Last night the video for Lady Gaga’s retro-soaked, Clarence Clemons-assisted powerdance ballad “Edge Of Glory” premiered, and almost immediately after the simple, dance-heavy video aired on So You Think You Can Dance a loud cry of “WTF” went up from the Internet masses. There was head-scratching over why director Joseph Kahn, who’s been behind the lens for the likes of “Toxic” and “All The Lovers,” had been booted from the project — which was rumored to be mermaid-themed at one point — midway through (the directorial credit is given to “Haus Of Gaga”); there were complaints about camera angles and Gaga’s lackluster lip-syncing and the extended shots of the back of her head; and words like “shit,” “ruined,” and “ugh” were tossed about willy-nilly. (At least few people said anything mean about Gaga’s outfit, which was from Gianni Versace’s final collection.) But isn’t what she’s trying to do here pretty obvious?
Sure, from “Paparazzi” on, Gaga’s been known for mini-movies with sweeping scope and slightly incoherent plotlines, and this was allegedly shaping up to be another one before everything changed. But here we have a case of the aesthetic of the song — straight out of 1985, only with some brighter dance beats courtesy of modern technology — fitting with the aesthetic of the video in a way that 21st-century listeners just can’t seem to wrap their brains around, so conditioned by the Vevo Era they have become.
The “Edge Of Glory” clip, for all its simple sets and crummy miming and lousy lighting and pink smoke through windows, is a pointed nod to the era of Olde Tyme Musick Videofilms — before product placement, before VH1 started devoting airtime to televised listicles of clips that cost mucho dollars, before artists didn’t have to worry their well-coiffed heads about getting audience members to watch discrete videos and feel like they had to go “all out” conceptually or titillatingly every single time since blocks and blocks of videos were instead dragged into homes through MTV, and the cable box didn’t have much else to offer.
Retro-fetishism for the ’80s has been running rampant for the past decade or so, although the version of that decade that’s stuck in the culture’s collective brain has been a peculiar amalgam of Dayglo colors, songs with synths, peculiar glasses, John Hughes movies (and other films starring people from the Chicago ‘burbs), and hairspray. But have you watched early-years MTV lately? It’s full of clips that look exactly like “Edge Of Glory,” only with slightly crappier production values.
This, Gaga is saying, is my version of ’80s retro festishism; that so many people who have accused her of dipping into that decade a little too much on Born This Way are missing this particular point isn’t baffling so much as it is a further sign that the shared memory of the years between 1979 and 1990 doesn’t include, say, much of anything that looks like this.
That Gaga has outraged so many people with this pretty obvious homage to another version of the past is both a sign that people really like to get mad on the Internet, and that memory is, indeed, a slippery thing. You’re all sent to bed without supper — and definitely banned from using “’80s” as an adjective for at least the rest of 2011.
(And finally, a note to all the Internet music fans/stans out there: Can we please stop replacing syllables in artists’ names with “flop” when we’re in a mood to be mean? It’s overdone and it makes you look, well, kind of stupid and petty.)