Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The 'Alejandro' Video: Lady Gaga and Failures of Pastiche

hmmIs pastiche supposed to be coherent? I would argue that yes, it should be! There must be a motivating reason for ransacking and begging and borrowing from popular culture to reassemble it. And so the new Lady Gaga video, for the song "Alejandro," which is already a fairly incomprehensible thing, being as it is about maybe failed relationships and it being hot in Mexico and three guys and, I guess, having daddy issues, doesn't bring too much that's new to the table. Or too much that's good and also old, for that matter.

HERMThere's a setting of gay martial space fantasy, if Gamer met Riddick and perhaps a very forward-looking Dolce cologne ad. Pandorum v. a hint of Almodovar? (PANMODOVAR? ALMODVARUM? Can I get a witness?)

In this for some moments there's more of a tribute to Annie Lennox than any of Gaga's other forebears really? (Chilly, Pinter-doing Lennox, of course.) But that's in part because the song is, yes, particularly inane, recalling Abba's Fernando but not really holding a candle to it. (Hot like Mexico? Love you boy? EH.)


Unfortunately there are only cursory nods to Gaga's all-important vagina. There is of course some extraordinarily impressive abdominal isolation. But then she can't stop herself from going Madonna with a crucifix.

There is an awkward dance section in dance pants for no known reason.

oh dear
Then the video breaks down into flashbacks of sex acts and violence and militarism, which…. She appears to be the only woman to appear in the video, and at the end, she's being tossed about a group of men with aggressive monk bowl cuts, in her weird religious outfit. It ends with her largely disrobing, in an orgy only mildly more interesting than the recent Kylie orgy video.

On the feminism meter, it rates pretty darn low, which is surprising, after her recent escapades.

In the end, it's odd that we live in a time of third-hand reference! Mining the 20s through a mining circa the 50s through a mining in the 90s, by you know who? It's not like I want a lot from an art form whose primary purpose is that of background display in boy stripper bars. But I do want a little something something.

65 Comments / Post A Comment

cherrispryte (#444)

I do not care about the feminist meter. I would like to spend more time watching well-sculpted young men be butch while wearing stilettos. I do not know why I enjoy this, but I do.

Also, Gaga wasn't "acting," so this is way better than Telephone. Not as a good as Bad Romance, but still.

Bittersweet (#765)

At this point it seems the most radical video she could make is a straight-up concert video while wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The stage would preferably be in a field of grain, but an American flag might be overkill.

American flag t-shirt.

and a pair of flip flops.

Matt (#26)

Cargo shorts.

bassknives (#2,903)

join the bjort borg

HiredGoons (#603)

'aggressive Monkee bowl cuts'


Here we come walking down the street. Get the funniest looks from all chicks we beat..

saythatscool (#101)

Don't Turn Around by Ace of Base with Just Like a Prayer by Madonna.

Hey! Who chewed this bubblegum before me?

Moff (#28)

I think that's the point, though.

saythatscool (#101)

Agreed. Damn kids need to come up with something new and get the hell off my lawn.

sox (#652)

This is the second time in my day that Ace of Base's Don't Turn Around has come up. Is it a Sign?

myfanwy (#1,124)

No, it's just a cruel, cruel summer.

zidaane (#373)

Proof some trunks make you look like a Moe/Stooge in a Lady Gaga vid.

Matt (#26)

To be fair, the lyrics to "Fernando" are just as vague and, in the end, pointless. To be fair to them, English is not Björn's first language.

Matt (#26)

Also, "Chiquitita" is the waaaaaay better ABBA Latin tourism track.

C_Webb (#855)

Chiquitita rocks, even though in my mind it's sung to a small banana.

BoHan (#29)

I really just saw "Justify My Love," combined with a huge dosage of "Express Yourself," although not nearly as humorous or self-mocking as either. Also, Madonna loaned her some pants and a bra. Hurray for Hand-Me-Downs! I'm bored with Gaga's vagina.

Um, I'll go with "allegory of Ernst Romm and the purge of the SA in the Night of the Long Knives."?

Rohm, you idiot.

saythatscool (#101)

Good one! And just like Gaga, Ernst couldn't dance to save his life.

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

The fishnets and makeup lead me to think it's an homage to Visconti's "The Damned", which may be too old (and kinky) a reference for most of her fans. Trailer here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x82py0_trailer-the-damned-1969-visconti-be_shortfilms

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

Sorry – that reply was for Krugmanic Depressive, and I meant to add: "The Damned" features a long segment recreating the Night of the Long Knives.

@KK: Yes, that's it. As usual: allegory, too much work; pastiche? juuuust right.

Baroness (#273)

I first thought of that (massacre) too, but through the filter of its depiction in Visconti's The Damned. But Gaga didn't really go there.

So then I put on my crackpot cap and switched to looking for Illuminati symbolism.

Baroness (#273)

And, Kevin just said that. Ugh, drunk by 4:30. Learn to read, souse!

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

Hey, great minds and all…

(ps: I'm valet of the dolls at…other sites, but I've begun commenting here under my own name.)

8rectangles (#1,359)

This explains the rash of Spanx at the West Side Club.

Private Hangnail (#2,576)

This was a confusing episode of 'The Three Stooges'.

saythatscool (#101)

It's like 2007 Jezebel. It's all about Moe.

Private Hangnail (#2,576)

We really should be talking about rape then.

saythatscool (#101)

I got better things to do, like drinking more.

Private Hangnail (#2,576)

Me too. Like finally getting this tampon out. Argh! Vaginas, but with more run-on sentences.

wb (#2,214)

Fritz Lang is SO hot right now.

I dunno, maybe it's the black and white but I am getting a little Luis Buñuel vibe in the mix as well.

Bittersweet (#765)

The rosaries and S&M nun-wear might be helping with that.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

sort of reminds me of the video for Emerge by Fischerspooner. maybe it's just the lighting.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

I dunno, I kept thinking of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails videos? And Bear Force One? Maybe that's just me.

It's like there's a good three-minute video here about the tyranny of gender roles as a military regime, but then she's the menstruation pope and she's wearing a goth version of the Tank Girl outfit and who knows what's going on.

Matt (#26)


Matt (#26)

Also this would have been an awesome Tool video in 1996.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)


Kevin Knox (#4,475)

Needs more stop motion animated characters molesting each other.

roboloki (#1,724)

leave my priest out of this

Brad Nelson (#2,115)


ShanghaiLil (#260)

Choire, with all due respect, one of the worst tendencies of those of us who attended college in the late 80s/early 90s is the tendency to become ponderous and thoughtful about pop culture. Ferchrissakes. Just sit back and enjoy the man-nipples. Remember — television is supposed to be the OPIATE of the masses — not the speed.

C_Webb (#855)

In her defense, this looks nothing like a hipster's photo Tumblr after reading too much Thoreau and Whitman.

StevieD (#5,365)

Choire! This video has already been interpreted for you! I hope you read through this and revisit what you wrote!

"But that's just for sex. Gaga's devotion to, and promotion of, every aspect of gay culture is legendary. Bisexual herself, while her musical education might have been classical, her cultural education was homosexual, and comes to a head in the video for her forthcoming single, Alejandro.

Sprawled across the banquette, in a mood of eager excitement, Gaga shows me stills from the video shoot on her BlackBerry.

She's dressed as Joan of Arc, with a ferocious Purdey haircut. To be honest, I can't see much more than that, because she's a bit pissed and her thumbs keep getting in the way.

The video is about the "purity of my friendships with my gay friends", Gaga had explained, earlier. "And how I've been unable to find that with a straight man in my life. It's a celebration and an admiration of gay love – it confesses my envy of the courage and bravery they require to be together. In the video I'm pining for the love of my gay friends – but they just don't want me."


BoHan (#29)

So dressing hot man-flesh in wigs, fishnets and stilletos and making them do Busby Berkely circle dances is a homage to the gayz? Fuck that. Actually, if she wanted to pay tribute to gay men, she'd do a Pastiche of the highlights from Spartacus: Blood & Sand (Starz Network). It's a whole lot more interesting and gay, believe it or not.

Risa Dickens (#5,366)

the woman is a movement! you can wtach the new video in the context of a full video archive of her work and fans on Frequency, crazy compelling even if the music is not for you –


roboloki (#1,724)

i know who lady gag a is but had not heard her "sing" before. i will now return to my detachment, fashionable or not.

EeLeen Lee (#5,368)

'she raises the bar with each new video' they say.

I don't think there's a bar left- in surrealist (the same reaction I had when watching this video) terms, she raises the goldfish

HiredGoons (#603)

Ceci n'est pas une Gaga.

LondonLee (#922)

How many Surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to take the giraffe for a walk and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly-colored bicycles.

riggssm (#760)

Four thoughts:

1) Did the world need another mash-up of Madonna's greatest video moments?

2) I'd be mildly interested if Gaga was attractive. Madonna was at least sexy as she blatantly "paid tribute" to ________.

Gaga's alien-proportioned head makes me go, "Ungghhh."

3) 77 year old Gwen Verdon, legless, in a Scootaround, while on Valium, with broken arms, could dance better than Gaga.

4) Also, shock value? None.

bassknives (#2,903)

Co-sign. Also, Madonna's songs are better, which though rarely mentioned seems important.

sotto voce: Born Free!

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

Come on girls!
Do you believe in love?
Cause I've got something to sing about it!

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

I suppose in the rush to post Madonna references I should have read the comments beforehand.

As long as we are emptying the culture vaults for artifacts this video evokes, the opening reminds me of [i]Batman Returns[/i], though I always see that movie at any collision of snow and hard steel.

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

I have been on message boards lately.

Matt (#26)

I always see that movie all the time forever. Except when I see Batman Forever.

sajrocks (#2,067)

Ken Russell meets Bruce LaBruce meets Schindler's List? Think of the kids!

chef dave (#3,898)

I, too, see this as GaGa failing at her particular brand of pastiche. We all know she draws heavily on her influences but usually she does it in such a anti-subversive and meta-meta way that fans think she's cool for doing it. This video, however, is so blatant in it's use of video cliches, or should I say Madonna video cliches, (military shit, catholic shit, sex shit, dancing shit) that we question her intent and therefore the video's artistic merit.

Not a cultural spectacle like Telephone.
Not as well put together as Bad Romance.
Better luck next time.

I'm a LG fan; I blame the director.

narcissist (#5,382)

So, so, so sick of her. Her time has come and gone, it was good while it lasted.

myfanwy (#1,124)

No, just a cruel, cruel summer.

myfanwy (#1,124)

Oh, so finally it logs me in and splatters my comments everywhere.

Chewie (#2,980)

No one has mentioned the best part of this great video: no product placement!

The recession is officially over. Gaga has enough money to make a music video on her own.

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