We've already passed the half-way mark of 2012 - how scary is that? - and, somewhat surprisingly, Lana Del Rey's Born To Die remains my favourite album of the year. It's not a perfect collection of songs but the big-lipped bombshell pieced together a beautifully tattered piece of Americana that somehow lives up to the hype. Almost as importantly, I think the 26-year-old is the first pop star since Lady Gaga to emerge with a complete and cohesive vision as to how she wants to look and be presented to the public. That's not a dig about the Lizzy Grant years. Unlike Mother Monster, I think the "Video Games" songbird is strangely authentic - Lana Del Rey is the woman she always wanted to be and she is bringing her to life with each new song, video and photoshoot. Take her brilliant "National Anthem" video clip.
Lana's twisted theme-song is a curious choice of single. The exquisite "Summertime Sadness" was released in Germany instead of this and became a top 20 hit without a video or promotion. It would have been a more commercial choice but I kind of like that the hottest new act of 2012 appears to have little interest in chart domination - releasing two-year-old songs as singles and throwing out a new video every couple of months. The visual aspect of her craft is one of the diva's strengths and "National Anthem" gives Lana the perfect platform to explore her vintage ice-maiden persona. Recreating some of the most famous moments of the 20th century (Marilyn Monroe's iconic rendition of "Happy Birthday" and JFK's shooting) was always going to be controversial but it rather brilliantly makes the singer-songwriter's point - that America's obsession with money, fame and notoriety is rotting it, from the inside out.
Produced by Anthony Mandler, the clip is a visual feast. Lana looks more gorgeous than usual and I never realised Rocky A$AP (who plays JFK) was so fucking hot. There's nothing subtle about the video but it's so ambitious and over-the-top that it holds your interest from the opening scene to the final spoken-word epilogue. The photography is stunning and I love the costumes. My favourite look is the Jackie O ensemble in the garden. How does she pull off this shit off without looking like she just walked out of a Halloween party? It's hard to believe that Anthony Mandler's last video was Onika's horrendous "Starships". I guess he has to pay his rent like the rest of us. "National Anthem" isn't Lana's best video - that would be "Born To Die" - but it's moody, evocative and has something to say. Meanwhile, your fave is dancing around the club like an idiot in her $10 clip. So take a seat and soak up some real art (below).