Saturday, March 26, 2011

(a)Musings: Machine Gun Baby

When Born This Way came out a friend directed my attention to some hokey entertainment reviewer's article that erroneously compared it to Madonna's Express Yourself. The guy has clearly never listened to the latter; the sound and the message are completely different.

However, I noticed this and the image stuck with me:


Isn't that funny? I know Madonna's is a hand wrap for boxing, but they're almost mirror images. I have to wonder if Gaga internalised it a few years ago when she more than likely bought a physical copy of Hard Candy and flipped it over to look at the track listing.

Of course I'll happily admit along with everyone else that Gaga has shamelessly ripped off Madonna a number of times: Alejandro recalled La Isla Bonita, until the post-apocalyptic cybergoth video full of homoerotic Nazi imagery came out and made a statement about Don't Ask Don't Tell. My personal favourite is the spoken list of classic Hollywood celebrities in Dance in the Dark, exactly like the one in Vogue.

And yes, of course, an oversexed Madonna was walking around in bras and bustiers with bleach-blonde hair and ridiculous accessories practically before Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was ever birthed. Every time Gaga pulls a blatantly Madonna-inspired stunt, I imagine Madonna sitting on a colossal throne in a dark room somewhere and crushing a chalice with rage, stubbornly refusing to accede said throne.

The thing is, though, aside from the fact that Gaga can actually sing, that she's a pop culture juggernaut. I think she's become so huge not only because she brought more electronic dance music back into the Top 40, but because she rolls everything everyone liked about the 20th century into one raunchy little New York Italian girl with stars in her eyes and a song in her lobster hat. She brings back disco, the 70's and 80's, that good dance music, high fashion, and fearless experimentation while inspiring countless people every day in any given realm.

Bad Romance has a couple of really good examples of what I'm talking about in it. 
I'm pretty bad about keeping up with popular new music releases, but I watched that video 17 times in a row when it came out. It brought tears to my eyes not only because it was truly epic in aesthetics and theme, but because I knew then that she would be around for a long time to come. She and her Haus are so Warholian, like the Factory for my generation but the opposite of underground, which was the whole intention to begin with. 

So anyway, everyone knows that "Psycho", "Vertigo" stick, and "Rear Window" are Hitchcock references, but the white latex skeleton bodysuit at the beginning of the video is a nod to an earlier work, too: Elsa Schiaparelli's skeleton dress. It was part of a 1938 collection she and Salvador Dali collaborated on that also included Dali's famous lobster dress. 



The big eyes that everyone thought were so weird and wonky are Margaret Keane's, recalling a creepy lost child:



Waiting to see what Gaga is going to allude to or reinvent next is probably the best thing about keeping up with her, seeing as how the quality of her music and production fluctuate pretty violently, but as long as she doesn't completely run off the deep end or anything, her aesthetic value should stand.