Saturday, August 31, 2013

You are Not My Universe

I am a woman.
I am a capable woman.  A daughter of God.
And I don't need to be told these things.

I don't want to be seen as a fallen angel.
Damaged goods.
Jaded and broken.

As much as you'd like to see me as a project
An opportunity.
I can't stand the thought of you pitying me.

I don't need pity.
I need love.
I don't need sorrow.
I need faith.

I want to be seen as an equal.
Or maybe even above.
I want to be revered.

I want to be needed.
I want to be longed for.

I want your love to not be the cause of my happiness,
But the effect.

I want our love to be a product of righteous living.
Not because I need you in order to be righteous.

When you say I'm beautiful,
I want you to know that I already know these things.

I want to be deserved.
I want to deserve.

I don't want to need you.
I want to be needed.
Just for once.

I don't want to beg for your attention.
I don't want to waste away without you.
I don't want to depend on you.
I don't want to depend on anyone.

I don't want to be filled with holes so that you can fill them.
I want to be complete on my own.
And I want you to be complete.
So that together we are doubly complete.
Like a cup running o'er.
Not just filling minimum requirement.
But going above and beyond.
Enhancing life.
Not just making life bearable.

I want you to know that I am a champion.
I want you to know that I have faith in myself.
I wish you never had to see my insecurities.
I wish you never had to see my flaws.

Don't be my hero.
I don't need saving.

Don't be my beacon.
I have my own light.

Don't be my Savior.
I already have one.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Thoughts on "Raise Your Glass" by P!nk

Someone asked me to give my thoughts about P!nk and how she imbeds deconstruction into her lyrics and videos.  It's true, she often likes to make fun of herself, and one of the more obvious examples of this is her song "Raise Your Glass," which is basically a battle-cry for those who are beaten down and bullied.  Essentially she says, "We're all weirdos, so go ahead!  Embrace who you are, even if others don't like it."  And I believe she sees herself as one of these underdogs.  Thus, within that song, she allows listeners to see a more raw and naked version of the pop star that is P!nk, rather than the polished, self-assured "perfection" that we often see in today's popular music (the auto-tune, EDM, and the prim-pristine, magazine-worthy look of the female celebrity).   She does this by adding in spoken, humanizing commentary and by purposefully "messing up" her own lyrics.  At 2:06, she mutters a complaint about her empty glass, and it is seemingly presented as if we, as listeners, weren't supposed to hear it.  At 2:15, she throws in the words "I mean..." as if she's not positive that she's saying the exact right thing (all of this happening betwixt sung lines about being "too school for cool"). And then, at 2:29, the culminating and climactic moment of the song, she comes in 4 beats too early, utters an expletive under her breath, and then continues with the final renditions of the chorus, almost in triumph, even though she made the mistake.

The music video presents this vision of liberation from social norms almost immediately, where a larger woman grabs a corn dog and swats a cardboard-cutout of a stereotypically beautiful blonde.  Further images of feminism and glorifications of the outcast ensue.  P!nk portrays herself in a variety of ways, including Rosie the Riveter, a half-pipe skater, and -- during the moments when she lyrically presents herself as the most vulnerable -- she appears as a bespectacled, socially inept highschooler, checking her armpits, jumping up too early, and then dancing with a fellow nerd without a care.

I have always seen P!nk as an advocate for individuality and self-love. What I'm hearing her say is this: Not only does everyone make mistakes, but these mistakes should not only be accepted, but embraced.  I agree that she's playing with the idea of the "perfect" pop singer and the "perfect" pop song in "Raise Your Glass." She definitely is more subtle in "Raise Your Glass" than she is in her other famous empowerment ballad, "F**king Perfect."  Often, P!nk displays two very stark personalities directly next to each other to show that everyone has a Jekyll and a Hyde, a dark and a light. Everyone makes mistakes, but everyone also has potential to be great. I think there is some specific commentary here about celebrities and popular music ("Stupid Girl" also takes a crack at the life of pop fame, but again "Raise Your Glass" does it much more subtly). Thus, as if to defy the stereotype, she deconstructs. She allows for moments of weakness, rather than have a completely polished, generic pop song that supposedly no one can relate to.

Hand-in-hand with P!nk's "it's-okay-to-be-different" battle cry, there is another unspoken side of P!nk that she doesn't want us to see.  I feel like P!nk -- regardless of what she ideally wants to be -- is still an influential pop star who is very self-aware of her impact and therefore still has a lot of pride and takes herself very seriously. So when she purposefully makes these "mistakes" in this song, she's attempting to humanize herself and basically say, "If someone as awesome, rich, and famous as P!nk can do it, so can you!" And it is highly effective.  P!nk successfully falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the crazy, cares-thrown-to-the-wind nature of Lady Gaga and the highly polished anti-vulnerability of Britney Spears (although I think she shares more with Gaga than she does with Spears at this point in her career in the fact that she is rooting for the little guy and presenting a more rough-around-the-edges image of herself).  She's different, intelligent, and self-aware, but she is also accessible and in many ways incredibly sexy.  I believe that there are many people in this world who want to be like P!nk. Confident, strong, with just the right amount of weird.  She's been around the block, but she's learned from it all and now leads a happy life with some stories to tell.  For all the people out there who have made some sort of mistake, P!nk becomes a role model.  There is an obvious agenda in this song. She's creating a cult of egoism that I don't wholly appreciate or believe in. We can't overlook the fact that, while these "mistakes" sound like mistakes, they really aren't. They are all done on purpose. And just because P!nk can get out of a sticky relationship and continue on to stardom almost unscathed does not mean everyone can. P!nk has money, connections, and other resources to help her hide a lot of the consequences that have resulted from her alleged mistakes. Does that mean the consequences aren't there?  No.

 I feel worse about "F*cking Perfect" than I do about this song, but that might be just because what this song lacks in sincerity and genuineness is made up for by a SUPER catchy hook, a singable tune, and a very entertaining music video. (Of course those things can make a song of this nature even more dangerous, because people are drawn to these aspects and then are more likely to accept the lyrics and further idolize the song's creator.) Whether I like it or not, it's a very well-created piece that serves its purpose.

Advice to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Wannabes of America

The minute you start trying to fit some stereotype is the minute people stop taking you seriously. I tried SO hard to be this goth girl in high school. And while I wore all the right clothes and listened to all the right music, and totally embraced the lifestyle, NO ONE thought I was a goth. Not the goth kids, not the popular kids, not anybody. I was a poser, through and through, because I was too worried about the label and not worried enough about being the person I actually was. And the minute I quit the black thing and started wearing what I want to wear was when I gained respect from everyone. Kid you not, my life got so much more full and healthy the minute I stopped trying.

Just throw every supposed archetype out the window and focus on being the YOU that YOU want to be. Don't do anything you wouldn't naturally do on your own. If you don't like the hipster music, don't listen to it. If herbal teas make you gag, don't drink them. If skinny jeans make your butt look big, don't wear them. If a vintage bike is too expensive for your budget, don't buy one. And if the hot guitarist can't hold his own and take care of your needs in a relationship, break up with him. Be the awesome girl that you are and don't settle for the fake stuff that society throws at you all the time.

My Favorite and Least-Favorite Moments from Lady Gaga's Videos

So the "Applause" video came out this week... And I'm very impressed.
So impressed, in fact, I wanted to take a minute and evaluate exactly where this new video ranked among my other favorite Lady Gaga music videos.  Surprisingly, this took a bit of thought, and it led to me going back and re-watching each of the 15 Lady Gaga music videos and coming up with a very deliberate list of best to worst, in my own personal opinion.
In this post, I am going to reveal that list, one video at a time, from worst to greatest, according to my personal opinion at the present time.
The cool thing about opinions is that they are able to change.  There are no immutable rules when it comes to art and taste.  As new videos get released and as I change as a person, this list may very well change.  But for the moment, let's just appreciate Gaga and her iconic work since the beginning.  Maybe this will change the way you see some of her videos. 

#15: The Edge of Glory
Definitely the most minimal of all of the music videos by Gaga. I understand that there were some extenuating circumstances in the creation of this video.  The planned production fell through and they had to come up with something brand new at very short notice.  It's quite a shame, because this is probably the most epic and the most personal song on Born This Way.  This video really could have been great.  But it turned out to be very uneventful, unexciting, and unimpressive.  It's just Gaga dancing around on what looks like an empty stage for Rent.  To add insult to injury, the amazing Clarence Clemons, who features in the song, was given hardly any stage time.  This was his final public work before his death in 2012.  I sure wish there was a little more for him to show for it.

Favorite Moments: Considering its clumsy creation, this is still a pretty good video. It's nice to see Gaga all alone, without any fancy choreography and backup dancers to distract us from her raw emotion and passion for what she is singing about.  There is only one real outfit worn for the entire video (another unique factor): some archives borrowed specially for this purpose by Donatella Versace.  The look was well chosen. Love the hairstyle, especially. The video has some beautiful moments, as well.  The lightpost shot (a la Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain) was pretty iconic, as well as the few moments where Clarence is pictured.  But overall, you hardly need to watch this video twice, and for Gaga, that's almost challenging.  

#14: Born This Way
I'm sure a lot of people will be upset that Born This Way is so low on my list.  It's not terrible.  None of Gaga's videos are terrible.  But this video is (in my opinion) very immature and puts Gaga in a very pretentious light.  I feel like Gaga is taking herself WAY too seriously in this video.  Okay, sure, she's passionate about social issues like marriage equality and self-worth, but I feel like this video not only feeds into the ever-growing cult of self-esteem practiced by today's youth, but it also puts Gaga up on an almost God-like pedestal, as if she herself can change people's opinions about prejudice in one fell swoop, single-handed.  She can't.  Ironically, so many people judge her for using religious imagery in her other videos like for "Alejandro" and "Judas," but I think this video is more sacrilegious than any of her other endeavors.  She's a creator of a new race, embodying all-powerful forces of good and evil. Calling the birth of the new non-prejudiced race "infinite," referring to herself as an "eternal mother" hovering in a multiverse, and redefining the origins of good and evil... Such language makes me uncomfortable. Particularly the last line: "How can I protect something so perfect without evil?" Sounds like she's trying to play God, or at least be one of his chosen prophets, campaigning for self-worth and punishing those who disagree with her view.  I understand it's all metaphor, but it seems very self-righteous and short-sighted.  As influential as Gaga is, she had let her fame and influence get to her head by the time this video was made (ironic, since she is so obsessed with Fame and claims to have such control over it).  
Favorite Moments: Aside from the message and dialogue, this video is pretty impressive as far as imagery and music goes.  I love the moments where Gaga is just rocking out, without planned choreography.  Whether she's dressed in the bikini, the skull make-up, or the strange alien-like zipper outfits she's got when she's surrounded by other alien heads... I just love seeing Gaga caught up in a passionate moment.  She's quite pretty when she doesn't have eyes on her chin.  The exchange she has between Rick Genest (aka Zombie Boy -- the guy with the skull tattooed on his face) is my favorite part.  I also love the final scene -- the references to Gaga's childhood, as well as icons like Michael Jackson with those gloves. That carried so much  more meaning for me than the flowery language and ridiculous kaleidoscopic birth scenes you've got at the beginning of the video. I would watch the final refrain to the end over and over again and be just fine.  

#13: Beautiful Dirty Rich
This video ranks low mainly because it is not memorable.  It is, however, very iconic of Lady Gaga's early style.  The bottle-blonde, hooded, pantless, glasses-wearing superstar that has become a household name no longer exists.  She has long outgrown the retro Bowie-homage that she had in her early twenties, but videos like this immortalize that iconic "Gaga" image so well.  If you ever miss the old Gaga, watch this video and the nostalgia will come flowing back to you. However, this video doesn't do as effective of a job as the film for "Just Dance."  They are both very similar, and this one has sort of followed off the radar, while "Just Dance" has continued to stay in the limelight, even five years after it came out.
Favorite Moments: It's kind of nice to see Gaga just being young, wild, and free. This video, along with the video for "Just Dance," represent the grassroots, rags-to-riches, love-in-the-little-things attitude that so many young people enjoy.  The statuary, the piano, the wads of cash, the lipstick... No agendas, no huge shock-value stunts, just sex, fashion, and lotsa dough. It's less about specific imagery; it's just the overall party atmosphere I love. This was what got Gaga on the map.  I sometimes wish she remembered her roots.  What makes an icon are the things that you do consistently without fear that make you memorable.  

#12: LoveGame
Another unmemorable music video, but I like the costumes, setting, and choreography in this one more than that in "Beautiful Dirty Rich."  This is during Gaga's "lavender-blonde" stage, which I like a lot.  And there's the use of the iconic "disco-stick."  There is a lot of questionable content here.  She's very naked in some scenes, and the dancing is pretty suggestive.  But this still follows with the more simple time of Gaga's career when it wasn't as much about making a statement and pushing the envelope as it was about just being your crazy no-pants self in the middle of a subway with a bunch of sexy friends, both male and female.
Favorite Moments:  The motifs.  The lavender-blonde color scheme, the disco stick, and the Stevie Boi fence glasses.  Also the pretty bob she's got going on during her nothing-but-glitter scenes.  You appreciate this video more if you've seen the Monster Ball.  Very urban-chic.  The kind of thing that inspires you to appreciate the mundane scenery in your life.

#11: Eh Eh (Nothing I Can Say)
Okay, I wish Gaga knew how wonderful she is when she's not being pretentious.  This video, like the song, is just adorable.  She's constantly smiling throughout the whole thing, and while not very much goes on during the video, it just gives the audience a chance to sit back and enjoy Little Italy the way Gaga would: in heels, with friends, and with plenty of man-candy.  This video becomes more meaningful when you learn that Gaga's parents are Italian immigrants, and that she's a sucker for Italian cuisine.
Favorite Moments: The hairbow.  Definitely one of my favorite Gaga looks ever.  Also love the yellow flower dress she wears near the end, complete with the Baby-G watch.  And there's something super sexy about pink heels in bed, ironing in a leotard, and slurping up spaghetti with a hot man. This is a have-fun video.  Bubblegum pop reborn.  I like it.

#10: Just Dance
You've probably noticed that all of Gaga's earlier videos come one after another on this list.  That's because most of them are very similar to each other.  As I mentioned before, "Just Dance" and "Beautiful Dirty Rich" are almost carbon copies of each other.  Gaga's look is basically the same, and she's doing pretty much the same kind of goofing off and partying with friends in both videos.  But, of course, "Just Dance" has become the iconic, go-to video if you want a good look of how Gaga got her start.  You've got the partying, yes, but also the disco bra, the blow-up whale, and the cameo appearances of the likes of Space Cowboy and Colby O'Donis.  There's the nod to David Bowie with the big blue lighting bolt on Gaga's face.  There's antics and shenanigans had by all.  No inhibition, no worry about tomorrow.  This video captured the "carpe deum" movement that is so prevalent in music today before it was cool.  It's this kind of stuff that probably inspired divas like Ke$ha to try a crack at party-girldom.
Favorite Moments:  The disco bra, the iconic hairstyle, the Gaga hand gestures, and the overall atmosphere.  I tend to live vicariously through videos like this one.  And I have for a long time. This video definitely unlocks a great deal of nostalgia for me. This is the Gaga I would try to emulate when I looked in the mirror when I was a senior in high school.  It was after watching this video when I started wearing huge sunglasses and animal print.  It was this retro, electro-pop style that got me out of my goth phase and into the world of mature art and fashion.
#9: Telephone
This video is so full of amazing, I'm sort of surprised it only comes in at #9.  But then I remember that there are several things in this video that I don't love.  Namely, the overabundance of shock without much substance.  As awesome as it is to pay respects to the pop art movement pioneered by folks like Andy Warhol, it's not as revolutionary or inspiring in today's world.  Now, I know it's Jonas Ackerlund's style to stylize, and that's fine.  It's just not my favorite style.  I like the more grown-up approach to telling a story, rather than feeling like I'm standing before a firing squad of brand names, references, and Americana.  I'm also not the HUGEST fan of the whole short-film style that Gaga uses in some of her videos. In this one, she has been sent to jail, but then gets bailed out by Beyonce, and the two of them proceed to poison everyone in a little diner before making a Bonnie-and-Clyde escape in the famous Tarantino Pussywagon. The narrative is only indirectly connected to its supposed predecessor, "Paparazzi." I almost wish there wasn't a connection between the two, because they're different enough for the flow to not be there.  Furthermore, the song is broken up by silly dialogue. Part of me feels like the music should speak for itself.  And speaking of music, another complaint I have about this video is the fact that it has hardly anything to do with the message that is presented in the actual song lyrics.  Prison? Crime? Diners? Pussywagons? What does this have to do with leaving your head and your heart on the dance floor?  NOTHING!
Favorite Moments:  All this being said, I obviously like the video enough to have it in my top ten.  First of all, it's definitely engaging and entertaining.  It's colorful and iconic.  And while I dissed all the comic-book and brand-name allusions in the earlier paragraph, I'm going to go ahead and applaud them here in pretty much the same breath.  The Coke-can hair is ingenious, and it is genuinely GAGA. I don't think any other artist has done anything like that before. And the caution tape look is amazing.  While there were a lot of things in the video -- particularly during the prison scenes -- that made me feel a little uncomfortable, I really think the fashion choices were epic.  The striped jailbird look, the chains and cigarette glasses, the studded bikini, and the departure outfit (complete with that cute little sashay) create a very artistic approach to prison.  That's fun.  And Beyonce is such a good sport!  She's put in these ridiculous situations and she actually sort of pulls them off.  Finally, the Americana dance number at the end of the video is icing on the cake for me.  That choreography is spectacular!  I definitely felt moved by this video when I saw it for the first time.  And that means, to me, that it was successful and important.

#8: Paparazzi
I probably like this Ackerlund-directed Gaga video more than "Telephone" because it came first.  This was Gaga's first venture into the genre of short-film style music video.  It depicts two destructive relationships: the one between Gaga and her boyfriend, and the one between Gaga and her fame.  Unlike "Telephone," the music in this video is not half as fragmented and cut up for the sake of dribbly dialogue.  It's got a provocative beginning and a very concrete conclusion, with tons of great fashion choices in between.  While it is definitely a little out there, I feel like this video represents one of Gaga's high points.  Her epic VMA performance, her iconic blonde bangs, and her complete obsession with fame... all of this stemmed from endeavors like the "Paparazzi" music video.  This video stays out of my top five mainly because it's a little boring.  There's not a ton going on for the whole middle of the video.  It's not quite as visually interesting as some of her other works.
Favorite Moments:  I love the wheelchair/crutches scene.  The symbolism behind that -- that Gaga is just as crippled by the pressures of fame as she is crippled by a broken leg -- is portrayed very effectively.  This whole idea continues throughout the video as images of murdered women flash on the screen, all with impeccable apparel and stylized poses.  I also love the dance sequence where Gaga's in a white jumpsuit with oversized "poufs."  There are moments there where she just lets the music take her into a frenzy, and I live for those moments.  Finally, the murder scene is quite epic.  I love her makeup, glasses, and jumpsuit.  Very naughty.  And, as icing on the cake, you've got the mug shots that just glue into your brain.  This video shines in the fact that its message is very clearly portrayed in a very artistic way.  Props.

#7:  Marry the Night
This is definitely the most autobiographical of Gaga's videos, and most likely the one with the most emotional investment put into it.  When I first saw this music video,  I didn't like it that much.  But the more I learn about it, the more I appreciate it.  It is definitely more of a cerebral artistic work than it is a music video.  Meant more for a gallery than for MTV.  A lot of it goes over my head, but I think that's part of the nuance of it.  These are things GAGA understands and GAGA cares about -- it's like a glimpse into another person's soul.  You really can't understand everything, but you can at least enjoy the aesthetic of it.  I'm a little more satisfied with the monologue of this video than I am with the "Born This Way" monologue. I love that line about the beadazzler. The burning car scenes and the stripped down "rehearsal-mode" shots in the middle of the clip are sort of passive, but that may be just because I don't understand the imagery. It's a lot more introspective and a lot less pretentious.  But still, Gaga's taking herself pretty seriously here.  But what artist doesn't?
Favorite Moments:  The Ballet scenes.  Hands down, I LOVE that outfit and those awesome Tatehana shoes.  I'm also a pretty big fan of how artistic the hospital wing became in the hands of the Haus.  Gaga's whole spiel about the nurses and their Calvin Klein coats and romantic beret-esque nets... Way to see beauty in the details. The apartment scenes -- although in some ways a little disturbing -- were beautifully executed.  I'm also a pretty big fan of the ending of the video, pretty much from around the point where they begin dancing in the street up to the final shot of that cosmic Philip Tracey hat.  That montage of images hearkening back to Gaga's early days were something I could relate to.  Grassroots artist becomes worldwide superstar.  This is the American dream, with a dark Gaga twist.

#6: Pokerface
This was the first Lady Gaga video I ever fell in love with.  Even though not much goes on in this video, it is visually stimulating, colorful, and incredibly sexy.  Furthermore, it contains some of my absolute favorites of Gaga's looks.  The hairbow, the crystalline motifs, the disco mask, the Haus-of-Gaga video glasses...  It was this video that got me into Lady Gaga.  Strip poker and pelvic thrusts aside, it's pretty calm, by Gaga standards.  Again, there's something to be said for just making fun music without pretentiousness or agenda.
Favorite Moments: The fashion and the close-up shots.  The poolside choreography is also pretty sweet.  I love that blonde hair.  She's just so young here! And there's just enough poker in it for the music to be relevant. It's fresh and wonderful!

#5: Applause
Now you know where her newest video goes on the list!
I honestly feel like this is a rare instance where the music video actually adds to the song and makes the music more enjoyable.  Usually videos do the opposite for me.  But the thing about this song is it needs a visual context.  It's a club piece, so it's less about what you hear and more about what you experience while hearing it.  Thus, having a video to attach some extra-sensory, multi-media contexts to the music was not only pleasant, but almost necessary.  And the visuals that were chosen were on the whole very good choices.  There's plenty going on in this video.  I've read several reviews that state that the endeavor was more of an artistic one than a pop one, and I'd have to agree.  Inez and Vinoodh are good at this kind of montage work.  Gaga moves from one look to another, and manages to fit in all of them like a glove.  From the crazy Marilyn-caged look to the simple brunette in underwear on a mattress.  It all looks natural for Gaga.  The only part that I personally deem unsuccessful was the part where her head is precariously juxtaposed with the body of a goose.  Not only does it look a little hackneyed, I also don't understand the reference or symbolism in that image.
Favorite Moments:  I love the way Gaga looks in the black bodysuit.  Very classy and very effective.  And when you add the colors to her face to create this sort of harlequin-esque display is almost haunting.  I also love the dance parts, particularly when she's just rocking out in her natural brunette hair and underwear.  There's passion in that.  I also love when she just goes bat-crap crazy and has a nice little seizure in her bikini made of black-gloved hands.  I appreciate the symbolism of the wings (sign of liberation and rebirth), the leg she carries into the spotlight (reference to her recent surgery that led to the sudden cancellation of her tour last year), and the Boticelli Birth of Venus (once again, a sign of a new birth).  Her sandy-blonde hair with that shell bikini reminds me of Mariah Carey, which is a compliment because Mariah is hot.  Her crazy faces are also pretty awesome.  I just like it when artists lose themselves in whatever it is they're doing.  It looks like Gaga had a fun time making this video.  I sense the emotion and joy behind it.  It's well-made.

#4: Alejandro
There are moments in this video that give me chills, even now, after watching it dozens of times. But before we get to the amazing stuff I'm gonna just mention the parts of this that bug me.  First of all... I think it's supposed to be about marriage equality, but I honestly get lost in the narrative.  You've got guys in fishnets and heels, sure.  And you've got lots of military motifs, perhaps representing the ferocity and aggression that exist within this "war" of ideals within American society.  And you've got the images of burning buildings and overall mayhem... a reference to a specific event?  I'm not sure.  There's just a lot going on in this video, and while I appreciate this kind of narrative more than that of the "Telephone" video, I still get a little lost and I must rely on the music and the aesthetic quality of the video to keep me interested.  Perhaps this is as it should be.  After all, shouldn't the music video be about the music?  And the music of "Alejandro" is not really about all that stuff.  It's about Gaga's fear of commitment.  And you can see that in some of the imagery.  The heart left exposed on a black silk pillow, the queen-like Alexander McQueen look, also seen at the beginning of the video, the gun-bra, even the choreography with the other male dancers... I understand all of these images.
People give Gaga a lot of crap for using religious imagery in this video, but I honestly don't mind it.  People have used religious motifs -- particularly Catholic motifs, because there are a lot of them and they're easily recognizable -- in musical and artistic endeavors for ages.  It denotes piety and devotion.  The fact that Gaga is dressed as a nun for parts of the video, for me, help add to the message of the song; she's afraid to commit to a sexual relationship because of events and convictions she has made in the past.  The cross is purposefully placed in the region of her crotch to symbolize the hopeful preservation of her virtue in the face of selfish and prideful men.  It really all makes sense.  Of course, these things make people uncomfortable, and that's yet another reason why Gaga does it.  She loves shocking people and goes to great heights to do so.
Favorite Moments:  The most amazing part of this video is, in my opinion, the black-and-white shots of Mother Monster, clad in a sexy black halter-top and wide-leg pants, strutting herself in solitude, a la Madonna during her "Vogue" period.  It's SUCH an effective shot.  And while the dance she does with her femmy male dancers and gun bra are definitely striking, there's nothing quite like that sexy snap-strut she does near the end of the video.  I also love love love the images of her singing on a makeshift stage, with the glasses and the microphone.  The McQueen look is also so regal. These shots are beautiful to me.  The whole video remains in a very stoic, bi-chromatic place.  The theme runs like a lifeblood throughout the whole thing.  It's well crafted.  Well done, GagaKlein!

#3: You and I
Choosing between "You and I" and "Alejandro" was very hard because they are both great for similar reasons.  While "Alejandro" maintains a cold, stoic mood as it cuts from one unique image to another, "You and I" also maintains its mood, despite all of the crazy changes that occur within it.  Except "You and I," on the whole, is more warm and approachable than "Alejandro."  It's got more of a personal touch, and it isn't quite as self-aware.  In this video, Gaga gets a chance to show her more goofy side.  What with Yuyi the mermaid, the frolicking wood nymph, the aqua-haired dominatrix, and Joe Calderone, this was Gaga's way of exposing the broad spectrum of Gaga's personality.  It also tells a definite story.  She's returning to a love she once knew. After a long period of experimentation and self-discovery, Gaga discovers that the thing she really wants may very well have been the thing that was there all along. As strange and unorthodox as home may seem, it's still home.
Favorite Moments:  There are many, but above all, Joe Calderone.  I'm almost disturbed at how attracted I find myself to this character.  Even though he's obviously got a drinking and a smoking problem and he's feeling up his alternate identity like no one's watching.  But man, don't they both look like they're having a ton of fun out in that cornfield?
I also love the daylight scenes, as Gaga's making the journey to the barn.  That cyborg look is awesome.  And while I feel like the mermaid sex is a little graphic, I appreciate the notion of mermaid/human romance.  And that's a pretty well-created mermaid costume. There's just something very beautiful and simple about it.  The fashion in all of this is really creative.  And the sweet wedding images that we see throughout really are icing on the cake for me.  Great song.  Great imagery.  Just great.

#2: Judas
I love this video.  It's colorful, it's interesting, it tells a story, it's unique, and in some ways it's very simple.  First of all, it's not one of those crazy short films.  It's mostly just about the music, and the images pertain to what the music is talking about.  You've got a twist on the story of Christ and Judas Iscariot, ingeniously told within the setting of an urban biker community.  And in the midst of it all, you've got Lady Gaga, who plays a role similar to Mary Magdalene, although there really isn't much there to support the notion that she actually is Mary.  She obviously has feelings for both Jesus and Judas, and she obviously knows the right choice, but it's still a very difficult choice to make.  There are very few criticisms I can make about this video.  I guess she's got a few immodesty moments, but this is honestly one of the more tame and clean Gaga videos.  And (as with "Alejandro") there is always the whole sacrilege thing.  But I don't think it's that terrible to portray the story of Christ this way.  It's really no worse than Jesus Christ Superstar.  Again, Gaga is using religious imagery (particularly the notion of betrayal with Judas) to carry a message.
Favorite Moments: The clothing.  The setting.  The colorful palate.  The gangsta moves.  The premise.  The makeup and nails.  The hair (particularly in the washing scene) and the final image of Gaga being stoned (killed by fame?) while wearing dapper dancing shoes. Plus... a lipstick gun to accompany the betraying kiss?? What a novel idea!  Also, this ties with "Bad Romance" for best choreography.  This is one of the few videos where I actually really like watching Gaga dance in synchronization with other people.  It's airtight and full of energy.  I am in love with this video.

#1: Bad Romance
Honestly, the one thing that keeps this video at #1 and not "Judas" is the sheer impact that this video has had on Gaga's career and the way we see pop music and videos.  It cannot be denied that "Bad Romance" was one of the greatest music videos released during this decade.  The iconic images that have come out of this video, the level of shock that it stirred, and the pure artistic beauty of it was leaps and bounds ahead of its peers.  This is where Gaga introduces the notion of the "Monster" into her fans' vocabulary.  And this is where she finally sealed the deal in regards to her complete nuttiness in the eyes of the industry.  You've got the twitchy, anime-eyed bath scenes, the sallow ribcage that make her nude scenes not sexy, but monstrous, and the last image of her lying in bed with a pyrotechnic bra and a burnt skeleton.  Yep.  Gaga's nuts.
Favorite Moments:  The choreography.  It's powerful and unique.  Definitely the greatest Gaga has ever seen.  I mean, can you imagine Gaga without her monster claws?  You can't!  Also the Alexander McQueen Armadillo shoes.  And the black outfit. And the "Orbit" look is in this one, too.  And the bathing scenes.  Oh gosh, the whole thing is just so classic, you can't pin down just one point that is more awesome than the others!  I love this video, and I think the entire world loves it too.

August's Playlist

1. "Shadow" by Keane
2. "Still Getting Younger" by Wynter Gordon
3. "Stars" by Fun.
4. "School's Out" by Alice Cooper
5. "Where does the Good Go?" by Tegan and Sara
6. "And Then Some" by Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra
7. "Emily" by MIKA
8. "American" by Lana Del Rey
9. "Theme from Lawrence of Arabia" as performed by the 101 Strings Orchestra
10. "Annie" by James Blunt
11. "Applause" by Lady Gaga
12. "Never Grow Up" by Taylor Swift