Capitalizing on a wave of publicity in the aftermath of Sunday night’s Super Bowl halftime performance, Lady Gaga has released the music video for “John Wayne,” a standout track from last year’s largely forgettable Joanne. Gaga’s short film-style clips for “Bad Romance,” “Alejandro,” and “Born This Way” helped reignite the music video medium, turning each new release into a bona fide event, but her recent output—especially the lackluster videos for “Perfect Illusion” and “Million Reasons,” the first two singles from Joanne—have failed to garner much buzz. “John Wayne,” however, sees Gaga once again plying a maximalist aesthetic, and returning to the outlandish costumes and, possibly, a storyline that began almost eight years ago.
Jonas Akerlund (#1–10 of 5)
After two singles highlighting the cardiovascular half of Madonna’s Rebel Heart project, the singer is unleashing her so-called rebellious side for the album’s third single, “Bitch I’m Madonna.” The first glimpse of the star-studded new music video for the track, inspired by a high-octane performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, came courtesy of the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, who posted a behind-the-scenes clip from the shoot last month on Instagram. Coyne wasn’t the only celeb on set though—but he’s certainly the weirdest. Despite the song’s title, the clip, which premiered exclusively on Tidal this morning, makes room for a litany of guests, including Chris Rock, Rita Ora, Diplo (who produced the track), fashion designer Alexander Wang, and the Queen of Pop’s two sons, Rocco and David. Other cameos—like a pose-striking Beyoncé, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Miley Cyrus—were beamed in via green-screen, giving the video a slapdash quality that’s rare for the music video pioneer. The apparent moral of the story? We are all Madonna. So grab your grillz and start humping the nearest wall.
The rollout of Madonna’s new album, Rebel Heart, continues to be a bumpy one. To their credit, the pop queen and her minions have made some admirable, albeit occasionally misguided, attempts at disseminating the project in unexpected and inventive ways—from Snapchat to Grindr to Tidal, Jay Z’s new artist-owned music-streaming service. But some called the pomp and circumstance with which Tidal was introduced to the public last week “embarrassingly out-of-touch,” and after previewing the new music video for “Ghosttown,” the second single from Rebel Heart, on the site over the weekend, it was announced that the Queen of App would instead debut the full clip via Meerkat. After a countdown clock ran out yesterday, Madge’s Meerkat stream was—forgive the pun—a ghost town, and her audio-visual apocalypse was abruptly delayed for 24 hours with no warning or explanation. Today’s actual premiere didn’t fare much better, marred by technical glitches that resulted in, from most accounts, no one actually seeing the video. (It’s since been uploaded to Vevo.)
“Once you kill a cow, you gotta make a burger.” So says Lady Gaga as she turns to the camera with a deadpan stare in her latest video for the Fame Monster track “Telephone.” Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, the clip is a sequel to the previous Gaga-Åkerlund collaboration “Paparazzi”—and it’s an epic in music video terms, clocking in at nine and a half minutes.
Whereas “Paparazzi” was an extended riff on, among other things, Hitchcock and his voyeuristic sensibilities, “Telephone” has chosen the work of Quentin Tarantino as its visual and narrative inspiration. The video is full of nods to the director: the self-conscious dialogue laden with knowing winks to the audience; the fascination with the muddy waters of exploitation, of which the women-in-prison film is a genre favorite; and of course, the infamous Kill Bill Pussy Wagon. (The Tarantino connections are so strong, the first time I watched the video I was sure Gaga was making out with Steve Buscemi.)
Forget for a moment the Ouroboros meta-nature of crafting a pastiche of a filmmaker whose work is defined by pastiche; Beyoncé, Gaga’s co-star and the Honey B(unny) to her Pumpkin, has Tarantino on the brain as well. Her clip for “Video Phone” (directed by Hype Williams and featuring Lady Gaga in a mirror-like inversion) riffed on Tarantino as well, with its opening scene a direct lift from Reservoir Dogs. However, “Video Phone” is a deeply flawed work; its pastiche descends into an incoherent hodge-podge, with ideas and images thrown into the blender without rhyme or reason.
Last fall, while everyone was going gaga over Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video, I found myself scratching my head. I had already paid penance and proudly secured my seat on the Gaga train, but the crowning of the pop singer as the music video medium’s new queen seemed premature at best. Directed by the always reliable but often unremarkable Francis Lawrence, “Bad Romance” was like 2001 meets Alien meets an Alexander McQueen runway show; from Gaga’s outlandish couture (dig that pre-coital polar-bear-rug getup) and a plot ostensibly warning about the dangers of hatching hot alien babes and trying to mate with them (which admittedly sounds pretty awesome on paper), the clip was a mishmash of ideas that simply didn’t gel.