American Valhalla

Album: Post Pop Depression (2016)

Songfacts®:

  • This sad song about growing old and hating it is a track from Iggy Pop's Post Pop Depression album. Speaking to the New York Times, Pop said the record's theme is informed by his advancing years and asks "What happens after your years of service? And where is the honor?"

    He continued: "In American life, because it's so hypercompetitive, what happens when you're finally useless to everyone except hopefully not yourself? What happens then? And can you continue to be of use to yourself? I had a kind of character in mind. It was sort of a cross between myself and a military veteran."
  • Iggy Pop told The Guardian: "Someone [Stooges guitarist James Williamson] used the phrase 'Hard pill to swallow' to insult me earlier that year. I took the negative and thought: 'I know this is going to be a bitchin' line in a song.' I was thinking: 'What is the pill that's hard to swallow?' It's knowing that you're going to die. It's dealing with your own mortality. It's having to parcel out enough money until I'm 90, but on the other hand… I can't think about it!"
  • In Norse mythology Valhalla is a vast hall with 540 doors, ruled by the god Odin. He presides there over all those warriors that were slain in battle, and deemed worthy to attend. The fallen combatants spend their days fighting safe in the knowledge of never being permanently harmed.

    Post Pop Depression was produced by Josh Homme and this song evolved out of discussions between the pair. Homme explained: "We talked about the different forms of heaven, and the ways to get in. With Valhalla, you have to face someone who's worthy of you."

    Iggy added: "Josh compared Valhalla with the Islamic paradise. I replied saying: 'Is there an American Valhalla? In America, we want it now. So where is it? Is it Las Vegas? Is it social security? Where?'"
  • Josh Homme told Mojo the story of the song: "We'd talked about how the ideal of Valhalla is cool because you have to actually do something full-on to get there, you couldn't just blow yourself up and get in Valhalla – it doesn't work like that. You have to be brave. Then we were like, 'I wonder if there's an American Valhalla?'

    The vibraphone felt Roman, almost like opera. Here's an icon coming to the later stages of his life, the creator of punk rock, who's survived, and displayed a willingness to be himself in the face of great odds, in a band that was hated but spawned all the good bands. Those lyrics: 'Lonely lonely deeds that no one sees. I've nothing but my name…' He's facing mortality and sensing none of the stuff matters. To be part of that statement felt so wonderful."
  • The video was shot by New York-based director Jamie-James Medina and stars English model Ruth Bell. We see Bell sat on a stool behind a small box that plays clips of a boxing match combined with footage of Iggy Pop. The box then disappears and the model is shown with bruises on her face.

    "I was listening to 'American Valhalla' and was reminded of this very low-key but classic fight between Dick Tiger and Gene Fullmer, which took place in Nigeria in 1963 and for whatever reason I found a connection there," Medina told Nowness. "There is so much history in Iggy's voice and that seems to be a theme throughout his new record - the contender or the survivor or the last man standing. Iggy remembers watching the fight, which is incredible."

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