Just a few short years ago Lady Gaga's Alejandro video probably would have sent my inner Madonna fan into a borderline rage. There are so many spot on references to the Mad one; the video is directed by Steven Klein a'la Madge's 2003 "Unbound" W shoot, has a strong bullfighter influence a'la Take A Bow, is filled with half naked muscle men a'la Express Yourself, and sports so much religious symbolism that it nearly matches the then-shocking Like A Prayer in tone. Madonna's greatest hits are all there and an argument for style biting would make a good case in court, but here's the thing that staves off any resistance to Gaga based on her appropriations of Madonnaisms: Gaga makes Madonna eternal.
Madge has been disappointing her long time fans for years now. Her product has been undone by her ego and her refusal to grow old. She's not a twenty-something pop princess anymore and while I encourage any woman of any age to do whatever they want, the repeated close-up, jumbotron shots of her crotch humping the air (then a guitar, then a few backup dancers) during her Hard Candy Tour that I witnessed at MSG was more than a little cringe worthy. It wasn't sexual age-defying rebellion, it was debasing convention that reeked of "Hey, Rhianna, I can do that too." desperation. But, the sight of Gaga mounting a dancer from behind in her Alejandro video is, well, radical and titillating.
Gaga is the continuation of the seeds that Madonna sowed. She progresses beyond the mere button-pushing and eroticism to something a little more accessible and democratic. Madonna made way for ubiquitous female sexpressionism, but Gaga embraces the freaks among us and isn't afraid to look weird. Madonna was adored by a pretty public. Gaga is the LES glamgoth princess gone mainstream. Madonna licked, Gaga bites. Careful.
But, there too is another thing worth mentioning. Madonna is legendary for her epic ego. Her mountainous "I'm gonna rule the world" ego that created a library of stories of demands, quirky behaviors, and big-headed bitchiness. Again, in order to create the path she did, most of this empathy-blind bulldozing was necessary, and it was her bitchiness that made way for Gaga--the pop star with a heart of gold. My love for the Gaga was sealed, and then resealed in two separate instances. First up was the Bad Romance video which still thrills me, second was the moment she cried on Oprah thanking her Little Monsters for their support and fandom. Heart-felt tears never tipped over the lids of Madonna's bot-eyes. They didn't have to, but I'm happy to have a softer version of my hero to watch. Gaga can keep biting, because she's doing it for all of us who love art, fashion, music, dance because it makes us smile and maybe well up. Is it weird that Gaga makes me cry as an adult? She certainly woulnd't think so. I feel like if I cried in front of Madonna she'd smack me. Which I'd take like a woman raised on her, but I wouldn't prefer it. That's just my girlie truth. Ok, enough. Watch the video.
Madonna should be proud.