Hey friends, I’m running a little late with getting these posts out today so let’s jump right into Craft/Spectacle. Today I want to talk about the way the Lady Gaga has been critiqued as a talentless pop star, has fashioned herself as an artist (musical and otherwise), and possibly touch on the way that she and other female pop stars are often only considered worth consideration by a certain section of the music elite once they prove that they’ve sung an acoustic version of one of their biggest hits to prove they can “really sing.” Today I also want to dive more into Gaga’s own relationship with performance and how she negotiates that. Look forward later on to posts about her 2009 VMA’s performance of Paparazzi and of course Applause, but for now, let’s talk Marry the Night.
So at this point I’ve found something about basically every song I’ve talked about to say was my favorite. Marry the Night is probably the Gaga video that I would choose if I could only ever watch one Gaga video for the rest of my life. It’s totally wild and totally underappreciated. The first time I watched the video, I was with my friend Terrence in the computer lab during AP US History. We were supposed to be doing research for some paper or project that I no longer remember, but I remember watching the video. Of course we shouldn’t have expected any less, but we were still both a little overwhelmed when it got to the scene with the Cheerios all over her boobs. It definitely didn’t help that the computer lab monitor rushed in from the other room right as we got to that scene, but luckily we somehow weren’t the ones who were in trouble. Later I would go home and watch the entire video on my own without anyone peering over my shoulder at Lady Gaga’s chest barely covered by various household items.
Marry the Night is the founding myth of Gaga the Artist. The opening monologue is one that should always be remembered when considering her work, and it can basically be summed up by one line: “It’s not that I’ve been dishonest, it’s just that I loathe reality.” At the time I made this line my Facebook status and now it comes up once a year in my memories. It’s embarrassing as hell but I refuse to delete it at this point. In this video, Gaga calls out exactly what she has spent her career doing, especially on Born This Way, and then does it to the extreme. “It’s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting, and as the artist of that painting, I have to fill in all the ugly holes and make it beautiful again.” Not her most subtle moment, but it sets up the video well.
I chose this video for today because it shows both the craft and the spectacle of her work. The video highlights the song perfectly, tying the themes of her early nights as an artist in New York with the extreme version of events. It shows her artistry, her singing, dancing, acting, her vision of herself and her work, through a depiction of her history as an artist. But it’s also a total spectacle, full of flaming cars, bedazzled denim, backlit stage scenes, and choreographed dance breaks beneath giant overpasses. It’s a spectacle to watch, but it’s also intimate and wonderful and weird and totally Gaga. Marry the Night is a great example of the way that Lady Gaga has always chosen themes for her videos that add depth to her lyrics and songs, and included quirky narrative structures to make them come to life. She still manages to use beautiful, striking images purely for their own sake, but she takes them further and puts them to work. Craft meets spectacle, art meets pop.