Electric Picnic Spotlight: Inventing Lana del Rey

Re-exploring the mysterious back story of Sunday's closing headliner...

Lana Del Rey arrives in Ireland with headline status ahead of her slot closing the festivities on Electric Picnic's main stage on Sunday night.

However, tracing the origins of the songstress has become one of the greater myths or mysteries of modern pop music. 

Lana Del Rey's 'Video Games' lit up the blogosphere when the original version appeared online in late June 2011 - the crooning vocals launched her career, while the accompanying cover art made flower headbands essential festival clobber for years to come. 

The accompanying video tried to attain a low-budget aesthetic by cutting and pasting her into a 'vintage' world of found footage and seedy excess.

But word soon started to spread that all was not be quite as it seemed, and the emerging artists was, in fact, from a major label but was being pushed as a DIY YouTube phenomenon.

The original story was that she was a struggling artist living in a trailer park in New Jersey while trying to make it big. This soon flipped as rumours circulated claiming that she was a rich kid being backed by her millionaire father.

Then the name 'Lizzy Grant' appeared online, and with it came the digital remains of what seemed to be an abandoned career. The story was that she'd flopped as a pop star, and been rebranded as something different.

Videos of the young Lizzy Grant (whose full name Elizabeth Woolridge Grant) singing at an open mic in New York attracted the attention of the amateur sleuths chasing down the online trail.

The backstory attached to the singer is preserved in a Guardian article entitled, 'Lana Del Rey: The strange story of the star who rewrote her past.' A year after the alternative origin story started circulating the paper reported that: "Rather than being an outsider struggling for recognition, Del Rey is in fact the daughter of a millionaire father who has backed her career. People were suspicious of the way Grant's failed album, and all her social media websites, appeared to have been scrubbed from the internet just before Del Rey appeared." 

However, this was (almost) completely untrue.

Her father did start his own company, but he wasn't a millionaire: "My dad is an entrepreneur and an innovator. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t make you a rich tycoon and being an innovator doesn’t mean that you’re successful. It just means that you’re interesting," she later told Pitchfork.

He didn't fund her early releases however, they were financed and put out by New York indie label 5 Points Records, which she signed with as a senior in college.

Looking to set the record straight as the internet went into a tailspin of Del Rey conspiracy theories, the company's owner David Nichtern spoke to MTV.com. He stated that, after agreeing to a multi-album deal with the small label (and receiving a healthy advance, if the record exec is to be believed), she started evolving and developing the 'Lana Del Rey' alter ego, initially opting for Ray over Rey, before changing her mind.

"Nobody even fact-checked," added Nichtern. "For example, her father never had anything to do financially with supporting her creativity. I don’t know if he was lending her money to live off of, but at least when she was with us, not a penny."

She started attracting the attention of big-time management around that time, and went cold on the Five Points deal, with Nichtern adding that she "didn’t seem that excited about the record" when it came to recording it.

Lizzy did eventually release the LP under the title LANA DEL RAY a.k.a LIZZY GRANT, which seems to accurately sum up the identity crisis she was going through.

While the story that gained popularity was that the album tanked and was pulled, in reality, songs were picked up for Apple and featured on the iTunes 'emerging artists of the year' list. But Del Rey was checking out on the indie deal and being pulled towards bigger things.

Nichtern says she simply got a new deal, and her management wanted to erase the album and start over. Summarising the conversations, he stated that her new 'new people' told him "We want to get this off the market. We’re going for a completely new deal. We’ll buy you out of the deal."

With that, the album, along with Lizzy Grant's social accounts, disappeared almost entirely from the internet. But a massive amount of music and other loose ends - like this awkward video showing her giving a reporter a tour of her Jersey trailer park - remain online.

The original release has gone on to develop a cult following. The faded glamour and hip hop trimmings that have defined the sound of the self-styled "gangster Nancy Sinatra" (as she was described in her early press releases) are all there.

Interestingly, Del Rey's own explanation of how and why the first album was killed differs from that given by Nichtern and Five Points. 

"I had signed to an independent label but they couldn't fund the release of it," she later claimed. The record boss says that it poured a massive amount of money into the release, but it seems that Grant had bigger things in mind.

"People act like it's so shrouded in mystery, the 'forgotten terrible album.' But if you look on YouTube, all 13 tracks are available with millions of views, so it's not like no one's heard them. We were all proud of it. It's pretty good," she continued, hinting at the possibility of the record being reissued. Almost inevitably, it will be at some point, given her team now owns the music.

She added that her seasoned publicists had never seen an artist whose backstory had been "more fictionalised."