Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Track Attack- "National Anthem"

"It's a love story for the New Age," Lana Del Rey coos on the bridge to the rousing "National Anthem." Since the career-making "Video Games" dropped a year ago, Del Rey's been offering up her own take on the love song. Del Rey's tracks are The Ronettes with a rebellious sneer, "gangsta' Nancy Sinatra" as she refers to herself. They're the kind of tunes everyone could relate to one minute and despise the next. After the SNL "debacle," Del Rey's performance was called the worst ever and shamelessly manufactured. Then Born to Die debuted and ascended the Billboard charts, stalling at the summit behind pop royalty Adele. For "manufactured music" the album was the perfect product, littered with love songs from the "New Age."

Nowhere is that "New Age" better defined than on "National Anthem." "Money is the reason we exist," Del Rey declares without so much as a snicker in the intro. At first the statement passes as a half-baked joke, or an indictment that misses its mark. But in a time where cash rules everything, its unimpeachable truth. As much as we long for love, we lust after money. It's the ultimate siren. Even as Del Rey shares an intimate moment with her man on the song, she can' help but ask "do you think you'll buy me lots of diamonds?"

Despite the indelible hook and stirring strings, the song would be nothing without the recently released video. The video is tailor-made for the commercialism as patriotism idea Del Rey posits. In typical Del Rey fashion, the visuals are paint-by-numbers where the palette's all sepia. Gone though are the nostalgic "found" videos, replaced with a riveting recreation of the JFK/Jackie O/Marilyn Monroe "love triangle." At the beginning, out trots Del Rey doing her best Monroe and coyly wishing President Kennedy (played by NY-rapper A$AP Rocky) a Happy Birthday. A$APs calm and collected as the round of applause dissolves, replaced by far-off cries from the assassination. 

We soon see Del Rey and A$AP hand-in-hand as the Kennedys out on the lawn enjoying a summer day as the sun beams into the camera. What follows is a montage of: the couple in a makeshift war-room, running along the beach, cutting a rug, and out on the lake. This image in particular is moving, as Del Rey stares into the camera and begs A$AP to call her his "National Anthem." At the time, the heaven in his eyes isn't enough, in a world run by money it's never enough.

Eventually the "anthem" becomes a nightmare for Del Rey as her husband's blood is spilled. "I loved him I loved him I loved," Del Rey affirms as the strings play a funereal figure. All the questions of real and fake are gone for her, the lines no longer "blurred." The blue in the skies means more than green ever could. For all the glitz and glamour, it's Del Rey's love that lasts the longest and has the greatest value. If the song's a love story for the "New Age," it's an aberration, conspicuously cast against type. 

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