Even when it's raining daggers in a futuristic dystopia — created with notable film director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Machete) — the diva duo of Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande are able to dance their way to joyous release.
I wouldn't exactly call this a "back to basics" video — since I think Lady Gaga's natural baseline is maximum theatricality, ideally in a meat dress — but "Perfect Illusion" is Gaga without artifice. Simple, handheld, mic-in-hands, hands on the steering wheel, jumping around with the fans out at an impromptu desert festival.
I love how Lady Gaga remains in character in what's designed to be a "behind the scenes" recording session video — and I especially love how that "character" is always in flux, bouncing here from a Cher ensemble to something closer to Linda Richman. But, this is potentially genius for Ms. Gaga: The young pop "consumer" is incredibly fickle, but Gaga still has a voice and an undeniable talent; and your mom is more likely to plunk down $15 for old friend Tony Bennet and his spunky sidekick singing the classics, than a 15 year old would be willing to part with any money for any pop fluff they'll probably tire of within 15 minutes. And Tony? Well, the legendary Mr. Bennett knows his creative and commercial way around pop crossovers very well, having shared the mic with everyone from Amy Winehouse to Queen Latifah to Sting, Bono, Tim McGraw and even Elmo.
The previously shelved "Do What U Want" music video — directed by Terry "Wrecking Ball" Richardson and starring R. Kelly — has been making the media rounds. Page Six gets a vicious dig in via an unnamed source, "With the theme, ‘I’m going to do whatever I want with your body’? It was literally an ad for rape."
Yikes. TMZ has a snippet if you care to see... There's a lot of writhing.
I'm not the best with either Greek or Real Housewives mythology, so there's a chance I've got this all wrong. Maybe Lady Gaga isn't a modern day Icarus, who's been brought down from her artistic heights by money men and in-fighting executives. Maybe Bravo TV mastermind Andy Cohen isn't God, and the Housewives won't serenade us in the afterlife.
But, I am 100% certain this is 11 minutes of inspired insanity — and that includes the four minutes which are just credits. Shot on-location at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon and featuring a cast of hundreds — we're talking models, Real Housewives, a Michael Jackson impersonator, Gandhi, and much — this opus plays like a compilation of every idea, big or small, that's struck Lady Gaga and her team since the mixed reaction to her Artpop launch.
And it's open-ended enough that you can run with whatever narrative you want: Take it as proof of Gaga's creative rebirth, or as messy self-indulgence. So long as you take it in, share it, and talk about it, I'm pretty sure it's mission accomplished for this master media manipulator.
Lady Gaga "It is late because, just like with the Applause video unfortunately, I was given a week to plan and execute it. It is very devastating for someone like me, I devote every moment of my life to creating fantasies for you. All my my most successful videos were planned over a period of time when I was rested and my creativity was honored. Those who have betrayed me gravely mismanaged my time and health and left me on my own to damage control any problems that ensued as a result."
Enough with the thinkpieces about why Lady Gaga Artpop is a commercial disappointment: It debuted at #1 with over 200k sold, which is pretty damn good for an album which hasn't yet spawned a true hit single. And that's a key clause there: "Applause" got a golf clap, at best, and it remains to be seen if any of the other tracks thrown at the virtual wall will stick (I'd bet on the R. Kelly collabo "Do What U Want," especially if the video lives up to the single art).
The other issue is that Lady Gaga has proven able to be an iconoclast, it feels like she's now trying awfully hard without any real focus. This brand new ARTPOP film feels like a demo reel of various guises she's trying out, from some Marilyn Manson mugging, monster mashing and other looks that veer heavily on the edge of wackiness.
There's not a director credit on this one. Instead, this in-character Lady Gaga performance is "documented" by Spike Jonze and Chris Milk. It's raw, bravely unstyled — yet, clearly "styled," if you know what I mean — and perhaps gunning to steal that up-close "real" emotional focus from Miley Cyrus.