June 8, 2010

The Fame Monster Bites Back

Oh, Gaga. I really do like you. I find your music, videos and daily life a really awesome perspective on fame, performitivity, and contemporary pop culture. I pretty much think you are awesome. And you always make for a rockin' dance party, even if it is just me in my living room.

But your new video for "Alejandro", above, is disappointing. First off, can we please talk about how the song itself is just a collaboration between Madonna and Ace of Base? And a really mediocre one at that? It's like a desperate attempt by both of them to regain number one status, but they've run out of ideas, so they just remix "La Isla Bonita" and "All That She Wants" and fail hard. If this song was anyone but Gaga, I doubt it would make the radio top playlists. I suppose, from a critical perspective, this faux collaboration could get some pop culture academics really excited, and so much of Gaga's work holds echoes of Madonna, but I'm not really sold.

And then there is the video. It is essentially a strange retrospective WWII scifi film featuring crazy Nazis and Madonna. All it was missing was Bai Ling's character from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, though I suppose Gaga's outfit first seen at 1:06 fills that role. And by Madonna, I mean her whole bag of crazy right up through Erotica (but definitely before Ray of Light). Seriously, all our favorite Madonna wacky antics feature in the video, and not in a great way. I know the director of the video has often collaborated with Madonna for her videos, but really?

Lady G is certainly all about the shock factor, and an androgynous nazi porn shoot definitely has a shock value, but in an almost predictable way. "Telephone" messes with gender expectations and plays with pop culture references, but is like very little we've seen before. "Alejandro" plays out like the first time a kid learns he can use Hitler as the ultimate insult -- inappropriate and shocking, yes, but really not innovative, compelling, or worth a second look.

PS: I did really like the brief dance sequence from 0:29 to about 1:00. And maybe 2.5 of her dozen outfits...
PPS: I really hope that the Dorothy Hamill haircut that she sports at 5:36, and that some indie babes are starting to rock (Inara George, for one...), doesn't catch on. I can't go through that again!

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