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Textual Analysis: Lana Del Rey - 'National Anthem'
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Textual Analysis: Lana Del Rey - 'National Anthem'

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  • 1. Textual Analysis: Lana Del Rey – ‘National Anthem’ 1. Why did you choose the text you are analysing? I chose this text as I felt the relationship between the title and the video was cleverly created and represented. The mix of the indie pop music with the theme of the video really stood out for me as an interesting concept to analyse. 2. In what context did you encounter it? I firstly encountered this video on Youtube’s ‘Most Viewed’ list. 3. What influence do you think this context might have had on your interpretation of the text? I think that the fact it had gained so many views in such a short space of time with a majority of positive comments on the video it may have subconsciously lead me to believe the same positive thoughts on the video. However, with my own knowledge of the intertextual references and my own preference to the song I believe it reinforced my likeness for the video. 4. Which conventions of the genre do you recognise in the text? First of all the narrative video code is used to enhance the artist and make the video more suggestive so it can be watched repeatedly without being boring; being typical of the song’s genre. Foremost the genre abides to the conventions of lip synching that cuts between role play which is a common element in many videos. This allows a commentary style of the lyrics between the action which adds interest and makes the music video appear more dramatic. This cut between a narrative style video to the artists performance is very generic. Close ups are regularly used during lip synching with focusing on the eye gestures adhering to the conventions of a solo artist performance. Such as with 4:40 a pan is used with a low angle, this camera movement is very stereotypical as it allows the extravagant mise-en-scene to be seen by the audience but also focuses on the narrative performance of the solo artist. Musical Synaesthesia is also element in this video to determine the visual subject matter and representation of a loss of innocence, such as with voices of children simultaneously singing the words ‘National Anthem’ with the performance artist. This again may represent the loss of innocence that further represents the Monroe/Kenney/Jacqueline relationship. In terms of editing, the shots also relate to the lyrics such as with ‘drinking and dining’ following with shots of partying during 3:54-4:01 where this can be seen. The mise-en-scene reflects the historical period with 60s clothing even replicating the same outfit Jacqueline Kennedy wore on the day of the assassination (6:41) with reoccurring styles throughout. This is reflected further with an intentional setting that parodies similar events throughout including the Marilyn Monroe song to the President, the assassination, and the red rose garden of the White House. Others have been intentionally sourced to exaggerate the star image such as with the boat, the luxurious bar party and the house in the Hamptons which are perceived as glamorous locations and an ideal setting. This further emulates the artistic concept of the Presidency being a glamorous lifestyle, with the President being a rapper and wearing gold chains and drinking alcohol. These settings are very conventional and feature often in many music videos and relates to the alternative hip hop side of the song. In this way the historical period is modernised so it can appeal the conventional market. 5. To what extent does this text stretch the conventions of its genre?
  • 2. It stretches the conventions of its genre by actually re-enacting many scenes of historical significance that relates to the song title. For example, at the beginning Lana Del Rey first re- enacts the 1962 performance of Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ in almost exact detail of shot angles and timings. Another is at the end of the song where Lana portrays Jacqueline Onassis in the car during John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Other times during the video Lana represents Jacqueline Onassis with Kennedy in scenes such as in the Hamptons and at parties. This take on the historical significance and role play is a very unconventional theme to take, however I think this almost fits the convention of indie pop/alternative hip hop as exploring themed videos is very popular. It also features a home-made style of videotaping with amateur angles to reflect that someone else is recording it; this is conventional of the type as it is known to represent happy memories when we see the performance artist smiling and enjoying life. Although the on screen relationship we see between Lana as Jacqueline and A$AP Rocky as Kennedy is very typical to reflect to lyrical importance of an obsession with another person. Here it follows the conventions of a solo artist performance as clearly the singer becomes both narrator and participant. Evident when close ups are used when she is singing on a lion rug and in the rose garden of the White House to represent narrator; with the rest acting as participant with the President and her family. However it goes against the conventions of a solo artist performance as for example it does not include dances routines to enhance the ‘repeatability’ of the video.6. Where and why does the text depart from the conventions of the genre? I think it departs from conventions of its genre significantly by focusing on the historical events to recreate this video. The camera angles are very strange almost making it appear surreal, such as with 7:40. No music videos really adopt a historical theme and expand on it but I think it is this which adds to its uniqueness. The transitions between what appear to be flash forwards to the final assassination such as with 1:20 at the beginning of the video and the screams/cheers of the audience during the procession overlaid at the beginning of the video foreshadows events which is very unconventional. It does not use typical solo performance artist conventions, such as with choreography to enhance the videos ‘repeatability’ and make it more appealing to a mass audience. This is probably because indie pop focuses more on alternative videos rather than the stereotypical conventions and focuses on the underlying meaning of the song or video which we can see here. In terms of editing, it adopts a montage style effect with the home-made video clips, here it moves also in beat with the more up tempo verse (3:54-4:01). This is more unusual for a video but reflects the narrative side of it. By the end of the video, Lana begins to speak a dialogue being highly unconventional and is spoken above the background music during 5:54- 7:40. Here it could be argued that Roland Barthes theory of ‘the Grain of Voice’ as it is spoken in a soft and rhythmic tone along with the music so the vocal sounds can be listened to without feeling abrupt to the previous singing.7. What sort of audience did you feel that the video was aimed at (and how typical was this of the genre/style of music)? I think the video aims its audience at a young audience, which is unusual when incorporating such an historical event. However I think that the event has been modernised in this way by including a rapper and children to perhaps glamorise the event and add to the entertainment of the video. I think it is typical here that a certain event has been glamorised so the audience perceive it as the perfect way of living. But ultimately it goes against this stereotypical approach
  • 3. by adopting the nightmare end to a fairy tale with the real representation of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy’s relationship.8. What sort of person does it assume you are? It may assume that we have a vague knowledge of the event but uses this to almost narrate for us the real story but have it intertwined with the exaggerated view of representing the private life of their relationship. So they may assume we have some knowledge but not a lot so they can play on what our idea is of the situation and expand on it to create the video.9. What assumptions seem to be made about your class, age, gender and ethnicity? The video is much americanised so it firstly appeals to a U.S. citizen but this theme can also be related to other countries so as a UK audience who have knowledge of the event. The assumption of gender definitely sides with a female audience as the song is sung by a female also and sings about a man; also with the video almost narrating Jacqueline’s point of view it adds to this assumption.10. What interests does it assume you have? In general it probably assumes I take interest in the singer but also past idealisms such as Marilyn Monroe.11. What relevance does the text actually have for you? The relevance of the text has little relevance to myself as it is more directed at a US audience especially but I think even if no one had knowledge of the intertextual references a story could still be picked up on.12. What knowledge does it take for granted? I think it takes for granted that worldwide not everyone may understand the situation it is representing but may expect the audience to already know. Also it takes for granted the realistic events by exaggerating them and forgetting the real horrific situation that Jacqueline went through as well as America.13. To what extent do you resemble the ‘ideal reader’ that the video seems to position you as? I would be an ideal reader as I understand the representation of the event which it is portraying which also reinforces the theme of the song ‘National Anthem’. I am therefore able to pair the amplification category of the video with the lyrical meaning and cultural history to share the same idea the director firstly identified when creating the video. In a sense I could be perceived as less ideal by not being a U.S. citizen so I would feel less patriotic about the video and less able to build a rapport with the singer.14. Are there any notable shifts in the video’s style? There are several shifts in the video’s style. Firstly at 0:00-1:16 it recreates a video style of Marilyn Monroe’s famous ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ which is shot in the style of a recording already taken at the time. Therefore it has a slight grain on the video with a black and white overlay to recreate this. It then switches to a clear modern style of video which is used to shoot mainly the lip synching shots such as with 3:09. Other times it is represented as being amateur style video footage to capture memories such as with 2:21, this is done by slowing down the frame times to make it appear much slower in capturing. Also by adding light reflecting on the
  • 4. lens (such as with 4:07) it adds to the amateur style filming effect. Another shift is with the camera shots that represent the day of Kennedy’s assassination (see 1:23/5:56/6:19) that give a home-movie look to it and reflect the same Zapruder film that caught the moment of the shooting back in 1963.15. What responses does the video seem to expect from you? With the theme in mind, it would expect a positive reaction and even shock that it has been recreated in this way. This therefore makes us want to share it and even talk about it since it touches on such a historical moment.16. How open to negotiation is your response (are you invited, instructed or coerced to respond in particular ways)? My response is more invited than any other. The video can be interpreted in many different ways, perhaps it may represent the loss of innocence of Jacqueline or Kennedy’s impact of the rest of American society. In this way I am open to negotiation about the music video but with the glamorised lifestyle that is portrayed in the video I am more likely to enjoy the video that any other.17. Is there any penalty for not responding in the expected ways? If you are not wanted to respond to the video with the patriotic frame of mind there would not be a penalty for it but you may disagree with the way the moment has been represented.18. To what extent do you find yourself ‘reading against the grain’ of the text and the genre? At first it is difficult to read against the grain of the text because it is already so upfront about the solo performance artist portraying specific people such as Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline in order to tell a narrative. The narrative very much guides me and the audience to feel sympathetic for Jacqueline/Lana in the video for losing her lover that she loved very much.19. How typical do you think this video is of music videos? Personally I think this video is very unique although it includes some conventions of stereotypical music videos I feel that the historical period has set it apart and really made it stand out. Although by using the narrative by cutting from close ups to role play adds to the artistic concept and enhances Lana Del Rey’s star image.