It all started when a couple of music videos went viral. In August 2011, singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey posted a clip to YouTube of her song ‘Video Games’, a grainy montage of 1950s and 1960s cartoons, Hollywood icons and Americana, spliced with shots of the singer facing a webcam and mouthing a sultry ballad about love tinged with loss. One month later, ‘Blue Jeans’ was posted. It had a steadier beat and more rhythmic feel, but the overall impression was similar – vintage California, faded palm trees, loving someone so much it hurts, and a luxuriant appeal due in no small part to the singer’s languid movements and mournful, smoky vocals. When the videos went viral (to date, the combined YouTube views for the songs exceed 52 million) the blogosphere stirred. Who was this girl with Bardot hair and Hepburn eyes, and what was so darn catchy about her music? Especially when she had no forthcoming album to speak of, and all you could buy on iTunes was a four-track EP consisting of the two songs and a couple of mediocre remixes?
Del Rey’s catchiness is perhaps not too difficult to account for. She is a delight to watch, and the deep timbre of her vocals suits her chanteuse-noir style perfectly. Her greatest charm, however, is the self-indulgent aesthetic of her videos. If you’ve looked at a social-networking website recently, you’ll know that photos filtered through Instagram (a smart-phone application for sharing photos) are rife; their vintage feel seems to represent a nostalgia for a glamourised past that never really existed. As such, Del Rey’s clips are like a flip-book of a Tumblr site: pouty self-portraits, old-school Los Angeles and real 1960s images flash by, as Del Rey inserts herself into the dreamscape that Instagram-ers try to effect. ‘I adore this video because it makes me miss California so much that it hurts,’ the blogger at Coffee and Heels laments. Del Rey’s visual opulence increased when the ‘Blue Jeans’ music clip was re-filmed in the Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont swimming pool under the directorship of Yoann Lemoine, and Del Rey’s second official single, ‘Born to Die’, was filmed by the same director in the Palace of Fontainebleau, France – replete with live tigers and a shirtless, tattooed man who can’t get his hands off her.
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