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Music

How Nirvana's Kurt Cobain inspired Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey is one of the most unique, and instantly recognisable musical artists in popular music today. The American singer-songwriter has a style that is entirely of her own design, but places a large amount of onus on drawing on many different inspirations to give life to her varied and cinematic creative vision. 

Del Rey explores the themes of tragic romance, glamour and with a heavy dose of melancholia, one that has subsequently earned herself the title of ‘sadcore queen’. Aside from the obvious depressive notes of her music, she also has a penchant for referencing pop culture, and the heady 1950s and ’60s Americana.

Given that she has such an all-encompassing style, it is fitting that she cites a wide array of artists as influences, drawing on pop, jazz, blues and hip-hop as references. At different points, she’s named Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis as key influences. In her early days, you could clearly hear the swooning, big-band Americana of the aforementioned.

In 2012, Del Rey told BBC Radio’s Jo Whiley that Bob Dylan, Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Nirvana are her biggest inspirations. She admitted: “(I really) just like the masters of every genre”. The influences of Dylan, Sinatra and Elvis you can perceive in one way or another, but Nirvana?

It turns out the singer loves Nirvana for more tacit reasons than we may have expected. In a 2011 interview with Sirius FM, the Ultraviolence star revealed all, explaining that she grew up idolising Kurt Cobain and his uncompromising attitude towards life.

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She said: “When I was 11, I saw Kurt Cobain singing ‘Heart Shaped Box’ on MTV, and it really stopped me dead in my tracks. I thought he was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Even at a young age, I really related to his sadness.”

She explained further: “I never revisited his music again until I was about 17 or 18, and then when I did, it still meant just as much to me then. It’s continued to be my primary inspiration – in terms of not wanting to compromise lyrically or sonically.”

When you think about it, there are parallels to be drawn between Cobain’s uncompromising nature and Del Rey’s. You’ll notice that we’ve purposefully left out her misconstrued comments from the 2014 Guardian interview where she briefly discussed the death of Kurt Cobain. 

Although there is a strong argument to be made that Del Rey‘s music is a pastiche of the works of many other artists, her work is still some of the most unique in existence. Not only does she follow her own path in music, but she does in life, too. Whilst she has her detractors, so did Cobain, and everything Del Rey does is in the name of artistic integrity. Even if you’re not a fan of her or her music, you have to respect her approach.

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