Lady Gaga's past three videos have seen her flirting with divinity: playing Mary Magdalene in a biker gang for "Judas," being a birthed as a cosmic goddess in "Born This Way," and donning nun garb for an orgy in "Alejandro." But the clip for "Edge of Glory," released late Thursday, is decidedly down to earth. Sure, Gaga's punk-skunk outfit might grab a few second glances on the street, but otherwise what we see is very simple: Mother Monster dancing by herself on a fire escape and late-night sidewalk, with saxophonist Clarence Clemons (recently admitted to the hospital for a stroke) serving as a low-key supporting character.
Vulture interprets the unhurried, uncluttered clip as a smart, intentional move from Gaga to prevent the public from burning out on her brand:
As is appropriate for a third single, Gaga steps back both from prerelease buildup ("Edge" premiered on So You Think You Can Dance, which for Gaga is a relatively inconspicuous thing to do) and unwieldy video treatments. For the first time in this album cycle, instead of tossing buckets of arguably subversive allusions for eager analysts to parse, she plays it very, very straight.
It looks like it was shot in 45 minutes. The biggest moment is a particularly intense jacket fling. But, more important: With the gloriously uncomplicated "Edge of Glory" as the soundtrack, we finally get to catch our breath for a moment.
The New York Post, though, pieces together clues indicating that the clip comes out of an aborted attempt at something grander. Veteran music video director Joseph Kahn was involved with "Edge of Glory" at one point, but said last night that he deserves no credit or blame for the final product:
Yesterday he Tweeted, "I did NOT direct Lady Gaga's 'Edge of Glory' video. Lady Gaga did -- I don't co-direct. One canvas, one paintbrush. Respect the art. Very simple rule with me."
This seemed to imply disagreements on the set, a theory that has been corroborated by Joseph's team, sources close to production and, well, watching the video.
One such insider, Chancler Haynes (Kahn's on-set editor), revealed on Twitter exactly what went down in a series of DM's with a fan ... who then released the conversation.
It seems that the mermaid motif GaGa debuted on "Le Grand Journal" was supposed to be the video's theme as well. "[Joseph Kahn] had sets built for a hospital scene, Brooklyn Bridge, and a big underwater mermaid scene. It all made sense. Concept was done," Chancler wrote.
But somewhere along the way there was, to hear Laurieann tell it, "an issue." One that, according to Chancler, stemmed straight from The Haus of GaGa. "GaGa changed her mind and told Joseph what to do. His hands were tied. The director just didn't have control over GaGa after she started making changes [and] Joseph's concept died."
It's not hard to imagine an artistic reason for Gaga scrapping a grandiose video treatment, though it would seem somewhat out of character for her. "Edge of Glory" is arguably the most bombastic, heart-swelling song on her new album Born This Way; with its video, for once, Gaga may have opted to let the music stand on its own.