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Shades of Cool: 12 of Lana Del Rey’s Biggest Influences

From Sixties crooners to ultraviolent contemporary hip-hoppers, here’s some of the vanguards that inspired the RS cover star.

lana del rey

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Lana Del Rey practically taunts you with her wide-reaching range of inspirations. The 29-year-old torch singer born Elizabeth Grant is a nostalgia hall of mirrors, writing about tortured artists, dressing up like lost starlets, and feeding an old-Hollywood aesthetic with her choices of covers. Vintage instrumentation gets shaken (not stirred) with the bounce of hip-hop, reverb coats everything with a sheen of Fifties-via-Nineties dreaminess, and her contralto has the vacant sadness of a faded Coney Island picture postcard. Marking the recent release of her RS cover story and her second album, Ultraviolence, here are some of her most influential droogs. By Reed Fischer

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Nancy Sinatra

Google the phrase "gangsta Nancy Sinatra," and all search results lead back to Lana. By the time the press came calling, Del Rey was "a little embarrassed" by the comparison. ("That was supposed to be a joke," she told British GQ). Favoring a low voice and massive musical backdrops did echo Sinatra's stylish run in the swinging Sixties, so it's easy to see why the tag stuck. For her part, the daughter of Frank Sinatra, who’s best known for her no-nonsense hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," is an O.G. for setting her own brash career agenda. (She shared one of the first interracial kisses on TV with Sammy Davis, Jr., and posed for Playboy in her 50s.) Last year, Del Rey and ex-boyfriend Barrie-James O’Neill covered "Summer Wine," a duet made famous by Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood in 1967. 

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Leonard Cohen

Brooding and nostalgia are the ropes that bind Lana Del Rey to poetic songwriter Leonard Cohen. That and a willingness to describe sex acts performed on unmade beds – as they are in Cohen’s 1974 classic "Chelsea Hotel No. 2." Covered by Del Rey last year, the slow, impossibly sad song refers to intimate details of his romance with Janis Joplin at the New York artists' hangout. Her quavering voice wraps around it, and latches tightly onto the lyric "You were famous, your heart was a legend." The Chelsea won't take new tenants anymore, but Del Rey still makes herself at home.

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The Eagles

Squint your ears a little while listening to the morose "Pretty When You Cry," and before you know it, you'll be on a dark desert highway with cool wind in your hair. Lana Del Rey has said she listens to the Eagles' "Hotel California" while getting ready for photo shoots.

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Dan Auerbach

Credited with shaping Lana Del Rey's current album with a Nashville band, Dan Auerbach has netted recent production credits with musicians both retro and retro-minded – Dr. John, Ray LaMontagne, Reigning Sound and more. The Black Keys frontman, who met Del Rey through a mutual friend in New York, has proven himself a master of gritty ambiance in his own band, and infused Ultraviolence with most of its guitar licks, especially on the tempo-churns of "West Coast." "She's a true eccentric, you know, extremely talented," the 2013 Grammy winner for Producer of the Year told Rolling Stone. "She looks at this whole thing as this great big art project."

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Father John Misty

Before Lana Del Rey occupied the entire spectrum of Lizzy Grant's artistry there was her May Jailer phase. The folk side of Grant resulted in an Edie Brickell-ish acoustic album called Sirens that's still lurking on the web. Del Rey has said in interviews that ex-Fleet Foxes singer-songwriter Father John Misty reminds her of her roots. Typical Misty-cisms are often more drug-addled gonzo folk explorations than anything Grant has released under any name, but there's a shared desire for freedom in both of their work. They eventually toured together earlier this year.

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