Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lana Del Rey's endless permutation machine

Of all the songs on Lana Del Rey's debut album, National Anthem went through the most changes before it was released.

The original demo has been knocking about the internet for nearly a year. The sound quality is terrible - distorted and over-modulating, like a tape recording of an old radio show - but it has a crunchy immediacy that's instantly appealing. It even has a video, featuring Lana herself (or a very good lookalike), which popped up on a random YouTube account about a fortnight ago.

Lana Del Rey - National Anthem (demo)

There are more early versions of the track on Soundcloud [take one and take two]. And that's only the tip of the iceberg if you're prepared to waste an afternoon on Google.

The album version, released in January, went to a lot of effort to smooth off the demos' rough edges. That's fine - final masters should improve on the rough drafts - but a "source" (yes, a real one) tells me that Lana wasn't wholly convinced by the label-approved mixes.

So it's no surprise that the song has been modified again for the video. The album mix is augmented with a lush, string-drenched coda that gives added pathos to the tragic storyline (Lana is playing Jackie O to A$AP Rocky's JFK, for those who haven't kept up with the endless trailers). Directed by Anthony Mandler - who did Rihanna's Only Girl In The World and Usher's OMG - it's a stunning piece of work.

Lana Del Rey - National Anthem

With all of this jiggery-pokery going on to the basic song, I wonder what Lana makes of this dance mix, by house DJ Westfunk? It takes the star's languorous drawl and forces it into an arms akimbo disco droplet. Personally, I think it's a great treatment - but I suspect it doesn't quite fit the noir aesthetic Lana was aiming for...

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