Lady Gaga's 'Applause' Video Explained - Influences Revealed!

20 August 2013

Lady Gaga’s video for ‘Applause’ is the hottest release of the week, and has tongues wagging trying to work out what inspired her to create such a whacky eclectic clip.

If you haven’t watched it yet (what are you doing?!) the clip features lots of different versions of Gaga, from a stripped back no makeup Gaga, to a completely naked Gaga, with flowing auburn hair covered in nothing but shells!

Watch the full video for 'Applause' here!

The music video was directed by Dutch art duo Inez & Vinoodh and features their characteristically eye popping imagery and fashion centric styling.

Now that the video is out, fans are scrambling to find the meaning behind the madness… so let’s dissect shall we?

MTV spoke to one half of the directing duo Inez van Lamsweerde, and she revealed a few things about the different sections of the video. Some of the other sections we’ve just had to guess our own interpretation! Not every costume or style in the video has to mean something, but we had fun trying to explore the themes we thought were involved. 


Gaga’s video opens showing her wearing wings above a giant catwalk. Inez revealed "She always had it in her head that she wanted to do a fashion show, where she would be flying instead of walking. She always been incredibly inspired by fashion and its energy, so it felt extremely [right] to have that part of her life represented." There might also be a reference to the Greek mythology of Icarus... someone who flew too close to the sun (or in Gaga's case The Fame) and got burnt.


Inez explained "Originally it was meant to be a tiny vignette in the video that would look back at a past time in her life when she was fresh out of school and living in the Lower East Side and dreamt of whatever her future would be… And that was there to represent that. She used to have that kind of hair when she was 18, 19, so we said that's that past moment. When we started shooting it, it felt so great we said 'Let's do the whole song on this mattress and do the choreography laying down.' And she performed so incredibly it felt [like] such a real, raw feeling. It made it as the thread through the whole video. That's the real and the rest is sort of the dreams she had."


This section of the video shows Gaga at her most stripped back, with barely any makeup, and a tight strong close up on her face. We think maybe Gaga was trying to show the person behind the ‘Applause’ cover artwork facepaint (costume # 7)… the person who doesn’t live for the fame or the Applause.

Other visual interpretations include Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 fantasy film The Seventh Seal:


We don’t have a real explanation of this snippet of the music video, but it kind of reminds us of the early German Expressionist film noir movies, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from 1920. The geometric background paired with the scary face Lady Gaga is making seems to all fit that era.


Could Lady Gaga be paying homage to Disney films with this section? She looks like Cruella DeVille in the green coat with smoke all around her, and the top hat she's sitting in could be referencing The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

Later a tail emerges from Lady Gaga in this costume, possibly making note of all the centaurs used in fantasy films, including Disney’s Fantasia.


We think Gaga is referencing someone who was ultimately destroyed by the ‘Applause’, because while Marilyn outwardly adored the adoration, the dishevelled version of Marilyn presented here shows it’s what destroyed her in the end.


This is the opposite of costume #3, showing perhaps Gaga after The Applause… the person she presents to the media. It is of course, also the cover art for her single ‘Applause.’ Others have also likened it to David Bowie imagery, and that time Homer Simpson used a makeup gun on Marge... although we doubt the latter was an actual influence. 


Lady Gaga looks like a mime artist here, trying to express herself without speaking. Others have said she looks like Andy Warhol’s early paintings… perhaps the Marilyn Monroe one?


This is a clear reference to 'The Birth Of Venus' by Botticelli, which explores themes of rebirth, as well as ideas of physical and spiritual beauty. Inez explained to MTV "we were extremely inspired by Botticelli's painting.... (She appears) back on stage as a fully-realised, complete new person and that's why the Botticelli came to mind." 


With lyrics like ‘put your hands up make ‘em touch’ the directors knew there needed to be hands in the clip… cue the hand bra! Inez revealed "The glove-kini! That's Brandon Maxwell, her fashion director that had that made. The song's called 'Applause.' There had to be hands."


We wouldn’t blame you for thinking that Gaga’s swan head was inspired by the Darren Aronofsky film Black Swan, but it’s actually more to do with Lady Gaga’s egg fascination and themes of rebirth! Inez revealed "She's always had the egg reference in her work and since this video is kind of about a rebirth and at the end there's the Botticelli 'Birth of Venus' reference, so we said, 'OK, an egg... a fur egg and what comes out of a fur egg?' In our minds, a black swan with her face on it."


This is the last costume of the video, showing Gaga walking through a lazer tower, and as Inez revealed “(We wanted to explore) this idea that she goes through this struggle to go back onstage, which is in that pink laser tower. And she's sort of dragging that leg as a trophy and making it back on stage as a fully-realised, complete new person." Other visual interpretations include references from Tim Burton's 'The Corpse Bride' or the Lil Dagover's character in 'The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari' as mentioned above (pics below). 

Have we got this all wrong? Watch the video below, and tell us your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter!


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