There was a time when Lady Gaga was queen. Anyone who remembers those heady days when the Noughties tipped over into… whatever we even call this pathetic decade, will remember that Gaga’s peak was billed as the music world’s biggest star since Britney, a whirlwind of monsters and glitter and meat. But Gaga’s peak – which happened between the release of “Bad Romance” and 2011’s Born This Way – was notably, a period in which she didn’t release a new album.
The reason Gaga was arguably the most relevant, talked about artist of this time was down to her music videos. She released three new videos between November 2009 and April 2010, for “Bad Romance”, “Telephone” and “Alejandro”.
When the music video for “Bad Romance” dropped in November 2009, a surreal collaboration with film director Francis Lawrence that saw Gaga kidnapped by a creepy supermodel gang, critics reeled. Rolling Stone called it her “craziest video yet”, praising its Kubrick references and “otherworldly fashion”, while the Los Angeles Times said the video could “redeem our faith in performance art”. It would become the most viewed video on YouTube.
“Telephone”, too, both saw audiences glued to their screens and critical fawning: the Atlantic deconstructed the video frame by frame, its feminist credentials were endlessly debated, the Telegraph marvelled that the video’s “all-singing, all-dancing, lesbian-prison-sex and mass-murder […] has stirred up the kind of pop sensation not seen for a decade or more”:
In a move boldly contrary to the credit-crunch spirit of the modern music business (where the average pop video budget has fallen to under £10,000), GaGa’s big production is on its way to becoming one of the most watched videos of all time, clocking up 17 million views in its first four days, and that’s not counting its massive television audience. In doing so, it has propelled her song to the top of charts around the world on downloads alone, even though the single was not officially released until this week.
Alejandro’s “homoerotic military theme” and religious iconography caused a similar stir on release in June 2010, causing the LA Times to muse, “no one understands the convergence of image and music right now better than Gaga”. That year, she was nominated for 13 MTV VMAs (and, yes, accepted the top award in a dress made of meat).
Flash forward to 2016, and a dressed-down Lady Gaga has released what is quite possibly the most boring music video of the year.
In it, Gaga dances both frantically and aimlessly in the middle of the desert, in the same denim hot pants and crop top combo she’s been (deliberately) sporting for months.
Sometimes she’s the only thing in the landscape, sometimes she is alone aside from skeletal staging equipment, sometimes she’s surrounded by people (presumably mirages, the “illusion” of the songs title). There’s some frenzied camera work. And that, friends, is it.
It’s a completely different approach to the turn-of-the-decade days of a different outfit every 30 minutes, a constant stream of outrageous, hyperbolic visuals to accompany irresistible songs. But going against her grain only makes her more similar to every other mediocre act out there.
And a bland video seems even more insipid in 2016 – the year when Lemonade and “Famous” made “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “Anaconda” seem standard. Put simply, it’s not good enough, Gaga – and you, of all people, should know better.