June 9, 2010
Ten Thoughts on Gaga's Ale-Alejandro
#1 The 8-minute version of Lady Gaga's new Alejandro video is an icy mess. I hope we'll see a shorter edit where the best ideas leap out. My consistent complaint with Gaga's visuals is that she has a problem editing her message into something powerful in its conciseness.
#2 The song itself is brilliant. A massive summer joyride with an earworm chorus and, despite the cheesily wonky attempts at foreign accents, the vocal is less affected than many of her singles. The referencing of Fernando, recalling Abba, is canny and "just smoke cigarette and hush" is pleasingly commanding.
#3 My favorite set piece in the video is the "runway" dancing with the black pants and the Dorothy Hamill hair (look for it at 5:52), but it's been edited with a pulse effect that makes it too choppy. I also love the subversive bed dancing where she's topping the men, though the set is a rip of director Steven Klein's X-static Process work with Madonna.
#4 I've been going off Klein for a long while now. His fashion editorial work is one trick pony, usually relying on literally slick women rendered as robotic or inhuman, often set into menacing or potentially violent scenarios (he does this stuff to men too). He fares much better here, but I attribute that to Gaga.
#5 Back to her look: Amazing. It is so ugly it's beautiful, in the same way Liza Minnelli was in Cabaret. Gaga nails it every time. Most of the looks reference other artists - in this case, I see Isabella Blow, Madonna and - haha! Cathy Rigby! That's fine. Madonna did homage up the wazoo in the 80's and Gaga is smart enough to know that she still needs to seek out original iconic moments like the infamous hair bow.
#6 She is pleasingly without her usual absurd costumes in the aforementioned bed sequence. I think she needs to do more of this. She looks tiny and vulnerable. Lithe, but not like she's trying to sell sex.
#7 I agree with Tom Houser that Gaga is doing the best job at pop stardom right now, in part because she has a lot of ideas and ALL the resources, like Madonna. You want a budget for your piddly-ass video? Write to Haus of Gaga. What I am kicking against is the idea that Gaga is the all encompassing Face of Modern Pop Music - that everything NOT Gaga fades in her light. Musically, I can tell you right now that I will like Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite far more than I like Fame Monster. There is room for Kylie, Madonna and Gaga. Just not... Ke$ha.
#8 So, the challenge for Gaga is really about her music. Can she bring the same swirl of ideas to songs that she brings to visuals? She doesn't have to - Alejandro and Bad Romance are good enough as they are. But if she wants to put her money where her mouth is and create a "major musical statement," she needs to dig deeper and, I'd say, move beyond her current collaborators. To have lasting impact, I think she should step out more often from behind the characters she creates. She is most likable when she does that, though I doubt being "liked" is her priority.
#9 Which brings up another point. How Gaga's music is far more joyous than her visuals. I like it when artists weld sad lyrics to happy songs or do the same with visuals. Her view is definitely cockeyed and I appreciate that she, like Bjork, wants to bring something a bit esoteric to the mainstream. But like Robbie Daw at Idolator, I wish she'd chill on the heavy messages. It's a pearl-handled hammer.
#10 Whatever I say, she is IN the zeitgeist, if not it. She's got a halo around her finger around you.