Lady Gaga or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Praise God(ga)

Few pop stars are as divisive and polarizing as Stefani Germanotta, or more familiarly to the average fan, Lady Gaga. Much of her success is derived from her indulgent, and often grotesque, interpretation of the Pop music icon. So why does anyone care about Lady Gaga or her own unique brand of Pop music? Aside from the vast amount of money she has (and will continue to) make, her success indicates a sea-change in Pop music for reasons that will be explored below.

I think it’s important, and in the interest of full-disclosure, to relate the evolution of my appreciation of Lady Gaga. Like many, my initial exposure to Lady Gaga was her first single, “Just Dance”, which I had written it off as nothing more than your standard Pop schlock. I may have said something regarding the diminishing state of Pop music but I moved on and appropriately (I thought) ignored her. I had similar thoughts when she released “Poker Face”. Then she released the single and music video “Paparazzi”. It was at this point that I started taking a more vested interest in her music. But it wasn’t until I saw the video of her performing as Stefani Germanotta as a singer-songwriter that I truly became entranced with her. She wasn’t just a product, there was substance behind her charade. So how did this:

turn into this:

It’s a question that, I feel, completely misses the point of Lady Gaga.

The truth is that, as she herself admits, Lady Gaga has always existed in some form or another in Ms. Germanotta’s mind. If you listen to her performance above, she sings a song (Electric Kiss?) that expounds on the nature of fame and the relationship between the public and the icon. Thus Lady Gaga isn’t the result of a fit of inspiration, but a thought-out, deliberate creation that has been fused with the singing talents of Stefani Germanotta.

And with Lady Gaga there is a lot to take in: the blatant advertising, the grotesque, brazen sexuality, the mystifying symbolism, and, of course, the music. It is tempting to try and find a cohesive hypothesis that could explain the sum of all these parts. But, I would postulate that the point of Lady Gaga isn’t the details of her representation, rather, it is that temptation to analyze it. Lady Gaga forces the listener (or rather the viewer, she is as much a visual artist as auditory) to actually say to him or herself “What the hell am I watching (hearing)?” as opposed to just blandly accepting it. This is the true strength of Lady Gaga. She is, at heart, a surrealist; any attempt at forming a definitive argument regarding her media is, I feel, an exercise in futility.

Her music isn’t anything extraordinary. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time with the esoterica of music. Her eastern-European techno influences may appear strange within a pop music framework but she is fairly conventional outside of that very dogmatic framework. The fact that she is as successful as she is means that the average Top-40 fan is, at the very least, open to different genres of music that aren’t R&B, Rap, Country-Pop, or Pop. Lady Gaga, in effect, is exposing people to music they otherwise wouldn’t have known about. I am personally excited to see what other genres of music artists will incorporate into Pop music. While you don’t have to enjoy her (admittedly standard) music, you can’t deny that her influence on Pop music as a whole is one that will ultimately improve its state as a whole.

As I’ve commented on another pop star (Hannah Montana), the transition between normal person and pop icon is one of severe gravity. Pop icons are everything that normal people are not: glamorous, ever beautiful, and graceful. The difference between Hannah Montana and Lady Gaga is that while Hannah Montana emphasizes the schism between a normal person (Miley) and the pop star (Hannah), Lady Gaga is the physical embodiment of commitment to the bit. While Lady Gaga exists, Stefani Germanotta does not. There is never a point when Lady Gaga is not Lady Gaga. She is living performance art. She is the ironic jester, laughing at us while putting on a sly smirk; we’re all eating out of the palm of her hand and she knows it too. Perhaps she should go by a different moniker: “Lady Gaga or The Marionette who Seized the Strings”.


~ by Verse on April 28, 2010.

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