moirariordan: (Default)
moirariordan ([personal profile] moirariordan) wrote2011-08-16 10:13 pm

"Beware of strange oddities. The more he tries to fix me, the more magical I become."


Let me start this out with a list about what I love about this video.

1. Goddamn Jo Calderone.
2. She's a mermaid. A MERMAID.
5. Her fake nails have fake nails, did you notice that?
7. The dance sequence in the cornfield! Damn. Damn.
9. Bleached eyebrows!
10. horror movie opening!


Okay. So you're wondering, "what the fuck?" or maybe "why is she a mermaid?" or even maybe "what the hell is going on with that ice cream truck?" All valid questions. Let me explain my interpretation.

So the first thing I noticed about Yoü and I the song is the lyrical ambiguity. Specifically, the fact that at multiple points in the song, we're not actually sure whether she's talking or quoting, and furthermore, who she's talking to.

The most obvious part where this happens is in the bridge/chorus:

He said, sit back down where you belong
in the corner of my bar with your high heels on
Sit back down on the couch where we
made love the first time and you said to me there's

Something, something about this place
Something about lonely nights and my lipstick on your face
Something, something about my cool Nebraska guy
Yeah, something about baby, yoü and I

We lose the track of who is speaking and who is being spoken to right away. What exactly did "he" say? When does "he" stop talking and Gaga start? Is the entire chorus a quote from "him"?

Then in the second chorus, Gaga even drops the "he said" at the beginning of the bridge. Then, Gaga becomes the one commanding her listener to "sit back down where you belong / in the corner of my bar with your high heels on." Gaga is both the speaker and the listener in this instance; she's object and subject, the person being serenaded and the one doing the serenading at the same time.

So she's both the man and the woman, right, but she's also the passive and the active. The lyrics switch back and forth between these powerful, assertive statements and the opposite. Look at the first verses:

It's been a long time since I came around [ACTIVE]
Been a long time but I'm back in town [ACTIVE]
This time I'm not leaving without yoü [ACTIVE]

You taste like whiskey when yoü kiss me, oooh [PASSIVE]
I'll give anything again to be your baby doll [PASSIVE]
This time I'm not leaving without yoü [ACTIVE]

The active statements - been a long time since she was in town, she's not leaving without him - are partnered with the passive - he tastes like whiskey when he kisses her, she'd give anything to be his baby doll. She's both the actor and the subject being acted upon. This continues throughout the entire song:

It's been two years since I let yoü go, [ACTIVE]
Muscle cars drove a truck right through my heart [PASSIVE]

There's only three men that Imma serve my whole life [PASSIVE]
I'm a New York woman born to run yoü down [ACTIVE]

Duplicity! Double existence! She's both! It's a really strong theme in a lot of her songs, actually.

Even the single covers drive this home! Number one, there are two, which to my knowledge she's never done before, and number two, it's a picture of Jo Calderone, not Gaga.

In one, he's looking away, preoccupied, aloof. In the other, he's staring ahead, not at the camera, but at someone off screen (well, at Gaga probably), intent expression, almost menacing. Passive and active again. Plus, with the added layer of the fact that this is Stefani performing as Gaga performing as Jo. Lots of layers, lots of "double existing", as I call it.

NOT TO MENTION, what Gaga said in the tweets that accompanied the single cover and the video itself:

So while the German accent and the references to Nebraska seem to imply that the song is a love letter to Lüc Carl, in actuality, I think it's actually a love letter to herself. A love song from Stefani to Gaga, perhaps, or maybe from Gaga to Jo and vice versa, or maybe just a love song to Lady Gaga from Lady Gaga, and all the complexities inherent in that persona.

This is what the video is about. It's a love letter to herself. And she does this, most obviously, by MAKING OUT WITH HERSELF (so awesome) but Jo isn't the only male manifestation of Gaga. Did you notice that the other male character in the video, Yuyi the Mermaid's lover & Gaga Frankenstein's creator, has tattoos in the same place on his lower back as Gaga?

tell me you don't want to get in on this.

So, all three of these couples - Gaga and Jo, Yuyi and her caretaker, and Frankenstein and the creator, are representations of Gaga's different relationships with herself. Plus you could also count the wedding dress shots - Doll Gaga and the Groom?

Jo and Gaga are playful with each other, like children. He caresses her face and she looks up at him adoringly, then he kind of grabs her head and she pushes him away with a smile. He's posing on top of the piano, smoking and smoothing his hair and rolling up his sleeves, all James Dean, while she sits at his feet and acts coy, smiling and throwing looks at the camera. This, to me, is the relationship between aggressive and sweet, stage persona and real life. Who she is on stage versus who she is everywhere else. The same person, but different.

Yuyi on the other hand is completely dependent on her lover - without him, she would literally die. He takes care of her, practically nurses her, even holding a mask to her face so she can breathe at a few points. Yet he is also tied to her because of this, Yuyi preens for him, smiles at him proudly, and at the end he climbs into the water with her and she cradles him - it's clear that they love and protect each other. This is about trusting herself, depending on herself, and taking care of herself.

Then there's the Frankenstein Gaga and her creator - who is violent with her. He jolts her, even like, oils her mouth at one point, pushes and shoves her into position roughly and in the beginning has his hand around her neck and is almost snarling into her face. This is Gaga and creativity/art, how she creates herself and her persona, how she is endlessly aggressive about who she is and what her art is all about.

Then there are all these robot elements. Her black outfit, with her robotic arm and face pieces - I love that sfm number one, and number two, OKAY ROBOTS ARE AWESOME. This theme has been really strong in pop music lately, and I love it to death when people like Robyn or Gaga do it, because they turn it into this reversal of the Stepford Robot trope - a cyborg/robot built specifically to be a fantasy for a man. Instead, it becomes cyborg feminism - when the woman in question turns herself into a cyborg/robot, exerting control over her own body and environment, and also manages to be powerful and sexy without resorting to outright violence. Let me take this moment to point you to Janelle Monaé while I have your ear on this. And to this Bitch post about "cyborg feminism." Moving on.

Gaga is half human, half robot in this - and in the Frankenstein persona as well (and if you look closely you'll see that her face/hair mask in those scenes are made out of bobby pin-looking pieces - see above AWESOME). At one point she even moves her arm around while she's singing, as if she can't control it totally.

Fact: I fucking grew up on dirt roads like this. Mine never had Gagas on them, though.

This is a reference to her persona being manufactured, obviously - as I've said before, Gaga is not a person, she's a performance, a concept, almost, created by the artist, Stefani. This is why she dresses up with these robotic/metal/technology kinds of costumes all the time.


It's also the overarching theme of the entire album - robotics. There's all kinds of heavy, electronic, grinding beats and sounds that she uses on the actual songs, and then of course all the of the videos and promo material for the album so far has had some kind of metallic, futuristic or robotic element. Because robots are built and created - and the theme of the entire album is how we can all build and create ourselves however many times we want. We're Born This Way because we Build ourselves this way. If you watch any interview where she talks about the message of the album, she speaks about this directly - even in the video she tweeted of the Graham Norton performances, when she debuted the Hair single cover, she talks about how it relates to her wigs and costumes and how she reinvents herself through her body. That's what she's trying to get across - that we all have that power and control over ourselves, whether that means our bodies or our personalities or our careers or our speech, whatever avenue we choose to take to exert power over our own lives.

There's also this heavy element of GAZE in the video, as in who is looking and who is being looked at. While the lyrics have this ambiguity about who is talking and who is listening, the video has all these shots of Gaga dead or frozen still.

There are the layers again: Gaga, being looked at by her lover/s, being looked at by us. This shows up in Gaga's videos a lot too - she puts herself on display, often bound, asleep or unconscious or dead, beautiful but also morbid. She's saying LOOK AT ME but then the very act of us looking at her seems to be harmful.

Bad Romance: she's constantly on display, as the character she plays is literally sold to the highest bidder.

Judas: she plays an icon in this video: display and gaze is a huge part of her persona. Here, she's dead, surrounded by onlookers, who are also her stoners/murderers.

Paparazzi is a song about display - harmful display that she manipulates for her own agenda, but still harmful.

And okay, I just really love this photo shoot.

Remember that old Gaga song Vanity? The interlude in that song goes Look at me / Whatcha lookin' at? / Look at me! / Whatcha starin' at?! That's Gaga all over. Look look look - HEY, LOOK WHAT YOU DID.

These instances of her bound and at the mercy of her lover, paired with the scenes of her dancing or walking around are very powerful. One second she's dead, the next second she's on her feet, snarling and running straight at the camera. Again, passive and active, at the same time. The contradictions of this video are brilliant - particularly the decision to put a mermaid in a barn in Nebraska. BINARIES!

The wedding scenes, I haven't quite figured out. I'm not sure what I think about them other than she looks, literally, like a doll, and that they're incredibly beautiful. Marriage is commitment, a pledge of loyalty and honor, so, commitment to her art, her fans, her career, maybe? I'm not sure. But: pretty pictures, look!

It also relates back to the beginning, I think, with the actual doll, and the ice cream man. There's a very childlike quality to the wedding, and the pairing of innocence/horror is all through the video, maturity/childhood. (I mean, a mermaid who has sex. Come on.) Gaga herself seems to be a doll - manipulated and moved around, while at the same time moving and manipulating herself.

But the best part, aside from those truly amazing dance sequences, is the end, when she takes her sunglasses off and stares straight into the camera. Her eyebrows are bleached, of course, and she's hidden beneath this huge, flopping hat and veil (an inverted wedding veil!), and she's singing, looking straight at us, mouth framed with metal. Here, there's no question of who is talking - it's Lady Gaga, and she's singing to us.

This time, she's not leaving without you.

I think the thing I love the most about this is that it's so recognizable. That dirt road could be the dirt road I grew up on (no seriously, it looks exactly the same). That barn could be the old barn where my boyfriend and I used to go to drink beer and make out in. And I can't tell you how many times I've taken liquor out into a cornfield with my friends. We never took a piano, but we had music and vodka. As much as I dislike it sometimes, these scenes and places live in my blood. You never quite leave home, no matter where you go.

ETA: ALSO OMG. I just found out that the wedding dress she wears was her mother's. So cool.

(c/o Nicola Formichetti)