on her sombre California surf ballads (think Chris Isaak and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds). “I was sort of kidding around, and then overnight, some major publication had put it in the paper.”
When the Lake Placid, N.Y., native’s EP Kill Kill was released in 2008 under her far less dramatic birth name, Lizzy Grant, she looked more like the babysitter next door than the pin-up she is today. Needless to say, her alter ego’s been more successful. Her debut album, Born to Die, is out this month, and the title single’s video is directed by Yoann Lemoine, whose credits include Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” video. The album includes inspiration from her own love life, specifically on the breakup anthem “Blue Jeans.” Like Amy Winehouse and Adele, losing one person has made her an icon for thousands.
“Things have really changed in the last three months,” she says. “Artists, fashion designers, [people] that I really think a lot of, think a lot of the music. And that’s a big moment.”
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Listen Now: Lana Del Rey’s new track Born To Die
Watch Now: Prabal Gurung’s Spring 2012 show, featuring music by Lana Del Rey.