TEXT NATASHA STAGG
WONDERING WHO THAT “GIRL UNDER YOU” IS? THAT’S RIGHT: LADY GAGA’S ARTPOP IS HERE AND ALWAYS WAS, AS SEEN IN HER NEWEST EPIC (THANK GODDESS)
In case you missed it over the weekend (what the hell kind of weekend did you have, anyway? You missed THIS?), Lady Gaga released an epic new video for “G.U.Y.” that includes the essence of everything you’ve ever wanted from art, pop, ARTPOP, fashion and reality TV all rolled into one stunning variety show sing-along. Yes, those are the real housewives ofThe Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and yes, in this world, Andy Cohen is a god.
Always a loaded commentary on fame, its detractors, and its key components (as in, Gaga’s self-aware role she plays in the machine that produces celebrity), the narrative a Gaga video plays out must be broken down to its wildly turning gears, then reassembled to form that escapist merry-go-round of dance music. First, the injured bird that is Gaga limps away from a scramble for cash, searching instead for something more powerful than money: recognition. And soon she finds an Island-of-Lesbos-like beacon (in California’s Hearst Castle), this one populated for the most part with statuesque men.
So there’s art: ancient Greek myth to the tune of a clip from “Artpop,” mixed with contemporary performance by way of a crowd of dancers carrying the arrowed-down and winged Gaga to her umpteenth baptism, while a little of ARTPOP‘s “Venus” plays. Never one to skirt the opportunity for layered symbolism as a means of representation, each scene references a plethora of historicizing media marks—National Geographic-like frames bring to mind images describing traditions both current and archaic, dressing each actor in a mash up of orthodox austerity and risqué stage costume.
Then there’s fashion: Bea Szenfeld’s adorable paper designs dress onlookers including Gaga herself (who, by the way, directed this masterpiece), as the Housewives form the music’s visual backdrop as a band. Signifier reaches toward the signified when “G.U.Y.” starts to play and the fame-whore critique points the spotlight onto the critic: Gaga is renewed as a sex icon in virginal white, introducing the next song-chapter by sending “greetings from Eros” and revealing more, and then more, skin.
This is pop, the music video industry’s version of it, plain and satisfying. A mesmerizing dance sequence happens in pearly Heaven, and Heaven-by-Versace, complete with another Donatella wig and the ressurection of pop icons Michael Jackson, that Legos-in-Times-Square poster, Ghandi, and Jesus.
The lyrics say it all, “I don’t need to be on top to know I’m worth it ’cause I’m strong enough to know the truth…” Forever champion of the underdog even when she’s playing the lead in this status-driven surrealist dream, Gaga next shows a psycho-sexual side in denim and then plastic, a rich-bitch plot turn in feathers and fur (holding a dollar-shooting bazooka), and then sends an army of cloned men to march out of the gates and continue a male-dominant hetero-favoring workforce with a female-in-femme-drag mad scientist’s secret agenda.
It is, in ways, a feminist dream/nightmare, and possibly the most crystal clear message to come from ARTPOP’s not-so-ephemeral master plan. If a woman can do anything a man can do, she can do it in more ways than one: she can come for it full force, naked and unapologetic, she can play the siren and manipulate with gossip-rag distractions—and she reach all her goals from underneath her competition. Gaga isn’t breaking up, she’s coming together, showing that her real strength comes from her signature scatteredness we’ve come to crave. Don’t trust she’s on top of her game? That’s okay, she can handle it as the GIRL UNDER YOU, too.