Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro”: A Guide to Madonna References


We probably don’t have to tell you that Lady Gaga’s long-awaited “Alejandro” video premiered today at noon. The music media has already puzzled over the themes: Holocaust? (Yes, definitely.) Vampire? (Less substantiated, but the imagery certainly lends itself to that interpretation.) Holy war? (Well, all that Catholic imagery must mean something…) Haters are hating. Overanalyzers are overanalyzing. Us? We’re just geeking out over the number of Madonna references Gaga managed to pack into the video. Obviously, there’s the sex, the black-and-white cinematography (which ’90s Madge was so fond of), the feminized male dancers. But there’s a lot to take apart on a shot-by-shot level, too. Is it Lady Gaga “straight up MURDERING Madonna,” as Videogum suggests? We’re not sure. All we know is she’s definitely attempting to up the ante. Watch “Alejandro” and follow along as we enumerate the Madonna references after the jump.

Opening shot: Dude in fishnets and bondage-tastic army hat. Are the stockings a nod to Eddie Izzard, or perhaps Rocky Horror? We’ve seen that hat fairly frequently on Madge, and perhaps most recently in the video for 2003’s “American Life“:

Of course, if Madonna’s Third Reich references have some subtlety to them, Gaga’s is blatant and over-the-top. Guys in Nazi uniforms at the cabaret? Check. Dudes goose-stepping in corsets and underpants? Why not?

We’re not sure what’s happening on the left side (an Illuminati pyramid? Conspiracy theorists, go to it!), but we’re pretty sure that behind the Abu Ghraib-style hooded figures, there’s a super-sized crown of thorns in the center (obscured a bit, above, by the burst of light) and a Star of David. Kabbalah-loving Madonna would be proud to be represented.

Where’d Gaga get the steampunk headdress and eye pieces? Remember Madonna’s Metropolis-themed “Express Yourself” video?

We’re guessing Gaga read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish at NYU and knows all about the power of all-seeing eyes. Meanwhile, Gaga marching, widow-like in front of a coffin is looking very Evita to us:

Like any lapsed Catholic, Madonna’s always had a thing for sacred heart imagery. Here she is holding one in a David LaChappelle photo:

And, uh, here’s the one in Gaga’s hands: Bloody, messy, pierced with nails.

Let’s talk about Gaga’s cropped hair for a minute:

We love it, and we’re seeing “Take a Bow“-era Madonna:

A dictator-like Gaga gazing down at the scantily clad men performing for her…

… reminds us of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” Madonna, as Evita on the balcony:

Here comes the femme-domme bondage!

Hello, “Erotica.” Yes, folks, that’s Madge tying her man to the headboard:

Now, let’s tackle the Catholic stuff, shall we? Back in 1989, with “Like a Prayer,” Madonna shocked the world by getting (sort of) dirty in church:

In 2010, Gaga is wearing a vinyl leotard with a bright red cross (that we can’t help thinking looks a bit menstrual…) over her crotch.

… and deep-throating a rosary:

Gaga! In Pants! Have we seen it before?

Looking hot in suit pants with heels may have originated with Marlene Dietrich, but it’s Madonna who revived Dietrich’s early gender-fucked fashion statements. Here’s “Express Yourself” again:

Madonna’s “Vogue“-era cone bra?

Meet Gaga’s “Alejandro”-era gun bra:

Gaga. Wants. You.

To “Justify My Love“:

Did you catch any references we missed? Let us know in the comments.