Better consult your 96-color Crayola carton for reference. There’s more than one unnatural shade in Lady Gaga’s latest, and perhaps ultimate, ‘80s tribute, the new video for “The Edge of Glory,” which just premiered tonight on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance—along with news that she’ll be guest-judging the competition later this season.
It’s a steamy one-woman, one-sax player urban fantasia (that’s right, Clarence Clemons shows up!) and a showcase for Gaga’s retro streetwalker couture. Check it out after the break:
Okay, it’s not a shock that Gaga’s riffing on her beloved leather-and-spandex ‘80s. After all, Born This Way is a veritable pastiche of Reagan Era-excess from Giorgio Moroder to Bonnie Tyler.
What is surprising, though, is the relatively small, but perhaps more intimate, scope of her vision in the “Edge of Glory” video. I mean, her pattern up till now has been to attempt to top herself with each subsequent clip, going from a serial killer fantasy (“Telephone”) to a mythic space opera (“Born This Way”) to a Last Temptation of Christ-style provocation about religion and redemption (“Judas”).
This time what do we have? Merely Gaga mugging for the camera as she struts and skips down steaming fuchsia and indigo tinted streets. Or performing some sort of kick routine/strip show/Pilates workout on a fire escape, while wearing a rig of silver-studded black leather straps.
This is a return to the stripped-down mean streets fantasy of her “LoveGame” video—no elaborate CGI or Godardian color palette, just Gaga working the camera with old-fashion moxie. Especially after her more literal-minded take on “Judas,” “The Edge of Glory” is also a refreshing retreat to her trademark style of making a video that has absolutely nothing to do with the song. It allows the song to remain independent of the fixed images a video can sometimes impart. I mean, really, of what “glory” is she on the edge here? As far as I can tell, she’s only on the edge of pulling a muscle or having a wardrobe malfunction.
Beyond that, though, “The Edge of Glory” is also really a one-woman ‘80s revue. The only thing missing is a shower of water to splash upon Gaga’s artfully-backlit body. Or for her to don boxing gloves and cold-cock imaginary foes like Rosie Perez fighting the power.
Her fire-escape calisthenics unquestionably evoke Madonna, but if that snap-perfect electro-marionette move she twitches at one point before dramatically removing her sunglasses isn’t a tip of the hat to Michael Jackson, I don’t know what is. In fact, the whole thing seems like an eerie play on MJ’s macho-posturing video for the “The Way You Make Me Feel”…except that in Gaga’s quasi-apocalyptic vision everyone’s vanished from the streets.
Everyone except for a muse-like Clarence Clemons perched on an apartment stoop, that is. That’s another way we know this is supposed to be a pre-Giuliani cityscape—people congregate and play music on apartment stoops, as shown to us in Do the Right Thing and Sesame Street.
All the references in “The Edge of Glory” are so overt, there’s no way it could be shameless cribbing. It has to be a winking homage to the artists, songs, and videos that meant a lot to Gaga growing up—like a college-student who brings his action figures to his dorm. In seeing this Tarantino-esque regurgitation of previous styles all the way through, she’s proven Born This Way to be the year’s most unexpected concept album: a relentless exercise in the outmoded fromage of her youth. It may not stick with you, but it sure can be tasty.
Music Mixers, what think you? Does this represent the culmination—and therefore possibly the end—of her foray into ‘80s decadence? If not, then what should we expect from her in the future? A Joan Collins cameo? Patrick Duffy playing her father? American Gladiators reimagined with disco sticks? Sound off below.
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