I used to spit out the almonds in Almond Joys, now I eat almonds by the tin, pretending my life is one constant dinner party. It kind of is, except people hardly show up, and I end up drinking craft IPA’s and listening to Spotify by myself. Sounds like a damn good party. I don’t consider myself a grown up. Just a baby that someone let grow facial hair and say bad words. However, for a baby, I feel like I’m able to understand a lot about myself. Mainly, why I enjoy certain things, and why I dislike some things pretty adamantly. I understand shock value, that’s why I’ve seen more episodes of COPS than I’d like to admit to anyone who I don’t feel actually knows me. Shock and awe is the same reason that I’ve watched a plethora of Antiques Roadshow episodes. That shit is RAW.
However, when I recently watched the music video for “National Anthem” by Lana Del Rey featuring A$AP Rocky, I couldn’t quite discern what the allure was. I changed my mind constantly while watching it. It was stylistically appealing, yes. If I hadn’t been paying attention I would not have watched it again, but I would have recalled it fondly. In fact, it was fascinating. I watched with disgust at times, but still derived a great deal of pleasure from the moving pictures. The issue was that the music video depicted A$AP and Lana playing the roles of JFK and Jackie, and going so far as re-enacting the convertible ride from “that day in Dallas”. While these images were the most off-putting things in the video, there were a few other questionable moments. During flashes of party of party scenes, Lana (Jackie O.) is seen “grinding” on A$AP (John F.), which is certainly not period accurate. Unless of course, I’ve drastically misinterpreted what doing the “Mashed Potato” entails. Then there’s the obvious racial difference between rapper A$AP and JFK. I got past it relatively quickly but then was reminded of how silly it looked once there was a party scene and the A$AP crew was there dancing and drinking expensive liquor. Artistic license can only be stretched so far. But let me remind you, that I enjoyed this music video. So there was plenty to counter these obscurities. There was the fashion, which was gorgeous, and the sets, which were pristine. I loved that. I wanted that. I still want that. GIVE ME THAT.
More than anything was the voice in my head saying “My parents would HATE this!” This message was quite satisfying. These feelings of joy I can attribute to the culture of dissent that I so strongly associate with. Since the “the music of the devil” (rock n’ roll) came out, youngsters have disobeyed their parents’ wishes by listening to music and participating in events that their parents found loathsome. If your mom listened to dubstep, that shit would’ve never caught on. If my parents had offered me a cigarette when I was in third grade, I probably would’ve coughed until I threw up and never tried it again. But that didn’t happen and I grew up and saw James Dean and found out what “cool” was. This whole desire to separate from previous generations is what makes cultures unique throughout the decades. The old want to be young again, and the young don’t want to get old. In middle school I didn’t tell anyone I was a huge Simon and Garfunkel fan because my mom listened to it. I wanted to disobey. I still want to. Now I just do it in more subtle ways than staying out after curfew and getting drunk off whatever the sketchy drive-through liquor store clerk would sell to me or my friends. Now I see movies rated NC-17 (Showgirls has cinematic value, I swear). Now I watch music videos that they would hate and listen to loud electronic music.
Nonetheless, if my parents encouraged these things, I’d probably do them less. Because that wouldn’t be cool. Right? I’m not sure really. I guess it feels right. Or good. Or something. I don’t hate my parents. They’re great. But somewhere along the line, I learned that it’s not too cool to like your parents too much, and it stuck. So what the hell. If some misery that’s a part of the history that my parents lived through gets dragged into the culture that I’m infatuated by, so be it. I can’t help that I like it. Or even love it. But I sure as hell won’t be surprised if some years from now I see my kids watching a music video that imitates the events of September 11th. I won’t expect them to understand. I won’t be shocked to hear that they went and wrote some dumb article about how the fashion and set design in that music video were beautiful. These are indeed some strange, strange times.
Brian Muehlenkamp is a intern-for-life in the the music industry and can often be found being optimistic. Other than that he enjoys listening to bands he thinks you should know about and writing about it on his blog, Brain Forest.