Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That Loveable, Gender-bending, Savior Of Our Souls Named Alejandro

sketch by Mario Laterza
Alejandro in his chili bowl cut.

*Links for performances mentioned listed at the bottom of the page:

Do you want to reinvent yourself? You know, like changing your hair color and clothes, or do you want to change your whole being. Like become a totally different person. Lady Gaga knows how to do that and she knows someone who can help you, and his name is Alejandro.

Lady Gaga’s song “Alejandro” is one of the most abstract songs you’ll hear in pop music because the lyrics are more like symbols, and although there’s a narrative, the metaphors make it ambiguous. Since the song’s release, Gaga has used several visual concepts when performing her song “Alejandro,” but there’s a steady message in all of the performances, and that message is metamorphosis. The process of metamorphosis only happens when people never look back to their past, and keep evolving.

“Alejandro” is a song from Gaga’s album The Fame Monster, and the song doesn’t seem very monster-like, but if you’re knowledgeable about Gaga’s avant-garde approach to music then you’ll see the connection. Gaga once said when describing her album’s monster theme that we humans are all born with the demons inside of us, as in Christianity’s original sin, and we will all sin in our lives. She finished with saying the monster theme is about the evolution of humanity and how we begin as one thing, and we become another.

It was in November 2009 that Gaga started performing “Alejandro” for the first time. The performance was pure Performance art that featured Gaga penetrated by men in simulated ways. Interestingly, Gaga says “Alejandro” represents the Fear of Sex monster. The male dancers are dressed in flesh-colored bodysuits and masks on their head made of what looks to be a mini version of a human rib cage. Presumably, the rib masks are a reference to Adam and Eve. Christian religion states that God used Adam’s rib to make the world’s first woman Eve. One of Gaga’s male dancers uses his hand as a phallus to lift Gaga up by her crotch. Then another male dancer arrives to caress both his fellow male dancer’s hand and Gaga’s body.

She then lowers to the ground lying on top of the two men as if they were her sofa. At an awkward position with her butt in the air, Gaga smokes a cigarette. Then she takes another puff of the cigarette and rubs her sparkly cone bra, as if for luck and raises her hands to the sky, perhaps God. Next the other dancers disappear, and Gaga throws away the cigarette as different male dancer approaches her. he sticks in his crotch in her face and starts thrusting against her face. She hangs upside down with her back resting on his thigh, and his butt facing the audience. As he puts his hands out as if sacrificing himself, Gaga pats his butt on makes the all-seeing eye of God with her fingers, placing in front of her dancer’s butt. They are two people as one.

“This is for all the lovers you left behind,” says Gaga after that sensual display of interpretive dance and Performance art. The “left behind” part stands out because it refers to the past, and Gaga encourages her audience to never look in the past because there’s a fear of getting stuck there, and never escaping. The religious aspects of the performance lie in the masks made of rib bone, and the phallus (means the penis is an object of generative power) symbols throughout that reference the male as primary, and the female as secondary. This performance from November 2009 evolved over the future months into something even more religious.

In March 2010, “Alejandro” as a performance evolved into a place resembling the Garden of Eden, full of trees, vines and benches. A large silver statue of an angel or Saint with spread wings in the middle of a fountain full of blood. Gaga tells her audience that it’s the Fountain of Youth, which is “the only fountain that bleeds for you.” The male and female dancers perform ballroom dances and strike balletic poses. Some men dance with women, and some men dance with men, but all the women and men are human, making them all of the same flesh, the human flesh.

The Alejandro saint.

In the Bible, it says that there will be a day of Rapture where Christ will present a glorified church, the church that he laid down his life for. He died for the sins of the human race. People prepared for the day of Rapture by cleaning their physical bodies and spiritually washing in blood, which means that their sins were forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A verse from the Bible is as follows. Even though the outward man perish, the inward is renewed day by day. No matter how old we get in years, and if this body of clay does deteriorate, wrinkle and become old, we can have a beautiful, new, fresh lively spirit in Jesus Christ, new, without spot or wrinkle, and full of life. And when we are called at the time of the Rapture this old body will be changed in an instant. Or if we are called before that time, the beautiful soul will just slip out of the body. And at the time of the Rapture or the Resurrection, we'll be given a beautiful new body. Our bodies will be changed.
This verse is all about metamorphosis and evolution. It’s about how existence (physically and spiritually) is about taking different forms. Even in death, a person’s existence evolves.

The most recent televised performance of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” on NBC’s “The Today Show” connects the song’s theme of metamorphosis to gender. The men begin the performance as just dancers, with nothing gender-specific about them, other than their obviously male bodies. The male and female dancers performed the same choreography. It’s not until the second verse that some men engage the only two female dancers on stage (note: there are five male dancers on stage) in a ballroom dance.

At this point, the dancers have embraced recognizable gender roles assigned by society. In the middle, the two sets of opposite-sex couples embrace and bite each other in the necks like vampires, and they drop to the floor, feeling weak. But of course they rise back up and are visibly different. The “masculine” men who led their women in a dance only minutes before are now reborn as stylish catwalk creatures strutting with ferocious glamour. Gaga’s newest male dancer Cassidy Noblett visibly mirrors his former female partner, Amanda Balen by putting his hands on hips and striking a pose right after she does. I’m sure the mirroring part is a nod to diva worship well-known in gay culture.

The blurring of gender in this performance is the same concept used in Gaga’s “Alejandro” video where her male dancer s dress as German WWII soldiers (think “Cabaret”) wearing monk bowl-cut wigs and high heels to bikini briefs and stilettos. What the gender-bending men in “The Today Show” performance and the “Alejandro” video do so well is keep their audience guessing: do they really act like that, are the “effeminate” or “masculine” or both, or are those physical actions just part of the show? All of these physical actions demonstrated could be their real identities that make up one diverse identity.

Alejandro turned out to be quite a man, didn’t he? You got more than what you bargained for, but I hope it was worth it and I hope that you are enlightened. Lady Gaga tells him that she doesn’t want him to call her name anymore, but you can call his name. He wants you to, so remember that.

Link for Today Show Performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEdhOS72998

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