Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Grisly Girl Power, or How I Became a Fan of Lady Gaga

So Lady Gaga's newest video, "Paparazzi," has been leaked.

The eight minute mini-movie opens with an easily too-long make out scene between the Lady and Alexander Skarskard, which quickly turns into a dangerous shoving match on the balcony as he tries to force her into a prime photographing position for the hidden pap. She falls to the cement below and the song begins as she is wheeled onto the red carpet with jeweled neckbrace and crutches in tow. The rest of the video is awash with a grotesquely fascinating mix of hyper sexual glitz and stylized, macabre flashes of young women splayed out in what one must assume are fame-related deaths, ending in Lady Gaga's casual murder of Alexander
Skarskard. As she is carried away in handcuffs, newspapers with headlines like "She's Back!!!" and "We Love Her Again!" fall around her, and the mini-movie ends with her mugging for the police camera.

For someone who is widely regarded as a pop-princess, I'd say that's pretty heavy. And it works.

What fascinates me about Lady Gaga is her armor. As a casual observer, I have never once seen her eyes unmasked by thick bangs, layers of eyeshadow, and false eyelashes. And though, as one YouTube observer so eloquently put it, "does lady gaga beleive in pants cuaes in every music vid shes wairing a bathing suit," she only ever shows her hips, butt, and thighs, which are provocative but at this point in music video history not at all intimate. Every emotional, telling part of her body (ie shoulders, collarbone, neck, face) is almost always covered by several layers or exaggerated fashion features, most famously those face-covering sunglasses or wing-like shoulder padding.

Her most sexual features are often prominently displayed, especially in this video, but in a "look, don't touch" kind of way. At least half of her dancers are male, and yet she never dances with them in a way that makes her the subservient or weaker partner. She is always dominant;
she is always in control. This is what makes the beginning of the mini-movie so frightening, as she lets down her guard to be with this guy and her cue to begin panicking is when he pushes her onto the balcony ledge and asks her, "Do you trust me?"

The flashes of the bodies of the dead girls are set against the main chorus, "I'm your biggest fan/I'll follow you until you love me/papa, paparazzi," giving the whole video a creepy, unsettling vibe. Necessary, though, to get her point across.

Lady Gaga clearly owns herself, her body, and her art. She is over the top and caricatured, but in this she gives herself the freedom to express herself and be seen in the way she chooses to, not the way the pap, or anyone else, might paint her.


nevie said...

does the song sound exactly the same as her first two which i won't even name because they are really the exact same song? because i refuse to describe someone who recycles her own music as "owning her art."

(i'm slightly bitter.)

B.Graham said...

No it's not the same at all, which is how I became a fan at this song, and not the previous two. And the other song I listened to I really liked as well, so I stand by my charge.

B.Graham said...

also "her art" could be extended to "her director's art" because, as a casual observer, I don't really know who had more direction in that.

ali d said...

Well whatdya know?

I have to admit, I was really really late in figuring out the whole Lady Gaga thing. People kept mentioning her around me, and I'd ask who that is, and they'd say, "You know, she does that 'just dance' song" and I'd pretend to know what they were talking about so things wouldn't get complicated. I eventually did hear Just Dance on the radio, but until I read this post and investigated further, I still hadn't heard Poker Face.

Once I did hear the song, Lady Gaga immediately fell into my Katy Perry/Twilight category: guilty pleasure. Fun! Catchy! I kind of like this! But nowhere in it was there any kind of substance or intellectual value.

So well-played, Lady Gaga/Rob Fusari/Jonas Akerlund. You have proven me wrong. Paparazzi is incredibly clever, and I agree with B. about the music video - it's grotesquely artistic and can be taken as a vivid statement on the public treatment of (especially female) celebrity. Plus, it's also fun! and catchy! and I like it!

But you're not off the hook yet. I want to have words about the message of Just Dance. I'll save that for my own post, though.

- - - - -

B., this was a great reading of both Paparazzi and her public persona. I'm not sure I'm ready to put on bug-eyed sunglasses and shout Girl Power!, but it was definitely insightful and thought-provoking. Kudos!

Ozkirbas said...

Admittedly, I originally blew Lady Gaga off as just another pop/dance fad. One of the CD's in Fed Hill Fitness is full of Lady Gaga. But, after Paparazzi, maybe I should pay more attention...

Max Nova said...

I hate her more than I hate Katy Perry and the Pittsburgh Steelers combined. Her music is terrible, her schtick is terrible. She repulses on every level.

But I think idolator sums it up better than I:


Give me Lily Allen, or anything else. There are dozens of great pop artists, but this shit is just terrible.

B.Graham said...

From a fashion perspective, I love her. And I agree/disagree with that article, Max, because she could totally go the Bjork way and wear whatever she damn well pleases, but on the other hand, no one tells Andre 3000 that he's not "not dressing like a pop star" enough to suit their needs. And I'm not implying it's because he's a man, but oh yeah, I am.

I think she owns her sexuality and her image in a way that is completely different from anyone else, and I'm going to stand by that.

Lily Allen and Lady Gaga to me is like apples and oranges, so I'm not going to comment on that.

B.Graham said...

PS I just reread this post and I never once mentioned my opinion of the song. I wouldn't say it's brilliant, but I like it. And also, it's not my point.

Stephen said...

The end of the video for Paparazzi reminded me of the ending of Sunset Boulevard. The opening credits were very 1950s as well.

While I don't think she'll have much staying power over the long term, I can still admire the fearlessness in her approach to entertaining. The content of her songs seems more thought out than most pop songs.

Jason Heat said...

up until this post I had no idea that 'Lady Gaga' wasn't a woman's dodge ball league.

I'm disappointed, I really like dodge ball.

nevie said...

as much as i love to play the 'it's because she's a woman card' -- people don't mess with andre 3000's look because he makes good music. lady gaga doesn't.

nevie said...

not to mention, her 'original look' is based on nyc go-go dancers that have been around for years.

B.Graham said...

NYC go go and/or club kids focus more on the grotesque and sexual, which in a way is very similar to what she wears but it's not the same. And it's also not what anyone else in Hollywood wears, so if she says she's unique, she is in that way.

The bright colors and patent leather worn by both are similar, but not much else. If Lady Gaga is a throwback, which I'm sure she is because everything is, then she's a lot closer to the early-to-mid 80s Flashdance look than anything modern.

David Pratt said...

A less gentlemanly view of the same topic:


Chris Evans said...

lol, I like a few of her songs but her whole shtick is incredibly, incredibly contrived and that turns me off.