Grotesques

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"Grotesques"

I’ve written before about how fascinated I am by Lady Gaga’s efforts to uglify sex and to glorify loneliness: I think the bowl cuts, dun underwear and contortions of “Alejandro” didn’t get the credit they deserved. The video wasn’t necessarily an anti-Catholic shock display of sexuality but an embrace of isolation.

But I’ve also been thinking a lot about the ways in which Nicki Minaj is a useful counterpoint to Gaga. Where Gaga tends towards the grotesque and anti-sexual in her imagery, whether she’s wearing incredibly uncomfortable-looking shoes or draping herself in meat or glam prosthetics, Minaj is basically a blueprint for the Uncanny Valley.

Take the cover for her upcoming album Pink Friday:

She’s a dismembered Barbie: her legs are sexy but too long for her body, her breasts grotesquely pushed up near her face, her lips in an exaggerated, filler-style duck’s pout, her eyes vacant. All these elements of stereotypical beauty are ugly when they’re assembled, chimera-like, and distorted like this.

And it’s an intentional exaggeration that’s fully built into her appearance in the video for “Check It Out”:

She’ll go an unusually long amount of time without blinking only to break down into full-on Scarlett O’Hara fluttering eyelashes. Her mouth opens a little too wide on a lot of emphasis syllables, she’s got a smile inappropriate to the line when she raps “Competition? Yes, I would love some.” I just love the jumble, the intentionality of the awkwardness. Lady Gaga scares people off before they get what they think they want. Nicki Minaj gives folks what they want and lets them freak themselves out once they get it.

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