ALEJANDRO / LADY GAGA
UK Chart Position: 7
From Ziggy Stardust onwards, pop music has been founded on artifice and character building. I remember watching Pete Burns on Top of the Pops and – naively – thinking “well, if he dresses like that, no wonder he’s a pop star.” All pop stars, to varying degrees, decide where on the line of artifice they stand. Even earnest pop star bids for “authenticity” – especially so – have elements of contrived artifice.
When Lady Gaga came along, she took the Ziggy Stardust blueprint and ran with it, maxed it up and dressed it up in a meat dress. Which would have been a hackneyed, hollow mess if there wasn’t tunes to back it up. What’s interesting about “Alejandro” is that it’s a character playing a character, which she keeps up for its entirety. There’s no “ta-da!” wink to signify that “hey kids, it’s me! Gaga!”. Because who is Lady Gaga in the first place? Constructing a persona and resolutely sticking to it (even when you turn to acting) frees you up try on as many masks as you want. In fact, it’s a key reason why Lady Gaga’s forays into acting have been pretty successful. If you don’t have much of an expectation of what person lies beneath, we - the audience - stop looking for them.
“Alejandro” starts with a dramatically camp Spanish spoken word role play, Gaga black-veiled and in mourning for her lover. It’s ridiculously cheesy but she keeps in character throughout as she recounts a list of lost loves. It seems every female pop star has to contractually pull off a Latin inspired hit at some point. Madonna of course set this blueprint, which everyone (I’m looking at you Halliwell) raced to the bottom to emulate. However, after a brief bit of lonely sounding violin at the start of the track, which makes you think Gaga is half way up a Spanish mountain herding some goats, she wrong foots us by packing her bags and taking the next plane out to Sweden. This track is a pure hybrid of “All That She Wants”-era Ace of Base and Abba. She hammers the point home by name checking “Fernando”. It wears it’s Euro-pop chops so obviously, it could have come straight from the Eurovision Song Contest. By the end of it, having ticked off her lovers one by one, she abandons Alejandro himself, sounding exhausted by the entire episode, defiantly smoking a cigarette, resolutely on her own.
The Moment: At 1:51 “Stop! Please! Just let me go!”
n a word: Eurovisionary