Del Rey’s persona fascinates

Lana Del Rey/Courtesy
Lana Del Rey, who began as a YouTube celebrity, is due to release her debut album ‘Born to Die’ on Jan. 30.

It’s not difficult to spot the influences of singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey.
She has the pouty lips of the sultry Brigitte Bardot and her low, plaintive voice recalls the best of Nico. She’s a self-described “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” who seems less like a breath of fresh air than a transport from an earlier era — one of white go-go boots and smoke-filled seduction.
But, despite her 1960s appeal, you’d be mistaken for resigning her as just a simple rehashing of the past. Del Rey is very much a product of the modern, Internet age.

Like so many current, popular musicians, Del Rey found fame on YouTube with her do-it-yourself videos and sardonic, yet simple songs. Her breakout single, “Video Games,” with its minimal, but melancholy piano chords and laconic lyrics, launched Del Rey into mainstream radio play and a gig on the famed British music show, “Later with Jools Holland.”

The song, like Del Rey, seemed to be the opposite of the pervasive trend in the last few years of music — a move towards the epic spectacle and electronic elements championed by Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga. However, Del Rey may not be as simple as the music she produces.

In her latest video, “Born to Die,” the spectacle couldn’t be more epic. She sits on a throne, decked to the nines, in a palatial spread, with tigers at her side.

So, what’s the deal with Del Rey?

She exudes a stripped-down aesthetic one moment and gives tigers (the height of sophistication) the next. She appears to be amateur but boasts associations with top-tier producers. She seems mysterious and inaccessible but has a Twitter and is often quite open in interviews. So, what’s her deal? She must be playing with us.

And she is. Just look at her music. With titles like “Diet Mountain Dew” and “Queen of the Gas Station,” Del Rey is as much jocular as she is morose.

Her persona — as an ethereal songstress — mocks the kind of carefully crafted images that celebrities employ, but it’s also genuinely enchanting.

And it’s this self-awareness, coupled with authentic talent, that makes Lana Del Rey so fascinating. That and the tigers, naturally.