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One Video: ‘John Wayne’ by Lady Gaga

One Video: ‘John Wayne’ by Lady Gaga


This week’s video is a whole B movie in under three minutes

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Every Friday, a slew of new music videos hits the web. Watching them at your desk is not time theft because you deserve it; think of it as a nice reward for surviving another work week. But what if you don’t have time to watch every video — maybe you have a deadline, a hungry pet, or other grown-up concerns. In consideration of your schedule, Lizzie and Kaitlyn present a new series called One Video. Each week we’ll tell you “one video” you need to watch, why, and for how long.

This week’s video: “John Wayne” by Lady Gaga

Kaitlyn: Lady Gaga’s “John Wayne” music video was released on Wednesday as an Apple Music exclusive, at which point I said to my many loyal Twitter followers (all of whom read this column), “videos released exclusively on Apple Music are not eligible for inclusion in Verge series ‘One Video with Kaitlyn and Lizzie.’” The reasoning behind that decision is simple: some people don’t have Apple Music subscriptions, including Kaitlyn and Lizzie; this column is for everyone; and this column is written by Kaitlyn and Lizzie. Luckily, Lady Gaga later posted the video on Vevo and YouTube, so that we could all see it.

Thank you, Gaga!

When will the mainstream media address the need for a John Wayne “Shop This Look” guide
When will the mainstream media address the need for a John Wayne “Shop This Look” guide

Lizzie Plaugic: The theme of the video is beer and bodysuits, because both are necessary when riding fast on open roads. Lady Gaga spends most of this clip in a motorcycle chase and then in a car chase, because she can’t go fast enough on a horse. This is a real problem few people will be bold enough to bring up when you talk about horse travel. “John Wayne” is a video about transportation and speed, channeled through the ghost of the human John Wayne. I know he died in the 1970s, but I really believe deep in my heart that cars weren’t around during his lifetime. Such is the power of the cinema, I guess.

Who is John Wayne?

John Wayne was an actor-slash-director whose real name was Marion Mitchell Morrison. Why he didn’t want to keep his given name is beyond me, but that’s between him and his God. Wayne is best known for wearing a cowboy hat and receiving something called the Brass Balls Award by The Harvard Lampoon in 1973.

What’s special about “John Wayne” by Lady Gaga:

Kaitlyn: What’s special about “John Wayne” by Lady Gaga is that it’s basically an entire B movie in under three minutes. Gaga loves showing off her range of reference, and does so in this video with what looks like a Mad Max outtake, a kitschy ‘80s monster rave, and several references to a very famous cowboy actor. By “several” I mean “eight,” which is the number of times that Lady Gaga says “John Wayne!” or “Johnnnunhh Wayne” in this video.

Another thing that’s special about “John Wayne” by Lady Gaga: the lyrical annotations available for perusal on Genius. Here’s an explanation that one user provided for the lyric “here I go / to the eye of the storm:”

The love storm symbolizes how Gaga’s and her cowboy’s relationship relies on danger to maintain its passion. In order to achieve love’s calming bliss, represented by the tranquil eye of the storm, she’s willing to commit to fast horse rides and wild partying.

For the record: I am not willing to commit to fast horse rides or wild partying. Please don’t ask.

Lizzie: I like this video because it looks like a horror-movie parody of a Lana Del Rey video. If you follow the celebrity beef rumor mill, you know that Lady Gaga and LDR apparently knew each other before they were famous and they didn’t always get along. Lana even apparently wrote a diss track about Gaga. So it’s pleasant to imagine that “John Wayne,” with its blue jeans and wide open roads, is poking fun at Lana Del Rey’s pristine, sepia-toned Americana aesthetic, even though it’s probably not. For the record, I love Lana Del Rey but I also love to make things up.

How long everyone should watch “John Wayne” by Lady Gaga:

Kaitlyn: If you’re really pressed for time I recommend minute 0:46 to minute 2:28 because that is when all the choreography happens. The dance sequences in this video are sort of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” meets Disney World’s Halloween special on the lawn of the Haunted Mansion, as imagined by Harmony Korine and a second person who respects versatile denim and a sensible chunky ankle boot. The whole video is cool, but the highlight of any artistic work is the group dancing, in my opinion. Lizzie, what’s your opinion?

Lizzie: Personally I like a more subtle Michael Jackson reference, but I appreciate not having to think at all. I would suggest watching from 2:28 until the end of the video, or approximately 29 seconds. This is when all of the past scenes are mashed together into one haywire montage, so it’s like watching the video in triple-time. Plus, Lady Gaga’s boot transforms into a gun, which I wouldn’t recommend to secret agents but it seems fine here.

Kaitlyn: Do you think the boot gun is a Kim Possible reference?

Lizzie: I think it’s a nice idea that’s open to interpretation. Kind of like this video!