Lady Gaga’s 14 minute long epic music video for her newest single Marry the Night has everything from bedazzled jean jackets, nudity, dancing in the streets, and the oh so delicious Mark Kanemura. All things we have come to expect from a Gaga video. This is the first video that she has directed and has said that it represents a dark chapter in her life when she was dropped from Def Jam records. So let’s start dissecting the highs and lows, because we have 14 minutes to cover.
The video’s prologue (or if you will, Gaga Interrupted or One Flew Over the Gaga’s Nest…I can go on all day) starts off with an overwrought voice over by Gaga, as she talks about memories, truth and the creation of our pasts. In it, we get such gems as, “Truthfully, the lie of it all is much more honest, because I invented it.”
I’m sorry, what? Although Gaga has found her creative voice, she seems to have sacrificed her logic. But what is Gaga trying to say here? That mint green will be big in fashion next spring? Oh dear, let’s hope not! As an artist that has been slammed for being all about artifice she doesn’t seem to want to display a deeper understanding of herself. Even as we get a glimpse into her past (or an re-imagining of her past) Gaga remains a mystery. Was she in a clinic? Did she overdose on something? Was there a suicide attempt? Does it matter?
As much as the script is over-indulgent, what I liked about this opening is it’s attempt to play on the idea of reality and make-believe. In a world of reality TV and reality stars, where we are often presented with a made-up reality, she seems to understand this and want to subvert it. Of her latest album, Born This Way, she has said that it was her most personal. She has pledged undying love to her fans, but even in her attempts to be truthful and open about who she is, there is still an element of superficiality and fantasy. And that’s the point – it’s a persona. In a world of celebrity personalities, what we know about them is what they want us to know. Even in instances of tabloid exposures, celebrities have a way to spin those stories to their own advantage. Gaga knows this and plays along. There is no truth to celebrity life, it is all stories, that while they may be based from truth, are twisted and molded into a new reality.
From the hospital, we move on to Gaga Ballerina (or Black Swan Gaga) and Gaga in her low rent apartment on the East side of Manhattan. This is the moment she discovers she has been let go by Def Jam and the subsequent meltdown she suffered. And what a meltdown! Complete with a maxi pad bra and Cheerios?? I for one will never look at Cheerios in quite the same way. This scene paints a picture of the past while constantly making the viewer aware that this is not real. From the muted dialogue to the French subtitles (perhaps an homage to the French New Wave and more pointedly Nana from Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre as vie). As a viewer, our participation in the story is interrupted constantly to remind us that what we are watching is not real but a made-up version of her past.
Cut to her ladyship in the bathtub bleaching her hair platinum blonde, alluding to her transformation into the Gaga we have come to know. During this, the voice over sings the opening of the song,
I’m gonna marry the night,
I won’t give up on my life
I’m a warrior queen
Moral of the story – never give up kids. Even when all seems lost and you find yourself having to use a maxi pad as a bra, there is hope!
Then the voice over starts again as she walks into a large room where dancers look down at her from the mezzanine. Although it may have appeared that she lost everything she still had her most prized possession, her bedazzler. Oh and patches. I guess if you don’t become the shinning star you wanted to be, your clothes should still shine on.
Finally the video finally starts…or it doesn’t. We find Gaga hanging upside down inside a muscle car. Here she comes back to her usual motifs from her other Born This Way videos, leather, cars and empty lots at night. As the song finally starts Gaga is in one of the cars and as the song builds up to the heart stomping chorus the cars explode and Gaga emerges like a Phoenix from the ashes and starts to dance. More like shake and spasm.
From there we go into the choreography section of the video where we find Gaga in her denim bedazzled halter top and her dance academy friends. I know this is may be more of an homage to Fame and Flashdance, but for some reason this scene reminded me more of a Jane Fonda workout video from the 80s. The funny thing about this whole sequence is that although it recalls the great dance films of that era and those heroines that go after their dreams of becoming great dancers, the truth is Gaga is not a great dancer. In all her choreography work, she is always outshined by her dancers. Unlike Britney, Madonna and Janet, Gaga is not know for her dancing. Not to say that she is not the best dancer but she shines more than those out of the Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey school of divas. I will say this, the choreography did make me want to get up and dance my little heart out and possibly even marry the night (sigh).
Now that the choreography is down, what is left to do? Take it to the streets of course!! Like any great 80s video there must be dancing in the streets. Here Gaga and her band of merry dancers take it to the mean streets of NYC…or empty streets of an obvious backlot (perhaps the same one used in the Edge of Glory video). The rest of the video is scenes of choreography intercut with earlier scenes until we get a shot of a hand opening up with the words, “Interscope Records, 4pm” written on it. And as we all know Interscope is the record company that launched Gaga – she made it! And cut to the final scene of a women (Gaga?) in a red dress, with a huge hat, surrounded by flames. Is this Gaga being engulfed in her Fame Monster? Or perhaps another allusion to the Phoenix metaphor.
Although this may not be as epic as her classic Bad Romance video, it is a hundred times more interesting and beautiful than anything Katy Perry has crapped out. She has made a video grabs our attention while also keeping us at arms length. Just do a Google search for commentaries on this video alone. That’s why I find Lady Gaga so interesting as an artist. She has single-handedly made videos interesting again. She is not always successful but she is always interesting. The proof is the the way other artists have followed suit. But while her wannabes (Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Rihanna) try to play catch up, she is in a world of her own, never afraid to take risks.
So, what do you think? Am I suffering from blind faith? Is this video nothing more than a vanity project for Gaga’s ego or is there something more there? Sound off in the comments.
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