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10 Videos to Watch and Contemplate America on This Fourth of July: Lana Del Rey Live! Edition

Our barefoot Lady Liberty stands in front of her people at Glastonbury

Hello? Hello?!! HELL-OOOOOOO!! *taps mic* Can you hear me? Is this thing even on? Oh! Hello there, my most precious Filthy Dreams patriots! What’s that? What am I doing? Checking to make sure the plug wasn’t pulled on us like it was for OUR Trash Magic Miss America, Lana Del Rey, during her recent set at Glastonbury!

Nothing will make you seethe with anger, find tea to dump into the harbor, and praise our national daddies—the Founding Fathers—for shaking off the burden of that crusty monarchy more than watching those bureaucracy-loving Brits yank Lana and her band’s cord mid-performance after she ran over the midnight curfew. For those who missed out, Lana arrived on stage around a half-hour late for her set at Glastonbury. What was she busy doing? Rehearsing? Pre-show nerves? Finding her vape? Well, as she explained it: “I’m super fucking sorry. My hair takes so long to do.” Understandable! The engineering marvel of her Priscilla Presley-influenced beehive cannot be rushed!

Of course, the Brits—those sticklers for rules—didn’t understand the importance of hairdos to us Americans. And at the stroke of midnight, like Cinderella, they shut down Lana’s sound during “Video Games.” Would they have done that to Guns and Roses who were still playing the festival’s main stage at the time? I think not! I can’t imagine them doing it to any male-fronted band.

But, like the flag that was still there, Lana remained onstage. Rather than slink off dejected, she led the crowd through a loud sing-along of “Video Games,” before descending to her fans in her bare feet for a subsequent “Summertime Sadness.” And there she stood, shoeless in a white dress in front of the frenzied crowd, who was reaching out for her and weeping, flanked by the frustrated Glastonbury security behind her. From the images circulating on social media, she looked like some sort of saint! Our lady of the people! Our Lady Liberty! She was going to defiantly finish her fucking set if she made the crowd sing it for her. Fuck your rules. Fuck your curfew. USA USA USA!!!!

Inspired by this vision, which I keep watching over and over again on Twitter (well, when I can get on it. Thanks, Elon!) since the BBC seems to be in some sort of tangle with Lana’s management over posting the full set, I decided to return to Lana for yet another July 4th video post. As you may remember, faithful Filthy Dreams fireworks, we’ve celebrated Lana on several prior Independence Days, both in her current incarnation as Lana and her earlier stint as Lizzy Grant. It only feels right to continue to contemplate America through Lana as a symbol by fixating this time on some of our favorite live performances.

So grab a cherry cola, that half-eaten peach Lana threw at the Jones Beach audience in 2019, and watch these videos while considering how exactly England will PAY for their insult to OUR national anthem! It’s 1776 all over again!!!

1. “Trash Magic (Miss America)” at NYC’s Living Room, 2008

“He said, ‘Lana Rey, will you serve me lemonade?’ And I said, ‘Yes, Bill, I will. It’s the day of the parade…’” What better way to start this patriotic list than with that breathy summer nostalgia delivered in a baby voice by a similarly infant Lana Del Rey? Way before Lana seemed to emerge fully formed out of the ether of old Hollywood with her bee-stung lips and auburn waves, she was a trailer park-living (“Sweet trailer life,” as she says in this song), fried bleach blonde-haired young thing singing in small clubs around Lower Manhattan. This rare video captures one of those early shows where she is still more Lizzy Grant than Lana Del Rey with her string of random yet evocative broken-down Americana associations: “green swimming pool, pink flamingos, high Christmas lights.” Still, her breezy questions like “Do you like my fake nails, daddy?” certainly earn the song its title: “Trash Magic (Miss America).” While a corresponding video of “Yayo,” an almost vaudevillian Lana Del Rey classic filled with black motorcycles, daddies, and putting on a show, from the same performance is perhaps more relevant to where Lana would head musically, I much prefer this song as it reminds me of one of the most transcendent tweets ever published from Lana’s alternate @MissDaytona  Twitter account (one of many names and social media accounts she started and then abandoned over the years. Strange. Enigmatic.): “I am the Velvet Elvis above the Rosaries the Lobster Claw in the trash Sunset trailer park I see the lights and the devil go down on Georgia.” Me too, honey!

2. “Video Games” on SNL, 2012

This choice will get me in trouble with all the fellow Lana fanatics out there, but hear me out: Sure, this SNL performance is widely considered disastrous. Yes, it made her easy fodder for mockery, including cruelly by those unfunny assholes at SNL the following week (I will never forgive Kristen Wiig, that cunt), at a time when Lana was already being raked over the coals as contrived, fake, anti-feminist, and problematic in any number of ways by critics. And, of course, the trauma from this SNL fallout likely led to her being visibly nervous in subsequent live performances for the rest of her career. Yet, I can’t see this performance as anything else other than heroic. Come on. Her distant quaalude stare. Her odd pronunciation and warbling vocalizations. That final diaphragm-bursting “YOUUUUUuuuuuUUUUUuu” moan. The concluding sad sigh. And last but certainly not least, the legendary twirl! Her slow mid-song turn not only became an instant meme but solidified her image as that mysterious, unknowable, and endlessly beguiling figure like Audrey Horne spinning near the jukebox at the Double R Diner in Twin Peaks. Nobody understood Audrey either, but isn’t her twirling just so dreamy?

3. “You Can Be The Boss” on Concert Privé, 2012

“You can be the baws, daddy! You can be the BAWS!” I know, I know. I’ve included this “You Can Be The Boss” performance on previous holiday video posts, but guess what? I don’t care. This remains one of my favorite performances that I continually return to during bloodshot-eyed late-night YouTube surfing sessions. Why it remains one of my most beloved Lana performances is simple. With her mussed hair and bleary eyes, it looks as if she just woke up backstage and staggered in front of the cameras like Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls! (Or some of MY president Kamala Harris’s more recent downers-and-Pinot-driven speeches. Kamala 2024!!!). Plus, what could be more appropriate for an Independence Day video binge than a performance that starts: “You taste like the 4th of July! Malt liquor on your breath, my my!” This begs the question: what does the 4th of July taste like anyway? Burgers? Hot dogs? Burnt flesh from firework-related mishaps?! Ooooooo say can you seeeeee!

“You don’t mind if we play a little jazz, do you?” Lana asks the crowd at Eurockéennes De Belfort, with her hair teased up high to the heavens. What follows is, well, not jazz. What it is, though, is undoubtedly memorable as she howls, shouts, and bellows from the depths of her soul through a completely berserk rendition of “Million Dollar Man.” Who wants a pitch-perfect performance? I sure don’t. Make the audience feel your pain! And boy, Lana does. “One for the money! OOOOOOOOOOHHH!!!! TWO FOR THE SHOWWWHOAWHOAWHOAWOWOW!!!” While that bonkers delivery is unforgettable, one of my favorite parts of this performance is when she grabs onto the microphone, clings on for dear life, and warbles atonally while staring down at the floor! Engaging! Kind of makes you suspicious of her insistent holler, “I’M FINE!”

5. “Body Electric” at iTunes Festival, 2012

Budweiser has certainly had a rough go the past few months, hasn’t it? That piss-water beer first triggered foam-at-the-mouth transphobes through a sponsored bubble bath post and a personalized can, leading to bullet-hole-riddled cases of Bud Light. Then, rather than standing by their marketing decisions and their spokespeople, they tossed poor Dylan Mulvaney to the wolves and desperately and unsuccessfully tried to win back their backwoods audience with a series of macho man stallion and football player commercials. Embarrassing. Even so, I still feel a tug on my Americana-loving white trash heartstrings when I see Lana deliver the opening verse of “Body Electric” while wearing a Budweiser sweatshirt. Sorry, I just can’t help it.

6. “Ultraviolence” at Glastonbury, 2014

Oh, look! A performance at Glastonbury that didn’t shut our girl’s sound off. Assholes. Anyway… “Ultraviolence” remains one of my most precious Lana songs, a pitch-black ballad that just might be partially inspired by Jonestown (in my mind anyway. “Jim raised me up”? Come on!). Perfect for a light-hearted festival party atmosphere! Who wants some Kool-Aid?! Though the multiple Lanas projected on the massive screens make me dizzy and ready to guzzle whatever seductive poison she hands me, the real star of this video is the slack-jawed, demon-horned, pith-helmet-and-goggle-wearing audience member who makes his appearance at around 1:16. Bopping his head to the beat, he has a faraway hypnotized look in his eyes that is as relatable as it is startling. Same, dude!

I never want to be forced to pick my absolute favorite Lana Del Rey song. Ever. But I will say the song that makes me most want to demand someone toss a plugged-in radio into a full bathtub à la Dr. Gonzo’s “White Rabbit”-induced manic electrocution flirtation in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is undoubtedly “Honeymoon,” an intoxicating, slow-as-molasses, and criminally underrated narcotic nod of a siren song. Just the first line, “We both know that it’s not fashionable to love me,” fires up my synapses. And this electrifying performance at Outside Lands blatantly reveals why it’s the most hauntingly romantic and cinematic song in a career built on hauntingly romantic and cinematic songs. It gives me chills. Every time. “Dreaming away your life…”

8. “Serial Killer” at Lollapalooza Brazil, 2018

More than twenty years ago, a high school friend penned a haiku, “Ode to a Stalker”:

“I am a stalker.
He doesn’t know how I feel.
Good thing he doesn’t.”

This isn’t too far off from Lana’s unreleased fan-favorite, “Serial Killer,” a stalker theme song that is only rivaled by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ luridly voyeuristic peeper anthem “Watching Alice.” Unlike Nick’s hopelessly yearning ballad, “Serial Killer” is possibly the most traditionally pop song in Lana’s discography. And it’s about being an obsessive sociopath and potentially a serial killer! How could this not be a crowd-pleaser?! While never appearing on one of Lana’s albums, “Serial Killer” has popped up in several live performances over the years to the audience’s visible enthusiasm. With a disarming and disturbing bubbly delivery, Lana explains how she’s going to reel in a man through tactics like: “Sneak up on you really quiet. Whisper, ‘Am I what your heart desires?’” Um…yikes! The repeated devastatingly desperate chorus, “Cause I love you just a little too much. I love you just a little too much,” just begs to be used as evidence for a restraining order. Someone call Olivia Benson!

Can you hear Chris Isaak’s sultry croon “Wicked Game” without imagining Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage on that lost highway in Wild at Heart? I know I can’t. It’s only appropriate, then, that Lana—a torch singer who has unquestionably modeled herself in the image of Lynch’s women and who would go on to record a song named after the film on her subsequent album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club—would invite Isaak to duet his song together. I appreciate that Orbison-voiced Isaak takes the high parts in this collaboration as Lana groans out the low, while barefoot at the Hollywood Bowl no less. Doomed Los Angeles incarnate. I think I might float to the heavens like the newly erotically sanctified maid Emilia in Pasolini’s Teorema if I saw this in person.

10. “Ride” at MITA Festival, 2023

Speaking of inappropriately disruptive mid-concert spiritual levitation, I would also likely bug my fellow concert-goers by bursting into tears the instant the orchestral sounds of the “Ride” monologue hit my ear drums. When I saw Lana live in 2019, she sadly didn’t include the iconic monologue from the song’s music video. However, on her current 2023 tour, the monologue is back, accompanied by a video mash-up from all different eras of her career. “I always dreamed of becoming a beautiful poet” takes on an increasing and maddening emotional weight as audience members get to watch Lana onstage watching her younger self on screen. You did it, baby! Is it a bit of a self-indulgent nostalgia-fest? Of course, but she’s earned it! Regardless, the “Ride” monologue has always been the most idyllic articulation of America to me—or at least, an articulation of the Americana fantasy of the open road. An America that never really existed outside of the imagination. Live fast, die young, be wild, and have fun. And sure, we’re all fucking crazy but we are free.

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