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.


Matt Microfilm said...

Confused why this video is so Russian Winter Fantasy Funeral when the title and song seem so summery warm and Latin. Too many overstuffed ideas too. We dont need the extra 4 min. to have more setpieces and more costumes. It dilutes it.

She also stole the ancient hospital bed in empty stage look from PSB Performance tour (It's a Sin, maybe?)

countpopula said...

Look, it's not the best video ever made, but hell, it sure gets people talking. Something like 4 million views in the first day? I'd like to see any other star do that right now (I'm lookin' at you Xtina), and that's with a 9 minute video!

I agree it's a mess, and makes little (if any sense), but it really serves as another moment where she can do whatever she wants and get away with it. Not many viewers would stick around for that long to watch any other artist do these kind of videos.

Many good points were made on this blog as well about the ugly-beautiful aesthetic. Madonna was not always the looker she pretended to be either. There is a level of sheer audacity at work here in this rather young artist the likes of which we have not seen for a while.

That being said, I think there's enough room in the world for the Kylies, Robyns, and Gagas--they all bring different things for different reasons, like the Madonnas, Cyndis, and Annie Lennoxes before them (I often think Gaga has more in common with Annie than some of the Madonna comparisons where image is concerned).

Can't wait for the Gaga video collection DVD!

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason R Fisher said...

First off, what a nicely written commentary on Gaga and 'Alejandro'. I pretty much agree on all counts.

I will say that I actually like that the video is so 'chilly' and in such contrast to the 'summery' music. It was genuinely unexpected and offers a different way to interpret and appreciate the song.

I also like that even though the video may or may not make sense in terms of storytelling, I appreciate that the imagery seems to be more about eliciting a gut reaction. Also, nice to see someone reinvigorate the music video as an art form.

Yuяi said...

Welcome to the church of GaGa, XO. Well said.

Anonymous said...

The song sounds like that Ace Of Base song.