Anna, Anna, glamorous Anna, Anna Nicole.
She’s so outrageous.
This week marks 10 years since the passing of bombshell beauty Anna Nicole Smith. An inescapable media presence throughout her final 15 years on the planet, from Guess Jeans to reality TV to “Trim Spa, Baby!,” she was an ever changing entity who carried our fascination as she segued from supermodel to scandal and carried us through the reality TV explosion and her redemption before her unexpected death. For someone who so frequently played the “bimbo” character, it’s peculiar and perhaps subversive that most of us are so jaded and confident that “all that reality TV is staged” but point to what he have documented of Anna’s public persona as “THAT’S REAL, SHE’S A MESS.”
Maybe she was in on “it.” Maybe she really was somewhat naive with a heart of gold. At this point, all we know for certain is that one of the most curious distinctly American career ended way too tragically. Looking back a decade after her passing, it’s interesting to see her legacy reflected in contemporary music each step of the way.
Largely ignored in most Anna Nicole retrospectives is her 1997 single “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Yes, Anna Nicole once recorded a Cole Porter song. “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” was originally written for the 1938 musical Leave It to Me, but Anna Nicole’s cover here is distinctly meant to emulate the 1960 Marilyn Monroe arrangement, down to calling herself “Lolita” in the lyrics. Released in France, a country who never heard a novelty song they didn’t like, the only time “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” ever gets mentioned in when parallels between Anna Nicole and Marilyn are drawn. Looking past that, it’s a pretty infectious piece of celebrity-pop.
The next time we really got a musical look at Anna Nicole was the theme to E!’s The Anna Nicole Show. A Gilligan’s Island style theme that explains the backstory of the show in the catchiest way possible, it’s easy to forget that this was a real person’s real life story. Essentially a Cliffnotes version of her E! True Hollywood Story, this was what we heard before we first witnessed her “Reality.” Once the 2002 song ends, the “reality” portion of her life begins.
For the next two years, her name became synonymous with embarrassing trainwreck in songs. Just as the rest of the media and public reacted, there was an overall feeling of “Anna Nicole, what are you doing?” There was anger at celebrity culture and the exploitive elements of the still fairly new reality medium. Perhaps this sentiment is best captured in Atmosphere’s “National Disgrace” when Anna Nicole is listed amongst many notable names who used their “15 minutes
of fame to realize their true dreams of being an absolute jerk off, just to keep the masses entertained.”
Of course, once Anna Nicole lost the weight and seemingly got her life together (Trim Spa, Baby!) she suddenly became this inspirational figure. Poking fun at herself, Anna Nicole appeared in Kanye’s “The New Workout Plan” video, and her fun, playful energy here remains a nice reminder of what silly coquettish Anna meant to the mainstream world.
Anna Nicole’s Kanye-connection is much more remembered for her introduction for him at the Billboard Music Awards shortly after. Something seems wrong here, but Anna still throws herself into it and doesn’t quit. At a time when other celebrity meltdowns like Ashlee Simpson’s lip-sync hoedown debacle would leave public personas backpeddling, Anna Nicole just kept pushing forward and owned it to the point we’re talking about a musical guest introduction at an award show 13 years after it aired.
Following her 2007 death, which as we’ve established is now 10 years ago, there’s an entire generation who just knows her as the tragic figure without knowing how much fun it was to have Anna Nicole Smith sharing a planet with us. It got quite a bit of attention in 2010 when Nicki Minaj’s verse on Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” included a dedication to the late model, but that same bubbly fun as the track’s reference is how it feels like Anna Nicole Smith should be remembered.
That, or the actual opera based on her life. The Royal Opera House’s Anna Nicole is a pretty surreal thing. It played in Brooklyn too. As sad as her young death and the loved ones she left behind are, there’s something to be said for a life whose meaning changed repeatedly in all of the songs she’s been referenced in. To track her life by others references is a pretty modern way to reach legendary status, something very rare, and very Anna Nicole. She’s so outrageous.