Lady Gaga’s ‘G.U.Y.’ Video: Finally, an ‘Artpop’ Triumph

Shall we discuss the new Lady Gaga video for “G.U.Y.”? When last we saw our fearless diva, she was being raked over the coals for a lackluster SXSW performance in which she had “vomit artist” Millie Brown throw up on her, an act that Gaga defended as “art in its purest form.” Some critics accused Gaga of mocking eating disorders; others thought maybe she’d just finally run out of ideas. Gaga believed the SXSW performance was punk and avant-garde; detractors said she was grasping at straws for shock value, and exhausting the patience of all but her most die-hard fans. Her previously announced fully completed video for “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly and shot by Terry Richardson was permanently shelved after a slew of articles came out that reminded the public about Kelly and Richardson’s long histories of sexual abuse. (Sources who have seen the “DWUW” video claimed it features an intro in which Richardson and Kelly spank Gaga’s bethonged ass, and a scene of Kelly squirting Artpop brand BBQ sauce onto Gaga’s stomach before kneeling to lick it up.)

Having let “DWUW” die on the vine, word leaked out that Gaga was working on a secret new video shot at Hearst Castle, the gorgeously tacky mansion on the Central Californian coast built by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. Speculation mounted as to what song the video would be for. An eternity passed in record-promotion time before Gaga finally announced that “G.U.Y.” would be the official third single. Stills from the video and a contract to shoot at Hearst Castle appeared online, but details remained mysterious. The SXSW performance fueled gossip that Gaga was losing her shit, and that the “G.U.Y.” video was going to be a total mess, the cherry on top of the disaster that had been the Artpop promo cycle. Was she going to continue morphing into G(a)G(a) Allin and include more performance art–type stunts in the video? Or would she try to recapture the magic of The Fame and The Fame Monster with more campy opulence? As it turns out, some of both! The “G.U.Y.” video clocks in at about eight minutes (not counting credits) and is actually a supercut of several Artpop songs. First the titular “Artpop” soundtracks a hackneyed rise-of-the-phoenix segment, then “Venus” kicks in for Gaga’s ancient goddess-like rebirth, before the video finally gets to “G.U.Y.” proper, at which point it pulls out absolutely all the stops.

“G.U.Y.” is Gaga’s most solid video in years, and her best overall effort since 2009’s “Bad Romance.” It eschews the pretentiousness that crept into Gaga vids as they got longer and longer yet somehow less fun over the years, and champions a frothy, campy style that fits Lady Gaga like a white leotard. There are Real Housewives of Beverly Hills miming playing instruments in a Partridge Family–ish fashion, and Bravo’s Andy Cohen is a smiling Teletubbies baby deity presiding over all, as Gaga builds a perfect Weird Science lover for herself by resurrecting Michael Jackson, Gandhi, John Lennon, and Jesus. Artpop was intended to be a fun return to form for Gaga after Born This Way and its songs about sociopolitical stances that she didn’t seem to actually understand. Like all the best Gaga songs, “G.U.Y.” slips its agenda amid the bubbles, in this case a rather subversive message about the fluidity of gender roles, the theatricality of sex, and power bottoming as a performance of dominance.

The director of “G.U.Y.”? Gaga herself! Which is more proof that she and Kanye have continued to be on parallel tracks since the Fame Kills tour was cancelled, aside from their shared love of industrial music. They are each the auteurs of their images as pop stars, continually creating and dispelling static in their orbits, alternating between the deeply idiotic and the utterly sublime. Kanye has cited the Chilean French cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surrealist epic The Holy Mountain as the biggest influence on his hypnagogic Yeezus tour; “G.U.Y.” feels like Gaga’s own tribute to Jodorowsky’s psychoactive oeuvre. Instead of telling us what to think or how to feel, Gaga blasts us with images and sound. While Kanye might be jealous he didn’t think to shoot his own Citizen Kan(y)e at Hearst Castle first, it might prompt him to make his own epic at the Versace mansion; call it The Magnificent Kardashians. For the first time in a long time, Lady Gaga has made being Lady Gaga seem fun. Having finally regained her sprezzatura, here’s hoping she can hold on to it. Now, for the love of Gaga, let the next single be the impeccable “Sexxx Dreams.”

Filed Under: Music, Lady Gaga, Hearst Castle, Andy Cohen, ARTPOP, Music Videos, Pop Music

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert