Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” has been the soundtrack of my last two weeks or so. It is totally the best thing I’ve heard since Young Money’s “Bedrock,” and it’s better on a whole than even that mighty jam.
I had mixed feelings about Gaga before “Alejandro.”
From her first record, I’d heard “Poker Face” and “Just Dance.” “Poker Face” completely sucks – its hook is annoying, and its chorus (“Can’t read my, can’t read my, can’t read my pooooker face”) comes off as a weak bailout rather than a payoff; it’s a stunning example of bad songwriting. “Just Dance,” albeit better constructed, has a reprehensible lyrical theme (I can’t explain why I’m not similarly repulsed by “Tik Tok,” but I guess I’m just a hypocrite). The sounds of those singles were actually improved when they were appropriated by others, as in German singer Cascada’s “Evacuate the Dancefloor.”
“Bad Romance,” the lead single from Gaga’s second record, kicks ass. Upon hearing it on a mixed CD I got from Kyle Mabson, the track’s sheer power began to make warm up to the singer, who had improved drastically as a composer since “Poker Face.” But then came the follow-up single, “Telephone,” an old song Gaga had demoed for Britney Spears and then dug up for an easy hit. While the song definitely has a compelling and catchy chorus, my newly found feelings of goodwill for Gaga were lost as a result of that single’s Kindergarden-stupid lyrics, schmaltzy intro, overblown and unnecessarily vulgar music video, ill-conceived guest appearance by the increasingly-boring Beyoncé, and musical extension of the same autotune-buried hiccupy repetition that marred “Poker Face” so badly.
So I was basically done with Gaga until I started to hear “Alejandro” on the radio. The first time, I was driving on the freeway and I tuned into the song right as the chorus popped – I got stoked because I thought from the word “don’t” and the general timbre of the track that I had tuned into Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around,” a jam I’m always pleased to bump at full volume whenever I encounter it.
After getting over my initial disappointment that I was not listening to Ace of Base, I was able to appreciate what it was that I was actually hearing. After about a week of catching it on KIIS 102.7, I was infatuated. The song is a gorgeous update of Ace of Base, taking that group’s well-articulated adoration of ABBA and propping it up with monstrous 21st-century synthesizers (in contrast to Ace of Base’s “dude in a garage with a Casio” aesthetic). Others have heard shades of Shakira and Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” in “Alejandro,” and those references are also apt.
Yet the Gaga song is more than derivative. Tying her influences together with a cutesy Latin soap opera theme, Gaga hasn’t copied anyone but rather created a loving and humorous pastiche of all these styles in a song that is nonetheless distinctly modern and unique. Despite having such a clear and tangible lineage, “Alejandro” really doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio right now. And I can’t stop listening.
Filed under: Esoteria, Video, abba, ace of base, alejandro, bedrock, beyonce, cascada, lady gaga, madonna, pop music, shakira, young money