Digital diva rises to stardom
Barry C Chung
Lana Del Rey is the biggest name in music right now. But perhaps her rise to fame, more than anyone else's, was as sudden as it was untraditional in the traditional sense of the word.
Despite releasing her debut Lana Del Rey aka Lizzy Grant (her birth name) digitally in 2010, she remained an unknown. The album was a commercial flop and yanked from iTunes after two months.
But Del Ray's next move ultimately propelled her to the mainstream of pop - and it happened almost instantly. She uploaded a homemade clip of her song Video Games to YouTube in mid-August. The video went viral, generating nearly 25 million views. Music fans and artists took notice, even inspiring a cover version by English rock band Kasabian.
'I put up Video Games for myself,' says the 25-year-old native of Lake Placid, New York. 'It was slow, it was a ballad, it kind of had no chorus. I put it up on YouTube, and it worked. Every day there were thousands more views. I just sat there wondering where these people were coming from.
'I had no idea how they'd heard it, but people came and started talking to me because of that song. It was not what I expected. But what a relief.'
So it's only ironic that YouTube was also how many others saw her now infamous performance on Saturday Night Live. Television news anchor Brian Williams derided the act as 'one of the worst outings in SNL history'.
On the show, she looked nervous, awkward, even amateurish, critics say. But really, what did we expect from someone who went from internet buzz to magazine covers in less than six months?
Her apparent stage fright seems to be a recurring theme in her life. At 19, Del Ray performed at her first open mic. 'The first open mic was shocking to me,' she explains. 'I had my acoustic guitar. Everybody stopped ? It was a rock bar. I didn't belong there. I sang a ballad, sort of exactly like Video Games, that I had written with three chords.'
The night did not end as tragically as it could have. As she was leaving the venue, 'somebody ran out after me and said, 'You should come to a night I'm doing next week and play some songs for me.' I was afraid of everything. If they had laughed at me that night, I would have never come back on stage. Ever.'
One can only imagine the great disservice that one chuckle at the club that night would have been for the music industry. Del Ray has the hard part down - the music. Now she needs to find a way to deal with nerves. We wish her luck.