Lana del Rey: The Pop Revolutionary

When Lana del Rey released Born To Die in 2012, the world was unprepared for the raw emotion present in each lyric of her album. The global pop scene was filled with upbeat, cartoonish pop stars who were releasing party anthems and boy band music. No music like Lana’s had ever been so popular and reached such a wide audience.

Her music was met with mixed response: some embraced her hip-hop beats and rich voice, while others claimed her personality was manufactured and her music was unnecessarily depressing. But those with whom her music truly resonated were given a key to unlock many, many more legacy-affirming releases from a pioneer in sad girl pop.

Del Rey’s music is marked by her sultry voice, and use of “atmospheric orchestral pop” to convey her unique persona. Part of loving Lana del Rey is embracing her aesthetic, one that emphasizes drama, romance, philosophy, and the overall majesty of the world. While she has changed since her entry into the music industry, the core traits of her music have stayed consistent. This consistency has led to a dedicated fan base and a constantly growing career. 

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Her own past has impacted her music heavily. As a teenager, “Del Rey started drinking heavily. She’d attended Catholic school, but her parents sent her to Kent School, a boarding school in Connecticut, because of her drinking.”

Her substance abuse can be perceived throughout her albums and imagery, but her education has equally influenced her art. She was educated in philosophy at Fordham, which is evident in her lyrics.  However, during her time at Fordham, music became her true focus. 

Her music has changed the music industry wholly. It has introduced a pathway for artists such as Billie Eilish, Gracie Abrams, and Lorde to present their own award-winning albums that are a part of the ‘sad girl pop’ genre.

In an article about Born To Die’s anniversary of release, the Grammys wrote that “Lana Del Rey arrived as a game-changer for pop and music as a whole. With an orchestral production flair and a deep sense of melancholy in her lyrics, she planted the seeds not only for her own success, but for the sounds that would guide some of the decade’s biggest pop stars.” Her revolutionary use of music bends the song to her will, and leaves listeners feeling emotionally realized. 

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It would be amiss to write about Lana del Rey without touching on her acclaimed 2019 album NFR! This album was widely regarded as “near perfect” and the pinnacle of her career by fans and critics alike. The use of her already iconic voice and orchestral arrangements to create an album that was so personal and yet universal was an accomplishment that garnered many awards and other accolades for del Rey.

Her cover of Doin’ Time was described as “a modern summer bop with the raps of the original turned into silky poetry,” praise that proves her ability to fabricate originality in anything she does. She also used this album to comment on the political climate of the time and convey her point of view. Her song The Greatest specifically makes a statement about climate change, social media, and political figures of the time.

Her power and influence makes these observations all the more important, and the fact that The Greatest was as orchestrally grand as Young and Beautiful, the track that backed Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby (2013). 

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Lana del Rey’s undeniable influence and power over pop culture since her entrance into the mainstream has made her into a pop icon. Her lyrical genius has led to a cult following that shows no signs of slowing down. Her impressive discography has brought praise from critics and fans alike, and her curated aesthetic makes for unique concert and listening experiences. She is a tour de force in the pop scene, a pioneer of genres, and someone who will go down in history as a trailblazing pop presence.

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