There are an awful lot of writhing naked male bodies in Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” music video. This is a departure from most music videos, which usually feature writing naked female bodies, and from Gaga’s own music videos, which have generally not featured writhing naked bodies of any type – save hers – and have generally been more tasteful and better produced than this one.
The song “Alejandro” itself is not bad. It can be interpreted to be about a woman begging Hispanics not to cat-call her, a peon for lost Freudian love, or whatever. The lyrics are clever, but, as with Gaga’s other songs, become needlessly repetitive. “Alejandro” and the other Hispanic names Gaga uses in the lyrics may have meaning, or they may have been chosen for their syllabic value. The song leaves itself open to interpretation, though very few people who listen to Lady Gaga interpret her words.
The actual music, as with Gaga’s other songs, is heavily reliant on techno artist RedOne, who is a clever composer of pop beats. The vocals are good; Gaga’s recording studio knows how to use pitch correction technology and synthesizers. But Gaga has written and sung better songs, and she has made better videos than this one.
The video is shot by Steven Klein, a fashion photographer who is best known for his work at Calvin Klein and with celebrities like Brad Pitt and Madonna. He has photographed many nudes before, though he almost always covers up the naughty bits. In some shots posted on his website, for examples, penises have been cleverly covered by guns. This may be a commentary on sexuality, but in an interview Klein once said, “I will never consider what I do art.” I do not believe that he really thinks that.
Klein has never shot a music video before. His first attempt is not bad. His photographs are usually shot with vibrant, hypersaturated colors. Here, the colors are muted, often to full black and white.
The video starts with and prominently features male dancers in form-fitting black underwear. They dance, as dancers in music videos do, in perfect choreography. At first it seems that they are dancing for Gaga while she looks on in one of her Gaga-esque costumes, but later she joins them. These dancers’ bodies are athletic and beautiful. Their dance incorporates the full prowess of their muscled bodies; they flip on the floor and occasionally hold their bodies up with one hand. When they dance with Gaga, they adapt to the femininity of her motion. Both the dancers and their choreographer are talented.
But despite Klein usually working in controlled studios to great effect, this video has terrible production value. It looks like it was shot on a sound stage. Gaga and her dancers exist inside an empty warehouse, and not to any artistic effect. In several shots, the latticework of the warehouse’s roof is visible. The dancers often move in front of a projected screen, and it looks cheap.
As Gaga’s other videos, the music and lyrics have very little to do with the imagery. This video incorporates fetishized fascist imagery, which is disturbing. When the dancers aren’t mostly naked, they wear sexy versions of SS uniforms. They are all meant to be soldiers from some strange, Gaga-esqe universe. They all have bowl haircuts. Toward the middle of the video, Gaga wears a nun habit with a symbol evocative of the Spanish Inquisition. At several points, Gaga wears cloth underwear sans underwire that evokes Cabaret. This costume is not flattering, and emphasizes her imperfections. Not surprisingly, this makes her seem sexier.
But Gaga is not the focus of the sexuality in this video. The nearly naked, fascist, athletic men with bowl haircuts are. Their writhing bodies are admired by the camera more than Gaga’s. Steven Klein excels at this sort of imagery. Gaga has many gay fans and has said in interviews that she made this video for them. I, as a mostly straight man, can find little that is sexually appealing in this video. Maybe that’s the point.
Gaga makes some homages to Madonna in this video. She wears a bra with gun barrels attached that evokes Madonna’s notorious cones. Soon after, she sings on a stage with her shirt open in a pose that references Evita. These moments are heavy-handed and unnecessary.
The best part of the video comes when Gaga dresses in a costume like the ones Liza Minelli often donned. She dances by herself against a black backdrop. Klein seems to enjoy photographing her this way. She’s a phenomenal dancer, and is very sure of her body. Moments like this are pleasant to watch, but rare.