In a bold departure from her old path to pop-rap stardom, in her new video for "Pretty Girls" Iggy Azalea plays an alien figure trying to clumsily adapt the cultural mores of others while using her sexual prowess to assimilate into a bleak L.A. pop landscape littered with wanton product placement.
The video, which costars her single's collaborator, Britney Spears, and which Azalea codirected, is a parody of Julien Temple's '80s cult favorite "Earth Girls are Easy." It's the second video revamp of a millennial-beloved film in her career.
But while her "Fancy" video was a pretty straitlaced homage to "Clueless" and used something like a light touch to address Azalea's outsiderness in U.S. hip-hop and love of the finer things, "Pretty Girls" drives the same metaphor off a Malibu cliff, its shrieks resounding all the way down.
Winking kitsch is not the same as successful irony. The song -- no one's finest hour in pop but a decent enough electro-cheerleader single -- is an overt play for Song of Summer status.
But this video is so aggressive in its attempted self-awareness that it actually has the opposite effect of affirming the worst of its ditsy-blond stereotypes. Britney, now a full-time Las Vegas professional working mother currently fighting through a workplace accident, deserves a more noble setting than this.
The mid-video conversational interlude alone, where Azalea uses eye lasers to turn a '90s brick phone into a Samsung smartphone while Spears and their convertible-mates howl in aggressively Valley patois, is enough to make John Waters abandon camp for sober Ibsen revivals for the rest of his career.
As summer ramps up, there are few who oppose a sublimely vapid pop single and its accompanying self-deprecating video. But by trying to beat everyone else to the punch at self-parody, Brit and Iggy have gone so far off the deep end that they're back in the shallow.