Lana Del Rey is a meme, as much as she’s a living person, as much as she’s a totem of broken all-American-girls (or tbh anyone that’s had their heart broken, been depressed, then done cocaine). On her most recent album Lust For Life and the follow-up singles for forthcoming album Normal Fucking Rockwell, she’s penned songs that wouldn’t be out of place in a black and white biopic about a Hollywood star falling prey to an early death. In particular, “Mariners Apartment Complex” should be sent back in time so it can soundtrack the original moon landing.
At this point she’s an icon – a singular artist, in her own lane, with the old-time air of someone who Annie Lebowitz would have photographed in the 70s but with a knack for posting Instagram selfies. She’s also into rap, with her finger on the pulse – A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti both featured on her last album. In another reality she’s the housewife who divorced her billionaire husband and got really into crystals; she’s of that same energy, transported through time to become one of the most evocative songwriters of this generation.
Beaches, cherry cola, “the most famous woman on the iPad.” Lana’s references are sublime, of her world and ours too. But – and though she is brilliant – it’s also not that long ago since her pre-Lana Del Rey career, back when she was known as Lizzy Grant. The press unearthed her previous work back in 2011, shortly after she released breakout tracks “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans”, and it felt horrible. Citing her change in image, name, etc, it was suggested that Lana Del Rey wasn’t "real" – that she was a character, as if people don’t change through time, which, as any old Facebook profile photo/Timehop post will attest, is untrue. That’s just how life works.
Still, as we wait, and wait, and wait for Norman Fucking Rockwell to appear, there are probably a few Lana fans who’ve yet to hear her early work. But they should, because it’s not bad. More importantly, it's the stuff superfans love to collect (and is probably imperative to do so now before another ‘Myspace Loses Thousands Of Files’ fiasco happens). So as part of our Z-sides series, where we get into underheard tracks by your favourite artists (see a lost Weezer album; three (three!) unheard pre-Bon Iver records; and a song Britney Spears hand delivered to a radio station, as a response to Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”)
First step is her supposed “first album”, released under the name May Jailer in 2006 and called Sirens. Lana’s voice is reminiscent of her later stuff but musically, it leans into finger-picked acoustic guitar territory. Gone is the darkness, and perhaps turmoil of later years. Instead it’s light and sun-flecked. Like a soothsayer, or all the big musicians who it seemed were cosmically aligned to reach great heights, she’s aware of what’s down the line for her. On “A Star For Nick”, she sings “You know it and I know it / I'm gonna be a star.” Search hard enough and there are vinyl bootlegs of this release out there, or so I've heard. As part of this era she released an EP too: Young Like Me.
And then, of course, there’s the Lizzy Grant era. Interestingly the first album Lana Del Rey released, in 2010, was called Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant, but was eventually pulled. Of course, however, the internet is written in ink and it lives on in a shoddy YouTube link (listen above). A lot rockier, poppy than anything Lana would come to release on her first official debut album it’s an interesting look at an artist growing into themselves. Even back then, her lyrics lean into a need for adoration (“I want to be the whole world's girl, Gramma”) and America on “Gramma (Blue Ribbon Sparkler Trailer Heaven)”.
Plus, for the real stans, there are plenty of Lizzy Grant EPs floating around but to tell you where they are? That'd be too much snitching. For now, consider this a tide over until Normal Fucking Rockwell, and a treat for the type of music heads that like to hoard every MP3 ever from their fave.
You can find Ryan on Twitter.