I like Lady Gaga, but even I get sick of hearing people talk about her — whether she’s kidding or not, whether she’s a fraud who stole all the material for her songs, whether she’s pandering, plagiarizing, or completely without a sense of humor. I tune most of that out, but I do wonder how serious she is, or whether this is just some Ivy League doctoral thesis spun madly out of control. Like a Neil LaBute play on steroids. But watching this very scaled-back but still VERY 80s video (Did they shoot this on the same street as they shot Streets of Fire? I hope so! It’s probably just the set from How I Met Your Mother though.), I realized something — there are moments in this video where we see genuine emotion, genuine joy, genuine holy fuck I’m a rockstar and this is cool from Lady Gaga. It’s when she’s dancing on the scaffolding, and it only appears for a few seconds at a time, probably less than a minute in the whole video…
…but it’s there, and in those moments, you can see the teenage kid from Long Island dancing to Madonna in front of a mirror or lip-synching “Jungleland” (okay, don’t really know who dances to “Jungleland”…maybe “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out“) into a hairbrush. The eggs and meat suits and grandiose statements fall away, and it’s real. Real enough to keep looking for it, like one of those guys in David Foster Wallace’s “Big Red One” who watch hours upon hours of porn to catch the moments of real emotion that pass through the artifice of…well, porn.
Maybe the secret to Lady Gaga is that there’s no secret, that there never has been. That she’s just a kid who became a rock star, and every night, she gets to live the dream on the edge of glory.
And boy, is it cool.