The viral (and now Interscope) star incorporates hip-hop producers and nabs an "SNL" slot before her album debut. Finally, her voice is bigger than her controversial persona.
Rarely is a breaking artist as polarizing as Lana Del Rey.
The 25-year-old songstress became one of 2011's most seemingly organic upstarts. Following the release of her breakout single "Video Games" and its vintage-shaded video, apparently filmed and edited on her Macbook, the Lake Placid, N.Y., native racked upwards of 13 million YouTube views and has sold 20,000 copies of her double A-side "Video Games" single since its October 2011 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It debuted and spent three weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Singles Sales chart. Joining Ellie Goulding and Jessie J, Del Rey recently signed with Next Model Management.
But it's her all-important authenticity that's had the Internet atwitter. Multiple blogs have painted a target on Del Rey, whose previous musical incarnation as Lizzy Grant, her birth name, was almost entirely wiped from the Web. On the surface, her tactics could appear calculated: Del Rey's 2010 5 Points Records debut, Lizzy Grant aka Lana Del Ray, was on iTunes for only two months before vanishing from the store, while her website and social networking profiles were deleted and relaunched under her current guise.
Has a major label been silently orchestrating one of 2011's greatest indie viral success stories? With her Del Rey debut, "Born to Die" (Interscope), arriving Jan. 31, the pillow-lipped singer/songwriter is the new year's buzziest commodity, becoming the first artist since Natalie Imbruglia in 1998 to play "Saturday Night Live" (Jan. 14) before releasing her first major-label LP. She's confirmed for "Late Night With David Letterman" on Feb. 2 and scheduled to appear on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" later the same month. Still, character assassination attempts on the Internet are a daily threat, even if acclaim outweighs the conspiracy theories.
"The Internet's been well-established for 14 years," Del Rey says. "It's not like 1962 where you can't find out about me. My intention was never to transform into a different person. What other people think of me is none of my business. Sometimes, it hurts my feelings. But I have to just keep going. The good stuff is really good. Some of the other stuff is difficult, but I'll be able to tour now, probably sing for a while. That's nice for me."