In promotion of their new (and pretty damn great) Cloud Drive streaming media service, Amazon was offering Lady Gaga’s new record Born This Way for just 99 cents. Now, I’ve never been the biggest fan of her music, but I thought I may as well own a complete record to give her a fair chance — you know, seeing as how she’s one of the most popular artists in the world.
Disappointingly, I wasn’t won over by this record. Instead, I found it even more cloyingly campy and difficult to listen to than I anticipated. It seems I’m just not cut out to be one of Gaga’s Little Monsters.
In disproportion to my interest in her actual music, it is telling that I have now written three posts on Gaga. In fact, I have always admired Lady Gaga as an art director and performer. I think that she and her team come up with some of the catchiest, strangest, most referentially brilliant props and performance conceits in modern memory (her meat dress and cigarette sunglasses come to mind). Now, I don’t find the becycled cover of Born This Way to be brilliant, exactly, but I was pleased that it recalled one of my favorite old pinball machines, Centaur. Back when I first saw the straight-out-of-the-80s Centaur machine at a bar in Seattle, I remember thinking the concept of a centaur being half-man and half-motorcycle was funny but strangely compelling. Would this form factor be a gift or a curse? It’s difficult to tell…
…and now I’m thinking the cover just might be kinda brilliant — an aptly odd metaphor for the whole pop-machine Gaga identity whirlwind… Damn! She got me again!
Perhaps the only question that remains is: who wore it better?
Director and king of the music video treatment, Patrick Daughters, has always had what you could describe as a cute style. Born out of an era when Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry were king, his music videos became known for their in-camera special effects, single continuous shots, playfulness, and a sort of sublime beauty — oftentimes bathed in slow motion.
After an unexpectedly popular video for Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Maps in 2003, a critically acclaimed suite of videos for Feist (including 1,2,3,4 and I Feel It All), and his quick dissemination as the director of choice for indie bands who could afford to pull off his ideas (Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins, Interpol, Grizzly Bear), you would be forgiven for thinking you could pick out a Patrick Daughters video from a lineup.
However, it seems that the moody reverence most of us born before 1980 hold for Depeche Mode was able to turn even a life is beautiful type like Mr. Daughters towards the dark side.
His two videos for the band, the first accompanying the tune Wrong (2009) and a new one for Personal Jesus [Stargate Remix], have no sense of salvation baked in. Gone are the children, bright colors, and paper cutouts of his previous videos, and in their place we are shown a sort of decontextualized paranoia and an almost poetic sense of vengeance. Though both videos have Daughters-isms — Wrong‘s distinct stylistic realism and metaphorical backwards-moving car, Personal Jesus‘ slow-mo glittery explosion of water — both of these videos seem part of a new body of work. It seems like Mr. Daughters is pushing outside of his and his audiences’ comfort zone. It’s an interesting direction, and I’m curious where Patrick will go with this new found thematic freedom. I look forward to his next batch of music videos, and I’m very curious to hear more about his rumored upcoming feature film debut.