There are many things in Lana Del Rey's new video for "National Anthem" (featuring A$AP Rocky) that are potential grounds for criticism.
- How is Lana supposed to be both Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O?
- Why is A$AP Rocky dressed for the '60s in some scenes and Summer Jam for others?
- Lana turned "ovation" into a six-syllable word. Unacceptable.
- The entire Kennedys plotline.
- How the video was shot through the "Kelvin" Instagram filter.
- And this face, known to some as "acting"?:
Each could be seen as an addition to the ongoing, widespread negative critique of Del Rey's career, but they shouldn't be, seeing as none of it matters. This video isn't about historical accuracy, film tricks, the acting chops of two young stars, or even the song. This is about real-life Lana and real-life Rocky, living out a fantasy, both theirs and ours.
Early in their young careers, both artists branded themselves with a singular phrase that sheds light into their fantastical portrayals of themselves:
Both statements are captivating, partially because they're absurd, but also because they aren't completely false. Lana comparing herself to Nancy Sinatra makes sense, vocally, but "gangsta" — I don't know. Who really knows what that "gangsta" means to Lana Del Rey? Does she walk around strapped? Is she spending a lot of her time among the "urban" youths? Who knows, but that's how Lana sees herself, and who are we to say that she's not? And then there's Rocky, who sincerely believes that he's pretty. Traditionally, he most certainly is not, but due in large part to the confidence in which he alerts us that he is, in fact, that pretty motherfucker, it's hard to say that he's wrong.
Both twentysomethings have these youthful, blissful, repercussion-free delusions about themselves, so it's no surprise that a collaboration between the two has resulted in such a youthful, blissful, fantastical product.
Seriously. It's just beautiful.
It's beautiful, because A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey aren't supposed to be soul mates. The plan wasn't for them to find each other. The white, prep-school-educated, almost metaphysicist Del Rey isn't supposed be infatuated with the rough-around-the-edges rapper, and the tough, black Harlemite Rocky isn't supposed to have his main chick be a girl who used to go by Lizzy. Of all the men in the world who Lana could have as eye candy in her video, A$AP Rocky isn't the obvious choice, and of all the women in the world for A$AP to have a huge crush on, Lana isn't the person who races to mind. None of this is how it's supposed to play out, but it did, which is why it's so great to play voyeur in this "what if"–styled dream world they've constructed for themselves.
Do you see how beautiful this is, yet? Do you?
But why is it so engrossing to watch? There are a few reasons, but the most powerful is that like all the great onscreen couples, you want the love to be real offscreen. You want John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer to actually be in love with each other, and are still sort of bummed out every time he's on the arm of Emily Blunt. You hate the fact that Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton don't actually kiss and make up every morning. And you still can't wrap your head around the fact that Clair Huxtable's real name isn't Phylicia Rashad-Cosby.
Watching this video elicits some of those same sentiments. It transports you to a place for about five minutes where the idea of them having picnics with their little mixed babies is simply the most beautiful thing imaginable. The idea of real-life Lana laughing while real-life Rocky makes a rambunctious dinner-table speech is something that makes you smile. And when Rocky blows his girl a kiss ...
... and she catches it and brings it to her heart ...
... you can't not want it to be real. You want that to have been a genuine love transaction, because in a short span, you've become invested in their real-life happiness.
This is a special video. They didn't have to take it this far, but they did, and the end result is a Bonnie and Clyde tale that makes you want that life. And with yesterday's release of another joint project, a song titled "Ridin'", it's suddenly become increasingly difficult to think of one without the other. Or if difficult isn't the proper word, then maybe it's more "I simply don't want to think about one without the other because I love their love and want it to last forever."
Yeah, that's probably what it is.