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Jai Yen

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i dare you to dare me not to comment on this.

looks like gaga is testing how far she can push the madonna comparisons.  immediately the music video for “express yourself” comes to mind, as well as the performances from the blonde ambition tour (1990) — the gun bra = cone bra from this era.   it’s also laced with some “vogue”, “oh father”, and “justify my love”.  ah, and maybe a little janet jackson’s “rhythm nation” circa those hard-lockin’ dance sequences, hmm?  gaga makes it look like doing pop music was nothing but creating a frappé of past successes anyway, if the song itself is any indication:

2 cups “don’t turn around” (ace of base) +
2 tbsp. “la isla bonita” (madonna) +
1 tsp. “fernando” (ABBA)

and blend.

funny, too, how just a month ago, xtina was accused of ripping off lady gaga in her own decidedly un-hip take on madonna, when here the video for “alejandro” comes off as a fresher, bigger budget version of xtina’s newest video:

yes, xtina is still mining those too-recent, too-dirrty days when pussycat dolls were huge and stilettos were  hott.   except here she pushes it off the precariously campy cliff of sluttiness-is-power that still held strong in 2005; now it just comes off as trying too hard: yeah, we get it, you like to get good and laid, xtina, and you’re still in control, despite that scary-ass gear.  what’s more interesting about lady gaga is that she doesn’t always seem to be in control in her videos.  okay, yes, she does light her captor on fire in “bad romance,” and yes, she and her hunny B has the diner sleeping with the (fried) fishes, and, yes, she ties up that one random soldier in this video.  but just as often, gaga is either held captive, or unable to secure the object of her desire — she’s a toy, a mannequin.  a more resonant icon, perhaps, for those of us increasingly aware of our lack of agency, whether sexual or political?  despite the darkness of gaga’s videos, this also renders her maybe a little less threatening and a little more relatable to teenagers than bondaged xtina.

beyond the obvious pop references, there are some filmic nods as well.  lynch, anyone?  how about this shot:

which seemed redolent of the man in the planet from eraserhead (1976):

or the closing “film meltdown” shot:

as the freaky laura-dern/dying-phantom face near the end of inland empire (2006)?:

i also got guy madden vibes throughout the video, gaga sometimes reminding me of isabella rosselini’s legless character in the saddest music in the world (2003):

oh, and of course, can’t forget the queen of chain from matthew barney’s cremaster 5 (1997):

right?? can we get barney on board with the next gaga video, please?

this is to say nothing of director steven klein, who more or less rips himself off.  did i mention klein did a piece for madonna’s re-invention tour?

it’s no secret that gaga’s likes to provoke skepticism of her originality as an artist, and seeing as her work is keenly designed to motivate discussion about what it is to be pop, this video doesn’t have me all too worried on that account.  she’s got us talking again.

the homoeroticism, on the other hand, while admittedly titillating by all accounts, also disappoints a bit.  here’s what gaga had to say on larry king last week about the video: “It is a celebration of my love and appreciation for the gay community, my admiration of their bravery, their love for one another and their courage in their relationships.”  what, like, our courage to worship chiseled adonises that act out their troubled masculinities through guns and synchronized dancing?  canny of gaga to play up the sex factor, but it’s unfortunate that she didn’t sex up the abnormal/queer body like she did with the lesbionic prisoners in “telephone.”  that was both startling and hilarious; this is both boneriffic and kind of boring.  can’t a pop diva play to her gay fans without playing the mostly-naked-beefcake card?  to that end, the last real mainstream success was– oh wait– xtina!

2004, folks — and that kiss is still more shocking and moving than anything in “alejandro.”

no matter, the video works.  youtube comments seem even more polarized than those from “telephone”, including a good amount of outrage on the rosary consumption (personally, my favorite moment).  let’s thank dinorock181 for keeping things real:

dinorock181
3 minutes ago
@NAVH94 she put a rosary in her mouth because she wants the lord in all of her cavities. including the oral one

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