Let Them Eat Cake… Breaking Down the Music Industry’s Fixation with Marie Antoinette
Powdered wigs, a dramatic pale mug, and bulbous evening gowns for days – Marie Antoinette is the campiest of the camp historical figures. The former Queen of France’s fashions are practically a wet dream of any costume designers. This signature look has even been interpreted on the main stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Not once, not twice, but six times. Although it would be practically impossible to nudge season 3 winner Raja from the top spot of serving Marie Antoinette realness, some of pop music’s most exceptional mavericks have done a pretty good job at playing dress-up as the Versailles’ most fashionable figure:
Benzo by Blood Orange (2019)
We can always rely on Dev Hynes for a beautiful visual to accompany his hazy R&B, guitar-infused love songs. For his most recent release Benzo, Hynes gave the Antoinette wardrobe an upgrade only a true New Yorker is capable of. The self-directed video captures Blood Orange’s on-going collaborator and Hood By Air family member Ian Isiah donning Antoinette’s signature powdered locks, now in a mint and purple concoction. Whilst Dev tries to impress the crowd with his cello-playing skills, the gang of spectators are clad in pastel-hued frills, their faces painted for the back row. It’s a celebration of black queerness, with the NY spirit still intact. You can bring some 18th century Versailles luxe to the table, but around a bunch of New Yorkers, you’re still going to have Chinese take-out boxes left from the last night.
Can’t Speak French by Girls Aloud (2007)
Girls Aloud have had their fair share of legendary music videos, but nothing comes close to Can’t Speak French. Each of the Fab Five served candy-hued, skimpy interpretations of the classic Antoinette look. Directed by mononymous filmmaker Petro, Cheryl dazzles in a turquoise bustier with a frilled tutu, whilst Nicola has men practically falling to their knees as she graces in a hot-pink, caged petticoat with an umbrella to match. High energy, hi-glam and a much needed (then) contemporary update on the 18th-century royal look – think Antoinette out on a night in Soho.
Love You Like a Love Song by Selena Gomez
Love You Like a Love Song was a career milestone for Selena Gomez. The 2011 bop marked the moment when Gomez morphed from a Disney channel starlet and into a global superstar. And what better way to take things up a level than sporting a look to remember. What starts as a late-night karaoke session transforms into a Sci-Fi-infused lucid dream. Though Selena isn’t clad in any old spacesuit. Instead, she adopts dusty-grey buffon and a lacy frock that Antoinette could’ve easily worn on her big day – let them eat (wedding) cake.
Katy Perry – Hey Hey Hey
Watching the music video for Katy Perry’s Hey Hey Hey feels like going to the cinema to see Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette on acid. Don’t ask how I know. No, there’s no Kirsten Dunst or Jason Schwartzman – but there’s a video game fighting scene, 18th-century facetime calls and Joan of Arc ready to emancipate Marie Antoinette from suffocating corsets and a forced marriage to a putrid king. The video stands out for Perry’s killer beauty looks – with an arched, pencil-thin brow paired with a heart-shaped lip smothering the classic Antoinette look in Perry’s signature campyness.
Vogue by Madonna (LIVE at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards)
The MTV VMAs are the home to some of pop culture’s most memorable moments – 90% of them thanks to Madonna. Long before she was snogging Britney & Xtina, the queen of pop embodied the former queen of Versailles in a performance which married aristocratic elegance with the spirit of New York’s underground vogueing culture. The highly choreographed performance saw lots of fan thwoorping and plenty of face, face, face. The brazen performance of undergarments flashing, implied sexual favours and a definitive sense of queerness blasted from Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles into the living rooms of millions around the world – proving that, just like Marie Antoinette, Madonna is an unapologetic bitch.