As previously announced, Lady Gaga hatched her highly anticipated new video for “Born This Way” this morning.
Actually, this is just the first of two music videos she’s promised for her new dance-happy empowerment anthem—the other, an iTunes-only release, will be paired with an acoustic version of the song. As with all things “Born This Way,” this first vid, directed by fashion photographer Nick Knight, has been heavily hyped, with Gaga going so far as to say that it’s about “the birth of a new race within the race of humanity. The birth of a new race that doesn’t bear any prejudices.”
It’s not every day that we have a video nativity! Check it out:
Damn, if this doesn’t give us a lot to unpack! As always with Gaga, the music itself is only half the artistic experience. For those of us a tad disappointed with “Born This Way”—honestly, I had expected a soaring piano anthem a la “You and I,” rather than the relatively tame club track we got—the video gives us a lot more to consider.
Gaga the cinephile interests me as much as Gaga the musician. After referencing Tarantino and Godard in her “Telephone” video, she’s gone back to the well of “Bad Romance” and Alfred Hitchcock—remember, she famously listed Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window in the lyrics to the ubiquitous Fame Monster smash. She opens “Born This Way” with Bernard Herrmann’s melancholy, otherworldly title theme to Vertigo, played over a kaleidoscopic progression of Saul Bass-style images that show in grotesque detail the “birth of a new race.”
In the past, she’s littered her videos with tight close-ups of eyes and lips with an obsession matching that of Hitchcock himself. But this time, she’s focusing on a different part of female anatomy. Well, if nothing else, she definitely shares Madonna’s fixation on the human reproductive organs!
There’s a great tongue-in-cheek quality to the “Manifesto of Mother Monster” she recites as an alien birth canal issues its monstrous spawn: “As the wombs numbered and the mitosis of the future began, it was perceived that this infamous moment in life was not temporal, it is eternal.”
The half-baked pseudo-profundities of a dozen movies flickered across my mind: The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Inception, take your pick. Gaga seems determined to create—and star in—her own myth, while picking apart the inherent simple-mindedness of most mythologies. She’s set her saga in a loopy sci-fi locale, G.O.A.T. (Government-Owned Alien Territory), appears in full Queen Amidala regalia, pontificates on the nature of good and evil. Look for her version of Captain E.O. to open in 3D at EPCOT Center next summer.
Once the Herrmann prelude ends, though, and “Born This Way” proper begins, it becomes a much more standard video. Born-again Gaga line-dances in a chain bikini that seems left over from “Telephone.” Honestly, I’m surprised she didn’t go further with this. Since she’s just been born, shouldn’t she be in her birthday suit? For modesty—if such a thing concerns her—she could be covered in glittery amniotic fluid! Sure it would be more difficult to pull off Laurieann Gibson’s choreography, but dancing has never been Gaga’s forte anyway.
More intriguing to me was the exoskeletal makeup she wore to go all Dios de Los Muertos on us. Sporting a tux, bony Gaga looked like Marlene Dietrich by way of Kenneth Anger. Still, the song itself felt like a major comedown from the mythic, Hitchcockian prelude. That intro proved she’s now the great trickster of American popular culture, passing off irony as sincerity and dogma as truth. In this literal-minded, post-irony Message Board era, no wonder people don’t “get” her. But if we “got” everything she’s trying to do, wouldn’t that rob it of all the fun?