Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A much needed post on Lady Gaga

There are so many things to say about the pop cultural force that is the Lady Gaga.

Let's begin with her actual music. Apparently she was a fantastic singer songwriter at NYU. But... of her current song line-up, the only one I like is her collaboration with Wale, which I actually thought was M.I.A. As it turns out, Wale wanted MIA for the song but instead, he got Lady Gaga. Impersonating MIA. Other than that, a few riffs here and there from Poker Face and Telephone are catchy. But when she starts with her dead drone voice repeating the same catchphrase over and over "Telephone", "Poker Face", etc. I'm out.

Then let's take her music videos. The only one I've seen is Telephone. WHY Beyonce was induced to participate is beyond me, but then again, Beyonce also shills for DirecTV in her "upgrade" spots. Anyone willing to be photographed with a upgrade sign in gold between her teeth while lounging in gold? She's pretty much doing anything for the $. Now back to this video. First of all, the premise of the song is that some guy is calling Gaga at a club but she can't talk to him. Now normally most people just text at a club. And second, in the video they are in an all women's prison and there's a lot of bad dancing, unnecessary amounts of crotch displays and strangely it lacks any sexuality despite the people running around half naked. At least when other people attempt this, for example Rihanna's Disturbia, the results have more character, more art and it actually fits the musicality of the song.

And speaking of women's crotches, that brings me to the final point: HER CLOTHES. She is far and away the top contender for this year's Go Fug Yourself March Madness contest ( Past winners have included such notables as Bai Ling (who may not be of this planet) and Aubrey O'Day (who accessorizes a small dog alongside her playboy bunny zeitigeist). And yes, her clothes are supposed to be performance art. But mostly they appear to be difficult to maintain. There are the sharp shoulders, face veils, daily wearing of leotards (which allow minimal weight fluctuation), heavily coated makeup and impossible shoes.

And out of all of this attention I want to point out one thing: I still don't know what Lady Gaga is trying to say or what her art is supposed to mean. It all feels incredibly vapid underneath the surface. What I want to know is: is there any more? Or is she really just all that noise and nothing underneath? With Madonna, who is for most of our readers, the cultural predecessor of L.G. we all know she stood for women's empowerment, dance, sexuality and sometimes, against the catholic church. But with Gaga? I have no clue.

Comments Please! What defines art to YOU? Does Gaga have it? What should we make of this pop cultural icon?


Capt. BS said...

This is actually something that's been on my mind for a bit... specifically, ever since the night (New Year's Eve?) when I paid a visit to the Hornett's Nest and he streamed the "Bad Romance" video to his television. It's a weird video, to be sure, but imagine seeing it for the first time on a 51" TV with 5.1 surround, and, not being the designated driver that evening, having imbibed a copious amount of alcohol. This is a state of existence where the combination of catchy musical hooks and disorienting, surrealist visuals create a level cognitive dissonance that recalls a teenager watching the animated version of The Wall for the first time... and this made for a memorable experience that got me thinking about the extent to which Gaga is an "artist".

Now, in my book, you're an "artist" if you contribute an original creative work to humanity's collective understanding of itself and/or the universe it inhabits. The first part is something I think Gaga has done, quite clearly, if only by being extensively weird, and by actually writing a lot of her own material. Like you, I'm still undecided on the second part, as to whether Gaga has actually englightened us in some manner.

In this post-post-post-post-post-modern world, it's not enough to be weird for the sake of being weird, or to assemble an amalgam of unrelated items and call it "art" (or "fashion"). If you want to be an artist in the true sense of the word, to rise above the bubble-gum pop that anyone with a synthesizer and an auto-tuner can produce, you must be a truly exceptional lyricist, composer, or performer -- or, ideally, all three. I think the thing that bothers me about Gaga, having seen her performance at NYU, is that she has all three, but there's something inauthentic and contrived about the outrageous costumes, the overmanufactured bubble-gum pop, and the maintenance of an "image" that cheapens these talents. I guess I'm still waiting for her collective body of work to add up to something -- anything -- that ties back to that girl at the piano.

Mr. Le said...

I must say, that if I hear any Lady Gaga for the rest of the week, I won't be able to maintain my poker face, turn into a monster, attack some paparazzi, pick up the telephone and start a love game with someone deserving of a bad romance. Or I may just dance, dance in the dark, and be so happy I could die.

Other than that, I appreciate her attempts to fill the void that Madonna left when she turned into a post-modern mom and then outdid Demi Moore for cradle-robbing duties.

The one issue that needs explicating for me is that she covers her face (but not much else) when she wears those get ups. Why? Some say it's because she doesn't think so highly of her face. She's not being anonymous. She's not cowering behind her success (her album is called "The Fame," after all). Why?