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Gaga's Alejandro Video: A Guide To Its Madonna References

MTV.com writer Kyle Anderson has highlighted the Madonna references featured in the Steven Klein directed video for Lady Gaga's Alejandro:

When the brief preview for Lady Gaga's 'Alejandro' video appeared during the singer's appearance on 'Larry King Live' last week, many people immediately noticed the nod to Madonna's 'Vogue.' It was all there: the sharp black-and-white photography, the muscular dancing, the spartan set, the iconic hairstyle.
But as it turns out, the full version of 'Alejandro' - which premiered Tuesday (June 8) - is a healthy combination of a number of different references, nods and homages to a bevy of Madonna videos. (One MTV News writer says 'Alejandro' is more than just an ode to Madonna - check out his counterpoint in the Newsroom blog.)
The 'Vogue' references are certainly there, as Gaga spends a large chunk of the video in that same spartan set in black-and-white. But the rest of the clip features Gaga in a number of different costumes - including a red nun's habit and some sort of steampunk headgear - in a handful of different scenarios (some of which involve Nazi imagery).
In addition to 'Vogue,' the opening sequence seems to recall Madonna's 'Evita' period (when she made 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina' a hit). Gaga is dressed to mourn whomever is in the casket behind her - perhaps the titular Alejandro? - and it would be easy to assume that she's attending a state funeral, which would mean Gaga flipped the gender roles in the original story of the Peróns (in reality, it was Juan who buried Eva).
Later, Gaga strips to her underwear and dominates a scantily clad dancer tied to a bed. While Madonna is no stranger to the imagery surrounding bondage and submission, that image most faithfully recalls the Material Girl's 'Human Nature,' which saw her dressed in black pleather and dancing seductively with the assistance of ropes and a riding crop.
But the biggest nod to Madonna's past certainly comes with all the religious imagery. Gaga dresses as a nun, swallows rosary beads and stands in front of a row of crosses at various points during the clip, which brings to mind Madonna's classic video for 'Like a Prayer.' In fact, there are even video clips of flames in the background of one of the dance scenes in 'Alejandro,' which could easily have been lifted wholesale from the moment in Madonna's clip when she sings among a field of flaming crosses.
There are a number of other cultural references that slip out of 'Alejandro' (Gaga clearly enjoys the work of film director Fritz Lang), but even the gun-barrel-sporting bra she wears at the end could be mistaken for that conical top Madonna made famous during the Blonde Ambition Tour.
Of course, 'Alejandro' director Steven Klein has worked as a photographer for Madonna over the past few years, so it's quite possible that these are merely the influences he has picked up while working with her. But if Gaga really is making an attempt to define herself as a next-gen Madonna who also pays homage to her elders, then there are worse paths to follow.

Comments

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Zashime

Lady Gaga is trying too hard to become or even top madonna... will she be successful???

R L

OK. I love the song "Alejandro". Not just because I can relate to it..LOL. But, because the lyrics are original. Excellent sound engineering to sample "Ace of Base".

I like like Lady Gaga and Madonna. But I think there was the opportunity to maybe take a more romantic approach to the video. Also with some 'clear' choreography.

modul8tr

There's a difference between being influenced, borrowing, and paying homage to art and artists from many different genres and disciplines (film, art, photography, books, stage) and simply appropriating the looks and imagery of another artist (still living and recording) that works in your exact SAME discipline.


If it's all homage, why doesn't Rihanna just copy whatever video Beyonce put out last week? And why stop there? She could also dress like her, wear her hair and makeup like her in public AND in interviews, and simply say it's all okay because it's an "homage" and she really does have her own ideas.

And yes, lots of art is *inspired* by other artists, but it's all about how the next person takes it and spits it out in a **new way**. Another idea is modulated into something new, and sometimes juxtaposed or blended with something else, creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Gaga does not do this, she spits it out the same. Not in some new and unexpected way that seems fresh or unique. There's nothing there that surprises me, or causes me nod and say, "yes, that's clever and VERY smart."

And this myth that Confessions era imagery and music are simply photo copied from Goldfrapp are ABSOLUTELY false and hilariously so. I am VERY familiar with the work of Goldfrapp, and you couldn't even begin to draw parallels between Madonna and Goldrapp, in the MANY ways you can between Gaga and Madonna. I think the only association is that they both made glittery disco influenced records, that sonically sound quite different. Neither one of them have a patent on glittery disco.

Considering that people prior to this record (for some crazy reason) have compared Gaga to Madonna, as an artist, it seems she'd want to step out with her own individual vision and style, and not place herself further into the shadow of a HUGE icon.

I'll quote M.I.A. again because it's so damn accurate:

"People say we're similar, that we both mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same. None of her music's reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is." She added: "She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna but the music sounds like 20 year-old Ibiza disco."

tracy

modul8tr-madonna original look was not 'original'-bananarama looked like that first-confessions-goldfrapp.people think shes original-but she actually borrows from people less well known too.thank you bristar-glad you could see what i mean.& she doesnt just copy dead legends.she copies anyone!!most of her career has been based on paying homage to someone.

John

Madonna is one of the most original artists. However Gaga is a copy of a copy. Look for Marta Sanchez, a spanish singer,in youtube. She was a Madonna`s imitator. And it is logic Madonna has had influences. A doctor uses inventions to do her job. The problem is Gaga is copying everything of Madonna.

seanp7

I see Express Yourself imagery as the most dominant (but definitely LAP & Vogue). The bed scenes remind me of Justify My Love in some strange way.

claudia childs

All art is referential - so whats the big surprise . More power to Madonna. Its all about taking it a step further and adding that personal interpretation and vision. Lady Gaga is a fantastic musician and certainly has her finger on the contemporary pulse - fashion , music and art. Before she was behind the scenes writing the music for the likes of the Pussy cat dolls and Britney Spears and now she's out front strutting her stuff. She's an entertainer par excellence AND NOT BORING! for the time being.

bristar

tracy (10th June) - I agree with you completely!

- The video for 'Express Yourself' is an homage to/copied from 'Metropolis' - M said this herself.

- The 'Disco Inferno' section of 'The Confessions Tour' - an homage/tribute to John Travolta.

- The video for 'Hung Up' - also a tribute to John Travolta, M said herself.

- When promoting 'Hung Up' which, of course, had the AMAZING sample from ABBA, it is clear that M was channeling Agnetha from ABBA at some points: the boots, the sequinned skull cap, etc.

- Parts of the video for "Sorry" - the roller disco scene, for example - have more than a passing resemblance to the movie "Xanadu".

- Many people have indeed suggested that M's entire look to promote 'Confessions' had more than a passing nod to Alison Godlfrapp. Hell, even the hairstyle M sported during this time was the "Farah Fawcett-Majors' Flick"!!!

- The whole "Vogue" thing - this had been going on in the underground club scene in NY for ages. M didn't invent it, she referenced and used it.

The list could go on!

In modern pop culture which extends back, in reality, about 50 years, it is inevitable that there will be references to stuff that has come before, and it's not necessarily a bad thing.


I have been an ardent fan of M right from the beginning, but I do think people sometimes need to lighten up. There is a saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Alex

The more we will react on LG, the more she will be successful. Personally, I ignore all articles daring to compare the absolute Queen of pop and LG as I ignore her work (I won't see this videao and I have never seen any video of LG). If this woman has talent and is succesful, good for her but I am tired of comparison with our Goddess. There are not comparable at all.

Pat

I don't think Madonna minds being a source if inspiration. Lady GaGa openly pays homage to her and explicitly states that she is heavily influenced by Madonna, which is great and very very different from copying and imitating somebody (like many do with Madonna) and pretend to be original.

Good job Lady GaGa! And we know that nobody can replace or do better than Madonna, but it is good to have other artist who do interesting things.

modul8tr

@Tracy

Yeah but Madonna paid tribute to dead legends. Madonna is still here making music as a giant in the industry. And she wasn't appropriating their image and imagery in every. single. thing. she was doing. Madonna - like David Bowie - is the ultimate chameleon with many interests, sounds, and looks. And remember, Madonna was a fashion icon from the get go, because she had a strong original look no one had seen before. Gaga spends all her time trying to look like Madonna, Grace Jones, and David Bowie.

Gaga not only mimics Madonna in her videos, but walks around on a daily basis trying to look like Madonna. Did you see her Oprah interview? All she was missing was Madonna's` Blonde Ambition era high ponytail.

Did you see her on Larry King recently? All she needed was a beret and a beauty mark. She was even wearing the sunglasses Madonna wore in that era!

And when Larry asked her who she looked up to and if she compares herself to Madonna, she once again played it down. And she did it, with what sounded like a faint british accent.

She's studied hard and knows EXACTLY what she's doing.

It's not that you can't pay homage to other artists (which Gaga is not doing, she's appropriating), it's that you shouldn't do it in performance after performance, or video after video, or appearance after appearance. She's a *new* artist that should be building her *own* identity.

An example of someone clearly influenced by and who worships at the alter of Madonna, but has managed to build her own strong unique identity, is Allison Goldfrapp. You can see this most in the Black Cherry era videos, photo shoots, and performances.

Goldfrapp is brilliant.

John Fraser

Gaga deserves credit for copying from Madonna...who else should she copy??? Madonna copied but she copied with style. Those who can copy from HER with style are deserving of credit. To copy from a good copy takes gut!! What i hate is when they haphazardly copy from several videos making their own video lack depth, or tone, or meaning. Like Christina Aguilera's latest video, also nodding at Madge's videos. Madonna always had and still has depth. One could listen to her music and feel entertained and well read and spiritually uplifted all in one.

tracy

i think were all forgetting here that madonna has played 'homage' many times to many people-marilyn monroe,mae west,marlene dietrich-the list goes on!!!!lady gaga can sing-to say she cant is a bit unfair.if i recall-madonna was facing a lawsuit a while ago over her 'hollywood' video-after certain individuals claimed it was a direct copy of thier work.all artists borrow from other artists-be it copying a look,sampling from a song,taking an idea from a picture or video.people they admire give them inspiration.give gaga some credit.xx

Feral

I adore Gaga, but I don't ever--EVER--recall anyone saying Madonna's music was derivative. Gaga is a fantastic singer, and the songs are catchy as hell, but they don't sound very original.

I mean, Alejandro has the EXACT same beat as Ace of Base's Don't Turn Around, and the theme both lyrically and musically is a mash-up of La Isla Bonita and ABBA's Fernando...

Art

Hasn't anybody noticed the gap in Gaga's two front teeth during the nun close ups. Very blatant.

kruschy

i caught express yourself, papa dont preach even. i enjoy what she is doing visually, its usually pretty epic and stunning and interesting and weird. but the music, i agree is kinda meh. not as weird as her image. im not sure about her lasting appeal.

luis

thei noe it, beby. thei say it, tell them yulle duue it.

kis kis kis
x x x o
yo ar awshowoop

luis

Gaga strips to her underwear and dominates a scantily clad dancer tied to a bed. While Madonna is no stringer to the imagery surrounding bndgage and submission, that image most faithfully recalls the Material Girl's 'Humane Nature,' which saw her dressed in bluck pleafther and dancing seductively with the assistance of ropes and a riddine croupe.
But the biggeft node tow M a d o n n a's past fcertinly cometh as with awll the reigous imagagery. Gaga drefses as a ninne, sweellows trofary bides and stands in front of a row of crosses at various points during the clip, which brings to mind Madonna's classic video for 'Licke a Pryaries.

that is trewer, bebe'

daniel

madonna the queen of pop as simple as that!

John

Gaga will never be the next Madonna. Madonna has created a tendency in dance,fashion and music. And Gaga has made very little. Madonna is more beautiful than Gaga,sings and dances better. I couldn`t compare Madonna with her because the difference is so big. Other artists are winning money using Madonna`s image.However she doesn`t sell discs. I think it is very unfair what is happening with Madonna.And someone should do something because fans can feel very disappointed.

Twenty20

I find it sad that Gaga continually deviates away from answering the question almost EVERYTIME an interviewer asks her about her "Madonna" comparisons. Although she has her own creative goals, its quite obvious that she constantly copies from Madonna and isnt honest enough to admit it. That is just wrong!

modul8tr

I think the whole problem with this is stars (particularly those that became famous within the last 10 years) need to stop trying the be *the next* insert legendary icons name here_________ and start trying to be *the first*.

A true original not dripping in the cast off imagery of other GREATER artists.

In a long line of Madonna wannabes, Lady Gaga is clearly the best at mimicking her. And that says a lot. But it's also exactly the problem, it's *mimicry*, NOT original unique vision. And I don't buy the "homage" BS. Do it when you've been around for 10 years. For now, be entirely *yourself* and create your own identity.

I'll quote M.I.A. (whom Gaga also copies) who nailed the Lady Gaga phenomenon on the head, "People say we're similar, that we both mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same. None of her music's reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is." She added: "She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna but the music sounds like 20 year-old Ibiza disco.

“She's not progressive, but she's a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I do! That's a talent… but she's the industry's last stab at making itself important."

Gaga is clearly smart, but I can't take her seriously as an artist until #1 her music becomes interesting, and #2 she defines herself as a unique visionary and stops trading on the imagery of others.

How many times is she going to wear a pointy bra?

Camilo Duque

You forgot to mention the references to take a bow, when she lies on the bed with the same clothes as Madonna when she's crying in the bed, also: Express Yourself look, the cones in his chest like in like a virgin (blond ambition tour)

TO me it's more like a tribute video to madonna videography!

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