I want to preface this by saying that I do enjoy listening to a Lady Gaga song now and again. But her attempts to push the limits on what is acceptable are dragging her down to the level of a prettier version of Beavis and Butthead.
Call me old school but I like music videos that at least loosely match their song. If you’ve got a song about love and your music video is about war, there’s something wrong – unless that song is Jordin Sparks’ “Battlefield.” For this reason, I’ve got a problem with Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.”
Lady Gaga is a fad for people who thrive on thinking they don’t thrive on fads. Actually they all do. To prove this I submit the fact that the music video for “Bad Romance” is the most viewed YouTube video ever (haven’t seen it because “rah-rah-ah-ah-ah / Roma, Roma-ma / GaGa, ooh la la” is artless). Lady Gaga’s latest, “Alejandro,” seems to follow a girl trying to break free from a controlling Mexican boyfriend or series of boyfriends.
There’s really not much to the song. In the first verse there’s a good girl that is controlling (“halo around her finger around you”), and in the second verse there’s a guy that is controlling (“her boyfriend’s like a dad”). I think he’s supposed to be good too, because he’s “gonna fool the bad.” Whatever. As long as we know he’s got a Spanish/Mexican name and Lady Gaga is sick of him, we’re on the same page.
But nowhere in the song does a pre-Nazi Germany element enter the scenario. First, “Alejandro” is a song with a distinct reference to Central America (“hot like Mexico”), a phrase in Spanish and numerous Latin American names, including the title. At best, its closest European association would be Spain, (and the song’s opening strings could imply that, if it wasn’t for the wind blowing that reminds listeners most of a western desert) but the Mexican reference kind of cancels that out as a location of origin. Germany, and any reference to it, is nowhere to be found.
Then there’s the military aspect, which also lacks roots in the song. The music video has some added cadence at parts, but in the original song there is no military cadence to the song’s beat, and the instruments used retain a distinctly electronic techno sound. This sound does in many ways fit modern Germany’s musical tastes (at least those of the German exchange student my family had last year), but modern Germany is not pre-Nazi Germany, as I’m sure Germans would be quick to point out. Additionally, in the lyrics there are no references to a society so crushed by post-war inflation that it is at a breaking point, like the music video implies.
Finally, while there is nothing about the song that is religious, in this video Lady Gaga is a good nun gone bad. Again, without a foundation in the song’s lyrics or music, bringing in the Catholic nun was, as Katie Perry called it, the equivalent of using a fart joke. “Alejandro” director Steven Klein said that when she sucks on rosary beads in the music video, her nun character is trying to ingest holiness. In that case, she should have taken the sacraments. Besides, there’s nothing holy the rest of her nun’s actions. Lady Gaga is hardly the first to try to explain away a music video’s derogatory points in this manner, nor the first to use offensive material to attract attention. One of my college professors told me Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” attracted attention for a controversial scene that supposedly shows a student committing suicide in front of his class, yet implies that the student instead shoots his classmates because the blood splatters (intentionally) at about the same place on each student – in a red splotch on their chest.
Obviously she’s not the first to combine a sense of sensuality and religion either. But it’s been done quite impressively before, and in a non-offensive manner. See the sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.” That one involved angels touching a woman’s soul, not pre-Nazi storm troopers trying to molest her. It’s much more artistic – another example of Lady Gaga scraping the bottom of the barrel instead of soaring to the intellectual heights of better artists. Perhaps that’s why so many people love her work. It’s the biggest reason I don’t.