Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Lady Gaga – Alejandro

She really didn’t want to be France, then…

Doug Robertson: Everyone needs a low key song, one that the act can use to have a bit of a breather and one that the audience can use for a quick drink/fag/toilet break. It’s an accepted part of the deal between the artist and their fans. But with this, even though it’s a Lady Gaga song and so low key just means “slightly less happening”, it really does sound like it was knocked up in five minutes, without bothering to include any magic, or sparkle, or tune that doesn’t sound like one you’ve heard a million times before.

Alfred Soto: What do you get when you cross ABBA’s “Fernando,” Ace of Base’s “The Sign,” and the line “Her boyfriend’s just like her dad”? Something that’s hot as Mexico, if just as exploited, sullen, and dusty.

Chuck Eddy: Maybe the most blatant ’70s/’80s/’90s pop pastiche ever; a medley, almost: “Fernando” + “La Isla Bonita” + “All That She Wants”, obviously. But why does Alejandro’s name keep changing to Roberto? And how is her boyfriend like a dad?

Tal Rosenberg: Swizz Beatz(“La Isla Bonita” x (“Down Under” + “Who Could It Be Now?”)) =

Martin Skidmore: If you have been wanting “La Isla Bonita” crossed with ABBA’s “Fernando” and some Ace of Base beats, with Gaga singing in a fake accent, this is the one for you.

Edward Okulicz: Okay, enough already. “Paparazzi” and “Telephone” are without doubt high-quality pop trash, especially the latter, which is still a [10]. This is just trash. Ace of Base were always a lot more than just a giddy cousin-of-dub bounce with airheaded melodies and lyrics, they had… I don’t know, sharpness if not depth, whereas this is just cheerily lobotomised fluff. Much more like a ‘10s “Coco Jambo”. Points for inventively trying to mitigate for this song’s complete lack of melodic hook by putting in a lyrical and rhytmic one (the stuttery “Ale-alejandro” bit) but apart from that, the “zomg pop overload amazingness” cupboard is well and truly bare.

Katherine St Asaph: When I keep thinking “I really want to listen to ‘All That She Wants'” during the chorus, that’s not a good sign. The spoken-word Latino-pastiche bits are best left in the bad romance they came from. And I can’t help but notice that this guy Alejandro is OK in the Gagahaus but not in, say, Arizona.

Ian Mathers: I don’t really get people complaining about this and “Dance in the Dark” and “Bad Romance” as songs qua songs; to my ears, Gaga’s been getting better as she goes along (I am willing to entertain the argument that she’s merely drawing on references and antecedents that I prefer to the old ones; certainly 80s synth-pop and ABBA are firmly in my wheelhouse). “Alejandro” lacks the weird emotional charge of my favourite Gaga tracks (including the weirdly underrated-for-such-a-huge-hit “Paparazzi”), but I’ve still been humming the damn thing for weeks, and that’s without any of the extra-musical elements that make Gaga such a lightning rod.

Mark Sinker: Hunting for clues — I’ve been in pop purdah! shut up! — I got myself befuddled for a while in a shall we say BROAD Gaga parody (La Coacha’s if yr googling), and didn’t think THIS OBVIOUSLY ISN’T GAGA YOU IDIOT until a whole third of the way in. Bcz I was beguiled by how the little kids and the fans were dressed Gaga-style, and loving it: bcz they can; bcz she lets them. They obviously aren’t Gaga either, except yeah, in a way they are — she’s at that point right now where everything that comes back, lame or silly or hostile (or adoring), is part of the geometry of the original. Eurovision-style gypsy-fiddle kicks off a pumping glide so calm and confident and generous it can call on the ghosts of ABBA *and* Madonna, and they seem like they’re little kids trying on Gaga costumes also. Which is nice. Also she does the doubletime “Ally ally” bit like she’s a kid herself, and plus celebrates two whole other boyfs during the song.

John Seroff: I suppose I shouldn’t even try to comment on a Gaga song before I see the video; it’s like judging a wedding cake just by the flavor. That said, ‘Alejandro’ strikes me as Gaga’s most blatant steal from Madonna yet; in the two listens before I thought to check the artist info, I thought this might actually be Madge. “Alejandro” also stands as a bald land grab at a Latin audience; I’d be surprised if a Spanish version with a Shakira verse doesn’t drop in about a month. None of that addresses the actual song, which is a sort of “La Isla Bonita”/”The Sign” mashup that cha-cha-chas and burbles along at a sleepwalker’s pace. If this wasn’t Gaga, I’d take it for a half-reasonable piece of Eurofluff I’d never hear again; as it is, I guess I can cope with this through July if I absolutely have to.

24 Responses to “Lady Gaga – Alejandro”

  1. This and “So Happy I Could Die” are the only two tracks from The Fame Monster I’m not down with yet. Should’ve released “Dance In The Dark”* as the single! Or “Teeth”, if she really wanted to be daring.

    *though FFS why is there a Princess fucking Diana reference in that? Such a great song and then you have to grimace momentarily when she goes on about Diana being queen of hearts.

  2. Also, hurrah @ Mark S writing about music!!

  3. I wish I’d got to reviewing this. I think what I enjoy most about it is that, unlike “La Isla Bonita,” which sounds actually like a vacay in the tropics, “Alejandro” is nothing more than fantasy. It’s a daydreamed exotic romance, with all the the copy-of-a-copy distance and daytime soap dialogue that implies. Is he Alehandro or Aleyandro? Who are Roberto and Fernando? And, fittingly for GaGa, it’s a fantasy without a fantasist; a costume with nobody playing dress-up. Pop-qua-pop. It would have got a [9].

  4. @Lex “So Happy I Could Die” might be my favorite on Fame Monster, actually. I like the way it exploits rote masturbation/lesbianism tropes to talk about a moment of nightclub transcendentalism, and the ache at how fleeting that moment is.

    Agreed on the Diana reference in “Dance in the Dark.” Unbearable and unnecessary.

  5. “Alejandro” also stands as a bald land grab at a Latin audience

    In much the same way Ace of Base were hoping for huge success in Jamaica, presumably.

  6. “Alejandro” is my favourite Gaga song.

  7. You have to think Alejandro is getting knocked because it’s Gaga. If literally any other mainstream pop artist released this, expectations would be lower and it’d be better received. (If this came from Floptina it’d be a 10, easy. But then again Floptina could never produce something like this.)

    I’m not even a huge Gaga fan–I thought the Fame had a few genius tracks (Just Dance, Paparazzi, Poker Face, of course, plus some gems like Money Honey and Summerboy) with a lot of meh. (Brown Eyes? Starstruck? The title track? Zzz.) Fame Monster, though, is spot on from start to finish. Bad Romance, Speechless, Dance in the Dark, Telephone, and So Happy I Could Die are flawlessly on point, and the other three are right behind. A 9 in my book.

    (I mean… she also references JonBenet. Subtle it ain’t. But dark, ironic, edgy, and great, it is.)

  8. “Alejandro” is a big love letter to her gay fans. I like having the big pink button pressed a little, but this is molesting it.

  9. This is the first song of hers I’ve immediately liked.

  10. voyou OTM.

    This is the song I’m angriest with myself for not blurbing on time; it would have got at least an 8 (it’s the coolest, breeziest thing on the radio at the moment, which is SO NECESSARY in a Southwestern summer), but it’s only Latin by way of Sweden. ABBA and Ace of Base, yes obviously, but also Yaki-Da and the Cardigans, faux-flamenco with a laughable accent.

    If Gaga ever seriously pursues Latin-chart success, I’m sure she’ll put out a banging reggaeton or elegant bachata track; for now, she’s still comfortably within her Euro wheelhouse.

  11. I highly doubt this is targeted toward a Latin audience so much as the idea that hey, we’ve got this ambiguously Spanish thing, that’s cool and exotic, right? (I was going to comment on the particular choice of these long, vowelly names but huh, it turns out they’re actually pretty popular, at least in the States.)

    But it’s Gaga, so it gets a [5]. That is, she’s pretty much assured to pull it off at least competently, not that she automatically gets points just for stamping her name on the thing.

  12. Actually, fwiw, Lady Gaga has already gotten plenty of Latin airplay, apparently, for a bunch of her singles. From AMG; not sure what the difference between the two Billboard charts is:

    2008 Just Dance Latin Pop Airplay 27
    2009 Bad Romance Latin Pop Airplay 7
    2009 Just Dance Hot Latin Tracks 35
    2009 Paparazzi Hot Latin Songs 31
    2009 Paparazzi Latin Pop Airplay 17
    2009 Poker Face Hot Latin Tracks 24
    2010 Bad Romance Hot Latin Songs 15
    2010 Paparazzi Tropical/Salsa 31
    2010 Telephone Hot Latin Songs 23

  13. (Four charts, I mean — Though “Tropical/Salsa” is obviously a more specialized genre chart. “Songs” and “Tracks” might well incorporate download sales; never even noticed the latter before. Only the “Songs” chart gets printed in the mag, iirc.)

  14. (Though actually, come to think of it, “Latin Pop” is probably a specific radio format, too. And if downloads do figure into the “Tracks” or “Songs” charts, I have no idea how they’d determine how many sales for somebody like Gaga were Latin.)

  15. I’m pretty sure the Latin charts are (almost?) entirely based on airplay. They certainly were in the 80s, since most of the songs in those charts weren’t ever available as singles.

    The local Latin Pop station (its website doesn’t give any particular format) plays about 10% English-language pop. I’ve heard the Black-Eyed Peas and B.o.B. there more than Gaga — but I don’t listen to it 24/7.

  16. Sinkah on the mic-ah!

  17. Holy shit it’s Mark Sinker.

    I have no idea what the last line of Katharine’s blurb is getting at – what does Gaga have to do with the Arizona law?

  18. KathErine, sorry.

  19. Eh, equal parts my being grumpy and “hey, there are millions of people who are now bombarded with this song umpteen times a day, so where’s that cognitive jump from ‘Hmm, song-Alejandro is pretty OK’ to ‘Hmm, real-world-Alejandro is pretty OK?’ Which is really just more grumpiness.

  20. Ah, I do like the cognitive leap part though.

  21. Now that I’ve seen the video, this really is her most blatant Madonna lift yet. (I’d have previously defended Gaga’s videos as not really being much like Madonna’s, but this one proves me wrong).

  22. If it’s a blatant Madonna lift, it’s only to construct a narrative that in opposition to Madonna. Madonna wanted to be a fag hag, and drew energy from that role. GaGa is voicing frustration with these Latin Catholic gay boys (Alejandro/Fernando/Roberto), who are no different than other men with whom she can’t have sex (“her boyfriend’s like her dad”). In the video she/Klein blames the fascist Church for pushing these men into the closet (hot monks who “gotta cool the bad”), and for indirectly pushing her into a role (the latex nun who “puts true love in her pocket”) that doesn’t allow her to express her sexuality with these boys.

    Or some variant of this, at least. In any case, GaGa is the fag hag who hates being a fag hag, but sees no other role for herself. This is new, this is interesting, this marks the (deserved) death of Madonna and the empty sexuality which she represented. Fuck your running naked in a rainstorm, Madge. Fuck your making love in a train cross-country. Who does that shit? Who really wants to catch pneumonia, or have one’s skin stick to those dingy seats?

  23. The Ace of Base song it actually reminds me of is ‘Don’t turn around’. The part where LG sings ‘don’t call my name (x2)’ reminds me of the AoB bit where she sings ‘I’m gonna be strong, i’m gonna be fine’.

  24. Yeah, that bit’s an exact quote.