Thursday, June 28, 2012

All Rise for the "National Anthem"

I just watched something that rattled me, and it was the furthest of reactions I was expecting. What I watched was not Eating Out 5: Open Relationship (although I did watch that earlier this evening and it was disturbing to say the least), but the video clip for Lana Del Rey's "National Anthem". Amongst an album that was already filled with cinematic, almost operatic, songs that aimed for a haunting anthem status far beyond their puffy-lipped ingenue singer's debut limitations, "National Anthem" was a stand out and an early contender for song of the year. With grand, sweeping strings, a pulsating bass that echoes Queen Latifah's hip-hop classic "Just Another Day", and vocals that flirt between breathy Lolita whispers and crying-on-the-inside patriotic cries, "National Anthem" was already a stunner and then she had to go and release the video.

It's a curious video for sure, although one that certainly keeps in line with the themes she navigated with "Video Games": Loss of innocence, fame, the nature of nostalgia and how what we choose to look back at can give a good image of what we're at as a collective people. One could cynically look at Del Rey doing a video for "National Anthem" that revolves around the imagery of the 1960s, specifically John and Jackie Kennedy, as a ploy to plug into Mad Men fever, but a simplistic video aiming for little more than pop culture points would never go as far as the Anthony Madler's "Anthem" video does. I can see people getting upset of this video and its re-appropriation of the famous Zapruder video of JFK's assassination, but at least she's not getting her tits out and spending the four minute and forty second song parading about in front of mirrors and strobe lights so that's a win.

Still, there was something utterly captivating about the video. Something almost upsetting and unnerving. Something that, to use her own lyric, blurs the line the between the real and the fake. As strange as it sounds, I was actually moved by this video. Watching 26-year-old Lana here, her face seemingly plumped and buffered and looking like a youthful version of Cher, I couldn't help but be transfixed. No matter what she's done to it, her face, her body language, her voice, all demonstrating crippling pain with a steel-braced rigidity as she stretches out over that animal carcass rug. As filtered through 8mm instagram filters she turns luminous sitting amongst a garden of flowers or when cradling her (black President) husband on the lawn or poolside with their giggling daughters in tow. Meanwhile, in recreations of the presidential assassination she shows paralysed fear. The moment at 7:11 just blows me away that it's in a music video and not something far more glamourous. If there was an MTV Music Video Award for acting performance then she'd win for sure. She even threw in a Marilyn Monroe impersonation for wowser effect.

The video got me thinking that maybe Lana Del Rey could be a genuine film actress in the making. She obviously has the determination and gut to do it - you don't get through the year she's had without earning some mental steel - and given the right role, I can see her being incredibly effective. Unlike, say, Rihanna who wanted to take the easy path and capitalise on her fame to earn easy money with a lame-brained movie like Battleship, there appears to be actual emotions behind this performer's eyes and I can see that translating to the big screen. And that's to say nothing of the way she looks in those sumptuous outfits and with her hair styled so high it matches her lips. I'd be willing to bet that she'd be impossible to take one's eyes off of.

Whatever one thinks of Lana Del Rey - and lord knows everybody certainly An Opinion on Lana Del Rey - and her "National Anthem" video, I find it impossible to see how anybody could deny she's not at least an interesting persona in the world of music at the moment. Certainly one of the strangest and most undefinable. We've seen time and time again that it's the undefinables that tend to make the better leaps into the world of acting so I wouldn't be surprised if we hear of Del Rey making the cinematic leap sometime over the next few years and I look forward to day it happens. Until then I'll just have to watch Elizabeth Woolridge Grant do her daily performance as Lana Del Rey and hope somebody can come along and do something with her that feels as unique and provocative as she.

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