Why does this year’s slate of movies suck so bad? There has literally been not one movie out all summer that I have wanted to see. They are all sequels or rehashes of stories that have already been told. As mentioned before, originality in Hollywood is dead.
In light of this disheartening fact, I would like to highlight a beacon of light in the entertainment industry – Lady Gaga. You don’t have to like her. In fact, her songs, although they have catchy hooks, are often repetitive and annoying. She does not have the musical creativity of M.I.A. I would place her firmly in the same camp as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, but more like the former. Gaga does have a voice and is talented like Christina, but knows how to market herself to the media like Britney. You really need to look past the crazy clothes and shock value tactics to truly appreciate Gaga. She has arguably single-handedly revitalized the music industry in the last two years. It has been a while since the last time an artist came around who put out a music video and instantaneously, EVERYONE knew the song and what was happening in the video. Madonna, Michael Jackson and Britney can all claim that feat and that is quite a good crowd for Gaga to be in.
I love the effort and the passion she puts into everything that she does. She is of the mindset that if you are not going to do something the very best, why bother doing it at all. It is an incredibly admirable philosophy to have. “Be the best you can be” is an ideal most of us hold high, but very few of us ever try hard enough to achieve it. Gaga’s music videos started out mediocre and actually below par with Just Dance and Poker Face, but she was still relatively new then. She started amping up the sex in LoveGame and from that point forward has appeared nearly naked in almost all of her videos. However, starting from Paparazzi, every music video she has made has been more of a short film. Budgets soared to the point where she was no longer turning a profit. She was truly doing it for the love of art and not the money, which makes me respect her as a musician infinitely more. Her videos started having deep messages such as Bad Romance’s subtle insinuations at the brutality of the Russian sex slave trade. Rife with pop culture references, Telephone was a mockery of our obsession with commercialism.
As interesting as the Telephone video was to watch, it didn’t actually have anything to do with the song. I never really understood that. If you wrote a song, it was presumably because you had something to say. And if you had something to say, wouldn’t you want to depict that in video when given the chance? What started with Telephone extended in even larger magnitudes with Alejandro. First of all, I fail to understand what this song is about. Secondly, I doubt it has anything to do with sacrilege, a highly fashionable military or androgynous rough sex.
Listen, I am all about being provocative in your music videos. I think that is one of the reasons the format has remained relevant. However, Lady Gaga used to be provocative with a purpose. Now, she is just provocative to see how weird she can get. Not only is she blatantly going for shock value, but she is repeating things that have been done by others. It is one thing to pay homage to someone like Gaga did for Tarantino in the Telephone video, but it is another to emulate everyone to the point that nothing is your own any more. In the Alejandro video, Gaga borrows heavily from Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Bob Fosse, not to mention that the hook of the song has a very strong resemblance to that of Ace of Base’s Don’t Turn Around. There is really no need to wear crosses over your crotch and suggestively deepthroat rosary beads when Madonna burned crosses over twenty years ago. In fact, there is no reason to do anything sacrilegious at all. I am all for religious freedom and separation of church and state, but I am also for respecting all religions, even if I don’t agree with them. At least when Madonna burned crosses in her video and made out with black Jesus, she was making a statement about prejudice and how little we have progressed in the last 2,000 years. I fail to see the point of the crosses and the rosaries in the Alejandro video.
And finally on a completely superficial level, what is with the hair in this video? For someone that has had so much gender doubt, is it really wise to adopt a the bowl cut of a pre-pubescent boy and practically sodomize a member of what appears to be the gay militia? I really like the dark and gloom of the video and the dance sequence from 4:11 to 4:38 is off the hook, but thematically it just doesn’t make sense to me. Lady Gaga said earlier that it was supposed to be an ode to her gay fans, but I am not really sure how engaging in an orgy with sexually ambiguous half-naked men is supposed to do anything positive for her gay fanbase. It only reinforces stereotypes that gay men are sex-crazed gym addicts with no respect for military or religion.
I expected something better from Lady Gaga, something deeper. She started out so strong, but lately her work has been lacking purpose. Earlier I said you had to look beyond the crazy clothes and shock value to truly appreciate Gaga, but in the case of Alejandro, looking past that leaves you with only empty space.