So I find it alarming that critics have concluded that the “Bad Romance” video is the work of a seriously deranged criminal mind (though Gaga did once admit that she wants to have a foursome with the Jonas Brothers). No sane person, it’s said, could reasonably have created a video as grotesque or as inscrutable.
The critics are sorely mistaken. What “Bad Romance” shows is that Lady Gaga is actually the most brilliant artist of all time. Bar none. The final montage of the “Poker Face” music video makes the Sistine Chapel or “The Persistence of Memory” look like the work of a dysgraphic kindergartener. I used to think my life was defined by my experience reading Plato’s Republic in 8th grade. Then, one fateful night last summer at a nightclub in Hanoi, I heard “Disco Stick” for the first time. I. Will. Never. Be. The. Same.
The opening shot of the video to “Bad Romance” is likely as close to artistic perfection as Western civilization will ever come. In it, Gaga reclines on a makeshift throne, surrounded by backup dancers in outfits that Donatella Versace would be ashamed to be seen wearing in public. The sunlit windows that illuminate her from behind are to date the best interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous “Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg” from “The Great Gatsby.” And in the instant before the intro ends and the first verse begins, the camera zooms in on Gaga herself, who trembles slightly, as if with the secret, solemn knowledge that the song she’s about to sing will make Luciano Pavarotti do somersaults in his grave.
But it gets better from there. Gaga understands that the art of the modern music video is essentially about one thing: cycling from frame to frame so quickly that after five minutes of computer-generated-imagery overload, viewers are still trying to figure out what was happening six seconds in. Regular film runs at 24 frames per second. According to the “Ask a Ninja” podcast, Ninjas run at 84,000 frames per second. By that metric, Lady Gaga videos must run at least twice as fast as Ninjas. Let that sink in. Oh, and sex appeal. Sex appeal definitely helps. “Bad Romance” has plenty of that also: The one thing Gaga seems to enjoy more than putting on ghoulish costumes is taking them off.
The most interesting sequence of the video comes next, when impeccably white coffins in the “Bath Haus of GaGa” open to reveal go-go dancers, dressed in Guillermo del Toro-style costumes, who do a variation on Michael Jackson’s legendary “Thriller” dance. This is appropriate, since according to recent accounts, before his death, Jackson had set his sights on Gaga as the one artist he most wanted to perform with on his “This is It” tour. It’s a shame they never toured together; putting both of them on stage at the same time would’ve generated enough artistic energy to power the Burj Dubai for the next decade.
If you watch “The Making of Bad Romance” video on YouTube, backup dancers hired by director Francis Lawrence will try to tell you that the actual “plot” of Bad Romance (insofar as there is a plot) revolves around Gaga being unwillingly auctioned off to a Russian mobster in a futuristic bathhouse. This is a lie. In reality, Gaga allows herself to be auctioned off as part of an elaborate plan she’s concocted. Her true intentions are revealed at the end of the video, when she builds a funeral pyre and burns the Russian mobster on it.
Figuratively, the mobster represents everything that holds back — that constrains — modern art. In incinerating him, and then creepily playing with his skeleton, Gaga liberates herself — no, liberates all of us — from all artistic boundaries. As such, Lady Gaga is history’s greatest artist not only because of her pure, unadulterated creative genius, but also because she has redefined the concept of art itself.
By the end of the video, the fabric of reality starts to come apart. Diamonds fall from the ceiling. Weird Sphinx cats hiss at the camera. Time runs backward. Gaga and her backup dancers do the Charleston, a dance that was popular more than 80 years ago. But it’s then that you realize: none of it matters. Nihilism reigns. You are Lady Gaga. And damn is your romance bad.
Charlie Metzger is a sophomore from Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached at email@example.com.