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Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro”: Sound and Fury?

June 9, 2010

With her new music video “Alejandro,” (probably NSFW) Lady Gaga has moved from “high” concept and obtuse but still somewhat coherent into visually Resnor/Rammstein territory that clashes with a distinctly Latin sound.  Perhaps Gaga has entered her “La Isla Bonita” phase, if Gaga, still young in the industry, is later found to have had distinguishable phases.  While the lyrics themselves, delivered with an accent that sounds both French and Spanish, have a Latin flair, the video exists almost entirely in a German military-fetishist’s fantasy.  From the “Gaga Klein Alejandro” screenshots to the regimented, choppy dance routines (one with an interesting take on the goosestep and which includes a Star of David formed by a carried prop) to the uniform and dress regalia, “Alejandro” creates a Wehrmacht aesthetic, but apparently with Karl Lagerfeld and Clive Barker as costume designers.

Before the song proper starts, we see Lady Gaga leading a funeral procession while looking like a cross between the Borg Queen and the Queen of Hearts, holding an internal organ whose deep red provides the first strong color of the video other than bleak blues, grays, and a little flesh.  After a short monologue, a squad of very fit young men in black boxer briefs with Moe Howard haircuts begin a dance/exercise regimen.  They continue these PT-type routines, often on top of military-looking bunks, sometimes breaking off into sexually-tinged, violent duos.  In the background play scenes of fire, riots, and security forces attempting to maintain order.

“Alejandro” saves the most vibrant color, almost exclusively red, for its flashes of religious imagery: Gaga wearing a nun’s habit, or at least pieces of it, adorned with crosses.  (Interestingly, the crosses all appear inverted, one covering her crotch.)  At one point, Gaga nearly swallows a rosary.  Is she trying to symbolize religion being crammed down people’s throat?  Or, seeing that the scene incorporates vivid color and is intercut with other quick scenes of nearly violent groping, is she trying to say that sex and religion are the two things that give our existence “color”?  Or both?  Or neither?  Like most Catholics I’ve known, Lady Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta into a Catholic family, and a Catholic school attendee herself) seems to have a conflicted, or at least complex, view of sex and religion.  She infuses her songs and her life with overtly sexual themes, speaks of her bisexuality, but also champions celibacy.  All that shows up in “Alejandro.”

As with most Lady Gaga music videos, this short film/video is visually arresting and sonically interesting, but its mishmash of themes just doesn’t gel (relatively speaking) as well as, say, the slightly more frivolous, comic-book-ish “Telephone.”  With so many large and weighty ideas—love, sex, death, war, religion—crammed into 8:43, “Alejandro” gets pulled in too many directions at once, never deeply exploring any of them.  With Lady Gaga, then again, maybe that’s the point.

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