Lady Gaga’s ‘Edge Of Glory’: A Pop-Culture Cheat Sheet

~By Quickjams on June 17, 2011

In her newest video, Gaga pays homage to classic clips of the 1980s.
By James Montgomery


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Lady Gaga


Photo: Getty Images

The first thing that strikes you about Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” video is the fact that it’s steeped in the rich, gauzy traditions of classic pop clips and noticeably missing any of the allegories, agendas or, uh, afterbirth of her previous work.

Simply put, “Edge” is an homage to an entire genre of videos that has since gone by the wayside — namely, the eternally soft-focused, ethereal mini-movies of the 1980s, (mostly) pop productions that reimagined cityscapes as dream-like fantasy worlds, where the just-wet streets shone like mirrors, the manholes frothed with steam and no piece of fabric was left un-billowed. These were decidedly big-budget, unapologetically Hollywood things, shot on studio backlots, glowing with million-dollar lighting budgets and given extra grandeur thanks to sweeping, soaring crane shots. They made no attempt to portray reality as anything of the sort — because, much like the songs they accompanied, there was rebellion in that fantasy — or of hiding their excesses. And, not surprisingly, as the decade came to a close, and earnestness began to reign supreme, they slowly disappeared (surely, their big budgets didn’t help their fate either).

But with her new clip, Gaga resurrects the epic videos of the ’80s once again. And, seemingly, all at once. There truly are too many nods to the classics to list individually, and really, that’s beside the point. With “The Edge of Glory,” LG is paying tribute not to individual artists, but to an entire genre. Still, there are some whose influence stands above the rest, and we’ve combined them into one handy cheat sheet. Of course, in keeping with her tradition, not all of them come from the 1980s. Because if there’s anything Lady Gaga has proven, it’s that she refuses to be fenced in. Here’s our list:

Bonnie Tyler: Welsh-born belter whose better-known videos (like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding Out for a Hero”) practically set the standard for the fantastical pop videos of the 1980s. Soft focus, arching crane shots, achingly staged lighting — they’re all there, and they’re all on display in “Edge of Glory” too.

Blondie, “Rapture”: One of the earliest examples of the ethereal ’80s (it was released in 1981), the video follows Debbie Harry on a dream-like traipse through the streets of New York City, complete with guest appearances by Fab Five Freddy and a shuffling Uncle Sam (to name just a few). It makes no sense, because it’s not supposed to.

Cyndi Lauper: Gaga’s good friend and, along with Madonna, perhaps the premier ’80s video star, Lauper’s classics — be they the good-natured rebellion of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” or the moody, arty “True Colors” — both seem like spiritual successors to “Edge.”

“Fame”: Epochal tale of performing-arts students living and loving in NYC during the early ’80s, it’s spirit and style have long influenced Gaga’s work. With its dance moves and dreamy, freedom-in-the-streets scenes, “Edge” is perhaps the best example of that.

“Flashdance”: Prototypical “girl finds escape in dance” film from 1983, it stars Jennifer Beals as a steelworker/dancer who dreams of a better life. Not only are the same sentiments echoed in “Edge,” but Gaga pays tribute to the film’s most memorable scene — where Beals reclines in a chair and is doused in water — by striking a similar pose outside her apartment building.

George Michael: Before he became known for his various, uh, exploits, Michael was the biggest British pop star of the 1980s, and as such, he churned out some appropriately huge music videos. Two of his biggest — “Father Figure” and “Careless Whisper” — seem to have influenced Gaga with their gauzy, steamy portrayals of late-night life in the big city and, in the case of “Whisper,” that balls-out sax wailing.

Michael Jackson: You can’t write anything about videos from the 1980s without mentioning MJ, who took the art form to rarely duplicated heights. Usually, his clips were fantastical things, but occasionally, he also got gritty, and it’s those moments (videos like “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Billie Jean”) that seem to have stuck in Gaga’s mind.

“Newsies”: The 1992 Disney musical is most notable for its initial “flop” status and its subsequent rebirth as a cult classic. It tells the story of newsboys on strike in New York City, and in classic scenes like Christian Bale’s performance of the song “Santa Fe,” it takes that struggle to the twisting fire escapes of the city. Sort of like “Edge of Glory,” really.

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