November 13, 2009

Analysis Of Music Video "Bad Romance"

FUCK! I didn't want to like her. She's so cheap and whoring in all her music and videos, always going for cheap shock and incredibly retarded word play. But I must now concede Lady Gaga's awesomeness. For it is irrefutable in her video "Bad Romance". Not the song, her music still sucks to me, but the video is amazing and seems to finally staple what Gaga truly likes doing. Let's see if this is fluke. If it's not, then hopefully Gaga and crew will save music videos from the trend of visual flattening into 2 dimensions and over-polishing, and reinstate the spatial and textural depth so lost in today's music videos.

The techno/bohemian "Just Dance" is a song I felt she didn't deserve. Sure the lyrics are whoring but not nearly as cheap as the person we meet in the music video of the song. You can tell alot about Lady Gaga from "Just Dance". In the song you hear someone who has nothing meaningful to say but knows music. She knows melody very well. In the video you see a brave, tenacious attention whore, but one with a small reservation, her fashion sense. She's foremost an entertainer. It's like she can't read but give the girl a broom and she'll sweep that place cleaner than anyone! All her lyrics are a string of effects that she knows sound good, regardless of what sense the words make. Cheap. Her costumes and the videos are all as outlandish as possible, having no aesthetic point. Cheap. But she does seem to have a skill: choreography.

"completely unrelated" Ha! Hilarious, and spot on. Gaga explains her weirdness in this Ellen Degeneres interview: "The whole point of what I do — the Monster Ball, the music, the performance aspect of it — I want to create a space for my fans where they can feel free and they can celebrate. I didn't fit in in high school, and I felt like a freak. So I like to create this atmosphere for my fans where they feel like they have a freak in me to hang out with and they don't feel alone." Ah, so in extracting the weirdos in society by giving them a safe-haven, less instances of weirdos with pent-up emotions occur, causing less weird, tenacious Gagas! ZOMG PARADOX!

I'm trying to figure out who truly directed "Bad Romance". Francis Lawrence is the director but hardly any other of his works show this level of prowess. Gaga's "Paparazzi" is nice visual story-telling; and LoveGame is the most visceral, showing a penchant for spectacle. But even those are no where near the quality this is. So it's either a combo of Lawrence and Gaga, or someone else highly involved that yielded this sophistication. Because the shooting style used here is very alien to music videos, including all of Gaga's and Lawrence's. I found the culprit! The cinematographer, Thomas Kloss: Go ahead and watch the 'Making Of' here: Making of Bad Romance

All the music videos he's been involved in have the same great polished, spacious, and judiciously-edited look. Especially his "Jai Ho" by Pussycat Dolls and "7 Things" by Miley Cyrus. While both Lawrence's and Gaga's previous works all suffer from over-editing and cheap techniques, all of Kloss's vids have been moderately cut and are very conscious of the images' momentum. Thomas Kloss is the reason why this video pops, Gaga's acting is why we're interested, and I guess Lawrence's direction is why it's so assured. Screenshots containing magnificence ahead!:


"Eyes Wide Shut" much!?

"Clockwork Orange" much!!?Stanley Kubrick much!!!!? Now is Ms.Gaga knowledgeable enough to make references to late great film director Stanley Kubrick? YES! And I should probably stop treating her like she's stupid! She's shown signs of being very cinema literate. About her 1st video shoot, "Just Dance", she says "Oh it was so fun, it was amazing. For me it was like being on a Martin Scorsese set. I've been so low budget for so long, and to have this incredibly amazing video was really very humbling". And of the lyrics in "Bad Romance", "I was actually listing Hitchcock movies. 'I want your Psycho, your Vertigo schtick/ Want you in my Rear Window, baby you're sick.' "What I'm really trying to say is I want the deepest, darkest, sickest parts of you that you are afraid to share with anyone because I love you that much." Elitism be gone! She now knows more about film than I do.

"I wanted to design a pair for some of the toughest chicks and some of my girlfriends they used to keep razor blades in the side of their mouths," she explained. "That tough female spirit is something that I want to project. It's meant to be, 'This is my shield, this is my weapon, this is my inner sense of fame, this is my monster.'" How in god's name was I supposed to get all that from freaky sunglasses? Does this mean that everything means something in here? Every costume element is symbolic? Good grief, that's way too much work for me. Anyone else feel free to pick up where she left off. And you have! Go here for a breakdown of the symbolism in the vid. I'm not a big fan of symbolism in movies because they're usually wholly empty(if not always). I'm into the filmic-storytelling, which I believe is all that matters, so it's all I'll outline here, omitting the least effective.

Sweet nonexistent(apparently, very existent!: Parrot By Starck) music player, dude. There's something to be said about the metal mesh. It seems like protection. Like she doesn't want to damage her pretty nails but then puts the ugly mesh on to protect them, in turn fucking up the way they look, forgetting the whole point of making them pretty in the 1st place. Is she describing the mentality of the rich here? Right after she turns off the player playing classical music the actual song starts, and it startles the shit out of her:

Oh but what does it mean!? I believe the classical music represents the elite she is now part of. But there's a dirty story to how she got to be on that throne. The classical music is a facade, she plays it, they all play it to drown out their dirty past that looms in reality, that is remembered when the party stops.

Twitching fingers. I guess she was just born?

#1 I like how they use both her pronunciation and the dancers pantomime to trivialize "love". Does it mean anything? A "what's love got to do with it" moment would be appropriate here but Gaga isn't that good at music. The music added almost nothing to the vid so far, and the video is much too loud for the song to be heard. So the "LAVVV LAAV LAAV!" doesn't mean anything, it just sounds cool and has great melody so that's why it's there. The song's ambient echo-ish aura adds space to the scenes, making the room their in seem bigger. Without the music the room would feel much smaller and the video less sprawling that it looks, but not by much. The music also lends a tragic tone, which is why I see Gaga as mostly a victim here. It's still a light pop song placed on top of a sophisticated video.
#2 There's visual depth in the music video! OMG! When did they start doing this again? Because for the past 10 years they've been busy squishing video into a 2 dimensional picture! Since FOREVER now I've noticed that all music videos deal straight at the camera in every way. They all have a gloss that does away with all photo-realism, everything looks glossy causing everything in the frame to seem like it has no texture or depth. Like it's a flat picture. Also, whatever elements are relevant are usually all huddled around the camera, again causing the feelings that there's no world beyond what you see on screen. Here there is depth. The lights behind the dancers don't upstage them. The cinematography is good enough to capture all the relevant elements, they don't need to huddle around the camera for screen time. And photorealism instead of glossy is one of the main reasons this video works.

So cuuuuuuute! Is this not supposed to be baby Gaga? Innocent Baby Gaga? Before the corruption? I say yes. And we get a good naked look at her, we know her now. Before she's pulled away from us and her innocence. This is the 1st time we get to see Gaga's face without any obstructions and yet it's a false picture. She clearly enhanced the eyes to have a doe-eyed effect. And the video never explains it, and it's the 1st time we see her. That's because this is a video from our CGI era and Gaga is confident that her viewers are smart enough to discern that it's fake.

BEHOLD! An instance of cultural shift right before your very eyes! A pushpin in the human timeline! A time when people actually got used to CGI! And were expected to know something was CGI! The time is here. Cool CGI for the sake of cool CGI is no longer cool. It is now transparent, transparent to the audience able to understand this music video. As Roger Ebert concluded in the his "Transformers" review: "I saw the movie on the largest screen in our nearest multiplex. It was standing room only, and hundreds were turned away. Even the name of Hasbro, maker of the Transformers toys, was cheered during the titles, and the audience laughed and applauded and loved all the human parts and the opening comedy. But when the battle of the titans began, a curious thing happened. The theater fell dead silent. No cheers. No reaction whether Optimus Prime or Megatron was on top. No nothing. I looked around and saw only passive faces looking at the screen. My guess is we're getting to the point where CGI should be used as a topping and not the whole pizza."

Keep an eye on the Gagas! I think this is the 3rd one so far, they all seem to represent different sides of her. I believe this is the side that listens to the crowd, dances with them, is one of them. She has no face here, no distinct personality. Only a slight bit of personality(face), at most enough to put her at the head of the crowd, but part of the crowd nonetheless. I noticed that these set of "creatures" were a bit lazy before the light came on, once then they whipped into shape and tightened up their act. You're always more alert and direct when people are watching you. This is very much in line with this gaga being a puppet.

Crying out from under the mask to be set free. Almost completely faded into the background(crowd), but not quite.

Innocence being stripped/fighting back

'nother Gaga! There's nothing around her but pure white and she's very close to the screen. Again, very intimate but this time even moreso because she's free of everything. We seem to be inside her head here. Here she's the objective onlooker, seeing things clearly.

Existential implosion for having lost the last pinch of her innocence. It's all conveyed in her performance.

Rejoicing that she has been raped of her innocence. Yes! She has fallen in line, like clockwork.

Left naked and empty, grasping for anything at all. A moment of purity. So traumatized is she that it shows physically, while the other 2 are still able to keep composure. So harrowing is it that she's unable to restrain herself from looking so openly vulnerable to her attackers. Now to build that protective shield so this never happens again.

Basking in the perversion.

She(as in this Gaga) remembers when all this happened. She isn't as disturbed as the Baby Gaga(stroking shoulders is too nonchalant), but she has tears in her eyes, which means that this can't be present Gaga. This Gaga seems to always be in retrospect mode.

We get to see our star get roughed up! Well rounded performance. And we get to see her because there's no fancy gloss. It's reminiscent of the 80s where the whole point of the video was so that we could see the artists we were listening to. Face 1st, fancy shit 2nd.

Epic spit! This one's a fighter. She may be able to retain her individuality yet.

-1:56 Clear-headed Gaga still remembering. She has the words "bad romance" in her mouth but they don't ring. They don't seem relevant to the video. The song is just nonexistent, the video is way too good. The song becomes just an excuse for the video to exist.

Innocent Baby Gaga not dead yet!

She lives! This is the new Gaga with a protective shield, protecting the remnants of Baby G in her head.

I presume Dark Gaga, born from the tragedy. She's not Shield Gaga like the one above, she IS the shield wielded by Shield Gaga. GAGAGAGGAGAGAGGAGAGAGGAGAGAGA! and many more to come

God I love this part. I have no idea what she's doing here when she holds her belly and lets out the invisible baby, but it's nasty, and that's why I love it. I'm sure that was the point of it. The move and the moan make her look really nasty, it exudes such confidence. She doesn't want to be the pretty girl, she wants to be the boss. She grows into a leader when she gets up from being thrown down. The push causes her to grow a spine, so she steps out and takes the lead. The belly move seems to be her professing her self-assurance. Brilliant, really brilliant. There are tons of moves that can convey confidence but hardly any as dense as this one. One leg kick and she conveys both confidence AND ambition in the same stroke! This is the one part of this video that really blew me away and took a while for me to understand why it did.

#1 Her naturally floating hair shows that this is realtime. It adds so much more gravity to the performance.
#2 The dance moves coupled with not cutting the frickin shot! Oh how I treasure it. A lesser director(which is every director from both music vids and movies)would cut the shot and switch angles when Gaga dips. That trick ruins the effect. Instead what you should do, and what they do here, is wait so that we can see her switch moves from one angle. It makes it so much more visceral. It's cut at the perfect time, making it look as if her dip sparked the cut. This is what could've made Beyonce's Single Ladies so much better, if they had NEVER cut the shot, but just did the whole dance in just one take. It would have been aMMAZZZIinnngg. But no, they don't listen to me.

The moving hair, the spatial depth, AWESOME! She's repeating the moves she learned from the "crowd". She's one of them, but not completely.

#1 Holy Crap! This is how you use technology! Diamonds suspended in the air, she's still moving around in the middle, and the diamonds look realistic.
#2 She has shown to be a good sport in all this high society depravity so they single her out. She's much more alone this time.

She's not completely alone, we're there. Hence the glance. We're there to witness what else she's gotten herself into. She looks at us because we know her, we know her as a living breathing human with a life, a life we've witnessed, while the guys just see her as meat. We know the exuberant life behind that dead, stiff model pose.

Zombie dance is sultrily chaotic! I can watch this all day. Again, her naturally bouncing hair making it very all organic.

Again! Changing the dance move while staying the shot. And what a dance move it is. It's like the moonwalk(Micheal Jackson approves of Lady Gaga!), where you're doing alot of motions but your body is surprisingly not jerky. You're going against a preconceived notion of how things work, in realtime.

Polished when it calls for it. The lights glare all the way to the front, compressing the image into a flat picture. This is something music vids do ad nauseum. Just because there are lights in the image the director feels the need to put them in focus, because light glare is "cool". Doing this causes the image to lose its 3-dimensional feel. Over-polishing is a problem with music vids, where everything is as perfect and in place and as visible as can be--there's no life. Gaga is evoking fashion here, which always calls for polishing. So the fact that this sequence is cut and shot "perfectly" is actually very apt. Now I see no connection between this fashion scene and the story. Gaga said before that fashion was her main influence in both her music and videos, so I guess this is an unrelated tangent. Maybe she wants to make an epic more than she wants to make a story.

Baby Gaga is nonchalant about all this fashion crap and doesn't give it the amount of seriousness everyone else does.

Again, we're at her level and we know her intimately, and we're here to witness what other depravity she's about to add to her life. We see the next addition right in the glasses, his reflection. Those shades are a shield between him and her mind.

Protesting the event. I have no idea who this Gaga is.

Fireworks! These dancers are the video's "fireworks" and crescendo spectacle. Her hair is much more frenetic now and her moves are more rigorous and jerky: fireworks. The camera now chooses unflattering angles so that the dance moves look harder, like she's performing at a live show. And live shows always have more gravity. Can you keep up those same sick dance moves on a live stage? Both the angles and her sporadic hair make the place(the same room used for all the scenes) seem much bigger, like an airplane hanger. Or maybe it now looks its actual size now, while the earlier angles made the room smaller than it actually is. Smart.

Clear-headed Gaga is most concerned now, because she's not retrospective anymore, this is her right now about to go to bed with the guy.


This is where the emotional burning and scaring happens. Not many survive it.

Once again, she's not completely in it. She's participating in the depravity but she's still shielding her self from it the best she can. Again, what makes it great spectacle is that her hair and clothes are waving because that's what fire does. Other videos would have the fire but no waving, reassuring us that the fire is fake.

Inside joke? I don't know what this is. It could be her "stamp"

Congratulating themselves on a job well done. What conveys that is the 3 head motions Gaga does.

#1 Look at our conductor/artist. Not alot of boobs or whatever else people consider beautiful, but a shitload of talent. As all great artists. I'm not calling her a great artist, I'm saying she's portrayed as one here. She doesn't want to be the pretty trophy girl, she wants to be the master. The owner of the joint. The orchestrator standing behind the curtains responsible for the masterpiece. But for now she has a need to entertain, and so she will.
#2 "WHAJABI-ROW-MAAAS" reminds us of the crappy song that can't hold itself up.

He wasn't as strong as she was. She did take damage but he was consumed.

the end!

I felt it was all very Kubrick-esque. With all the white, starkness, square shapes, and constant overt symmetry. All these elements present the video as no more than a stage for Gaga to act out her story, not a world that we can get involved in but simply a stage that we can only view from the front. The "production lights" are always in the back, because they need light after all and this isn't a movie where you can hide the lights. So there are constantly lights in the background. Every time the camera is watching from the side instead of the front we're getting a closer look at a "live" performance.

"2001: Space Odyssey":symmetry symmetry symmetry

It is a stage--mostly empty until we put something there(white, starkness), occupied by set-pieces constructed by people(symmetry), and at a distance from us("production lights"always visible). Overall the video is breathtakingly self-assured and precise. Gaga's antics and the cinematography are so clear that whatever you feel while watching this may very well be the correct interpretation. While so many other music vids(like Rihanna's "Russian Roulette") fumble amateurishly with expressionism and like a lowlife seem to gratulate itself for simply trying, this one was made by very competent film makers and acts as if nothing less than cinematic mastery exists in the world of film.

more snapshots: