Lana Del Rey – National Anthem
Lana Del Rey is a brilliant example of everything that’s right with modern pop and everything that’s wrong with the modern pop audience.
Here was someone who had done their homework and spotted a gap in the market – in fact a gaping hole where a Stepford First Lady with a twisted vision of the American dream and a penchant for picking up truck drivers at rest stops could sell millions of records. It was the most perfectly orchestrated launch in years, though with the usual grumblings about authenticity. Personally, Lana could have turned out to be from Bolton for all I care about that.
I did wonder how sustainable it was, though. The whole Born to Die album and its accompanying campaign was perfectly executed, but it burned so brightly that I worried about what would come next – once you’ve satisfied a need that people didn’t know they had, they tend to move onto the next thing rather quickly. It’s happened before – see ABC‘s The Lexicon of Love – but it’s far more common now, attention spans being what they are OOH A NEW JANET SINGLE.
Anyhow, what of National Anthem? It wasn’t so much a single as a reason to make an absurdly long video – and from this evidence boy are we in trouble if Lana ever does become First Lady – but it is very much the song that represents Lana in her ultimate languid form – enveloped in gorgeous strings, hypnotic chanting, sounding like she’s singing from deep within the valley of the ‘dols and picking at scabs that most of us ordinarily wouldn’t touch. “Money is the anthem / God you’re so handsome / Money is the anthem / Of success” is, at its core, not that different from Madonna‘s Material Girl, but while she was at pains to point out that it was all tongue in cheek and of course love is what really matters, I’m not really sure that Lana gives a f**k what you think. And that’s kind of why she’s such a brilliant pop star. My word she’s pretentious and sometimes you wish she’d just bloody get on with it, but she really does have an incredibly clear vision of how she wants to present herself.
I said earlier that I was worried about how sustainable it was, and I was, I think, a bit right. While Born to Die was a multi-platinum success, its follow up Ultraviolence was rather more gold-y: it suffered in comparison to its predecessor in the same way that ABC‘s Beauty Stab did with The Lexicon of Love, or more recently Alanis Morissette‘s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie versus Jagged Little Pill. My concern that a lot of people might feel they already had all they needed from Lana is starting to feel worryingly real. Lana’s initial impact was a very modern one: she was one of the first superstars who didn’t actually appear to need big hits to be a cultural icon. But the price of that may be a shortened lifespan – while you may sell millions straight out of the box, your actual core, loyal record-buying fanbase is remarkably small, and when that first buzz is gone you begin to struggle.
Around the time of National Anthem, my friend Mark and I had a – far too long – conversation about what Lana needed to do, and we agreed that a huge pop album might save her from the potentially tiresome image of being the girl who already looks like her own Madame Tussauds waxwork. I’m hoping the upcoming Honeymoon will be just that. Lana’s too good to melt away – but if it all goes horribly wrong, an aged Nana Del Rey will still have that insane video to show the grandkids: “…and this is when I screwed the president…”
Entered chart: 21/07/2012
Chart peak: 92
Weeks on chart: 2
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Michelle Obama.