Fun with music videos because there’s nothing else to do in June

“Waking Up in Vegas,” Katy Perry; “Lessons Learned,” Matt and Kim; and “Paparazzi,” Lady Gaga.

I admit that saying there’s nothing to do in June is an exaggeration, but options (at least my kind of options) do tend to dry up in New York in the summer, and Sean and I have been out of town too, so voilà! A music video post! Easy filler!

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“Waking Up in Vegas,” Katy Perry.

Katy Perry is starting to grow on me. No, that’s too strong. Better to say that I no longer find her as annoying as I once did. “I Kissed a Girl,” her breakout single, is still thoroughly obnoxious (and not half as transgressive as she thinks it is), and Perry herself still reeks of trying way too hard to be wacky and offbeat. And yet I’ve started to find her cheery persona sort of endearing, and her blithe willingness to make herself ridiculous is sort of refreshing. Sometimes. Sort of.

Take her latest video, “Waking Up in Vegas.” It features a parade of Vegas clichés, exactly what you’d expect, showgirls and gaudy hotel rooms and poker and wild animals and Elvis impersonators and tons of excess for its own sake. Trite. But her giggly, wide-eyed appreciation of it all is appealing. She doesn’t try to look sophisticated, like all this glamorous kitsch is old hat to her, like she’s entitled to it. For all her affections, there’s something oddly unaffected about Perry’s bubbly, rosy outlook on life, and “Waking Up in Vegas” puts that on full display.

Also, instead of using a standard-issue dark-eyed pretty-boy as her love interest, she casts Joel David Moore, a lanky, scruffy, hangdog actor, veteran of numerous commercials and TV shows and movie bit parts (you’d probably recognize him) in which he usually plays, well, loser types. Moore is cute in an awkward, geeky way but hardly a go-to romantic lead, but he and Perry have a charming, dorky rapport. It’s … sweet? I don’t know. The evaporation of my Katy Perry contempt has left me disoriented.

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“Lessons Learned,” Matt and Kim.

Oh, Brooklyn hipsters! So daring and edgy and oh-so-cool, strolling merrily through Times Square and casually stripping away your clothing until you’re completely naked. (Well, naked except for Kim’s knee-high athletic socks. Of course.) Society’s rules cannot quash such free spirits as you! You gaze at the world with childlike wonder, blissful and innocent, and the police arrive to drag you away—just following orders, I’m sure—but no! You run free! The rest of us can only look on in awe at your uncorrupted authenticity. Bravo!

Honestly, the funniest thing about this video is the indifference of all the Times Square tourist-witnesses to Matt and Kim’s guerrilla strip show. And really, the whole stunt wouldn’t annoy me so much if it weren’t for the climactic Gaze of Wonder. It just seems so insincere. I find it extremely hard to believe that this Brooklyn duo is so happily enamored with their panoramic view of Times Fucking Square, a stultifying, glutted, plastic, soul-dead spot in an otherwise vibrant city. Please.

And then there’s the silliness with the police officers, who truly are just trying to do their jobs, and then there’s the bizarre coda that makes it look as though Kim has been hit by a bus. (Huh?) The song is kind of catchy, in an iPod commercial sort of way, but the video is just so smug and tiresome. Damn hipsters. This is why Sean and I didn’t move to Brooklyn.*

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“Paparazzi,” Lady Gaga.

Initially, I planned to write a full post (as opposed to just a third) on “Paparazzi.” It’s an elaborate, gorgeous, violent, eight-minute extravaganza—lots to write about!—but the more I watched it and thought about it, the less I had to say. On second glance, what looks like depth is just an especially shiny surface.

Oddly enough, I don’t mean that in a particularly negative way, and I sort of doubt that Lady Gaga—who fancies herself some sort of postmodern, dadaist pop performance artist—would take it as an insult. The surface is fabulously glossy, and given the Lady’s own hyper-intellectual, high-brow name-dropping proclivities, it’s fun (and ego-boosting) to watch it and play spot-the-allusion: Alfred Hitchcock! Helmut Newton! Thierry Mugler! (That last was particularly gratifying: something I learned from the Met’s oddball superhero fashion exhibit last summer! Whee!)

Ultimately, though, the pastiche of suggestive homage doesn’t do more than suggest, tease. The theme of the song circles back on itself: it’s about the seductive-destructive nature of fame, but the video’s depiction of domestic violence (particularly potent in a post-Rihanna pop song) seems to take things in a different direction, but in the end, the violence is more a metaphor for a fame than vice versa, reflecting how sexualized the fame machine is, especially for young women.

The video is intriguing and visually spectacular, a nonstop exhibition of high-end, runway fashion (read: completely unwearable in real life) filmed with ravishing, cinematic quality by Jonas Akerlund. I’ve watched it more than a dozen times, and I still got a kick out of the disturbing, Bergman-esque prologue and Gaga’s brazen dance number on crutches and the toothy hiss of a grin she gets when she mixes the poisoned drink and the bizarre Minnie Mouse/geisha/dominatrix ensemble she wears while mixing it. It’s an amazing video.

I guess I just thought, at first, that all those allusions needed to be decoded somehow to get at what the video was really about, but now I think that was misguided. “Paparazzi” is simply what you get when you’re working with an unusually self-aware, highly educated, showboating cultural omnivore like Lady Gaga. In other words, it’s awesome. I love it.

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*OK, so we had other reasons for avoiding a move to Brooklyn. But avoiding the hipster scene was definitely a perk.

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