"I'm going to be a star," Lady Gaga says tearfully in her enigmatic, 14-minute "Marry the Night" music video. "You know why? Because I have nothing left to lose." The pop superstar claims that the brazen autobiographical saga recounts her struggle to achieve fame after Def Jam Records dropped her early in her career. Along the way, viewers are treated to scenes of Gaga writhing naked in a bathtub, a "Black Swan-style ballerina breakdown," an "instant classic" shot of her smearing Cheerios on her chest, and a lengthy introductory monologue set in a high-fashion psychiatric ward. (Watch the video below.) Here are five talking points that have emerged as critics process the lengthy clip, which Gaga directed herself:
1. It tracks Gaga's story... albeit bizarrely
"Marry the Night" is "more of an autobiographical mini-documentary than anything else," says Kathryn Kattalia at the New York Daily News, an epic re-imagining of her "darkest days." It certainly resembles Gaga's story, says Nicole James at MTV, only, characteristically, "reality is skewed and volleyed about enough times to make you question which dimension you're living in." Self-absorption aside, Gaga's "dedicating 'Marry the Night' to anyone who's ever tried to live their dream and failed."
2. She borrows heavily from iconic pop culture
There are touches of Fame, Black Swan, and The Bell Jar in the video, says Jocelyn Vena at MTV. The psychiatric ward into which she's wheeled during the opening scene references Girl Interrupted, says Gina Serpe at E! Online. A street dancing scene, says James, evokes an iconic Pat Benatar music video. In the end, though, it's all signature Gaga, says Chris Coplan at Consequence of Sound: "Fashion, unrelenting sex appeal, innocence, [and] creative expression."
3. It really is "epically weird"
This will "certainly leave fans talking, if not scratching their heads," says Liz Raftery at People. Gaga "doesn't understand the meaning of less is more," says The Prophet Blog. It's almost an affront to fans that she forces them to "wade through eight minutes of terrible acting, cringeworthy voiceovers, and a laughably self-indulgent script" before the song even begins. Sure, the psychotic Cheerios moment and naked dancing are truly bizarro, says Amanda Dobbins at New York. But this is Lady Gaga. The video "is just as nuts as you would hope it to be!"
4. But the actual music video part is pretty great
Once the seemingly endless intro is through, "we're treated to a ferocious performance piece that'd make Janet Jackson proud," says The Prophet Blog . Gaga's "mile-a-minute" dancing, sexy intercuts of "nude bathtub thrashing," and nods to her struggle to get signed by Interscope Records are brilliantly done.
5. It's all one big ego trip
At 14 minutes, this music video is self-indulgent, insane, or both, says Katey Rich at Cinema Blend. As a self-directed tribute to her own struggle for fame, the whole thing seems "a little navel-gazing." But it's hard to resist the clip's "striking images" — if Gaga is frustratingly fascinated by herself, "we're all fascinated, too." Let's get real, says Marc Hogan at Spin. "It hard to tell where Gaga is winking at us and where's she's simply fallen into a foxhole of unrestrained ego."
See for yourself: