A Valentine for Lady Gaga
“In a time when the women of pop are a depressing mess of childish coquettishness and tawdry pornification, Gaga stands alone as an almost sexless carnival of the bizarre.” Jennifer Gannon is definitely buying a ticket for Lady Gaga
Remember when Michael Jackson floated a massive fibre-glass statue of himself down the Thames? Or when the tabloids conjured up the image of him sleeping in an oxygen tent? Bubbles at the Grammys in a tuxedo? How about when Prince demanded to be known as a squiggly symbol or when Madonna offended everyone with her book full of naked photos? How everyone laughed at these egocentric flights of pop fancy.
This day-glo triumvirate were shining beacons of pop creativity and craziness, a certain brand of over-the-top eccentricity that has all but disappeared. The classic pop music ideal of the thought provoking spectacle is sadly forgotten, the intelligence factor disintegrating in the clutches of will.i.am’s robotic glove. In today’s unpredictable climate, stars seem unwilling to be difficult or appear confrontational as they desperately compete for the public’s ever-waning attention.
Pop is going through struggles not seen since primetime TV gorged itself on reality shows; dumbing down and feeding the masses what they think they crave. Whether it’s Rihanna doing the “dutty wine” in a PVC bikini, or Miley twerking hard for her money, today’s most successful pop stars are an endless production line of plastic clones singing brashly and loudly about nothing in particular. Even broadsheet darling Queen Beyoncé is bizarrely blank and unknowable, silent beneath the blustering PR whirl.
Let’s thank the pop overlords then for the enduring bag of crazy that is Lady Gaga. Ever since Stefani Germanotta awkwardly crash- landed onto the music scene six years ago, she re-ignited the thrill and daring darkness of pop at its most demanding. Rather than morphing into a pop slot machine dishing out more radio- friendly hits like Poker Face and Just Dance , Gaga transformed. Gaga became interesting.
Bad Romance , like a glittery zombie stormtrooper, stomped all over the charts and into listener’s hearts. It was a cigarette-stench
kiss of life, a pop blitzkrieg exploding onto the mainstream musical landscape. Easily the most commercial cut from The Fame Monster EP – a dark tumour which grew from the original album, it loudly signalled her unwillingness to align with her ultra-girlie sexed-up pop contemporaries.
This intense mix of murky europop, half-crazed lyrics and idiosyncratic influences begat Born This Way , a concept album that purported to spread the message of self acceptance. In reality, it proved more of an oddball expedition with Gaga trying on many musical wigs and flexing her contrary creative muscle.
The grandiose statements made at the time of the album’s release, coupled with widespread derision at the idea of a pop star attempting to make any statement other than ‘Let’s Party!’, created polarising opinions about young Gaga. The irritated yearned for her to just shut up and dance whilst the intrigued sat tight, waiting for the next trick to be conjured.
Increasingly, disdain dominated the discussion around the release of ARTPOP . There was a feeling of ridicule emanating at the dizzy pretention of the whole affair – the desire to inject art into pop; surely something so creatively seismic should be left to cultural heavyweight Björk or postmodern pranksters Goldfrapp. Although the ARTPOP project was never about Lady Gaga retreating to the fringes, it was about thrusting the abstract back into the mainstream spotlight.
As Gaga pranced through fields naked for performance artist Marina Abramovic and wittered on about Jeff Koons, it made a refreshing change from The Wanted arguing about chlamydia on Twitter. It also sent fans on a scavenger hunt of discovery, something that all the best pop artists provide; a springboard into an unknown world of influences. In its ferocious pomposity ARTPOP treated its audience with a level of intelligence that remained dormant throughout the years of chart domination from the likes of Pitbull and LMFAO.
Underneath the po-faced pronouncements ARTPOP reminds the listener of exactly what Lady Gaga brings to the pop world, a certain flamboyant fearlessness. In a time when the women of pop are a depressing mess of childish coquettishness and tawdry pornification, Gaga stands alone as an almost sexless carnival of the bizarre, creating an absurd spectacle unafraid to be derided just like the influential pop icons before her.
As Katy Perry filled the airwaves with self-help book nonsense and Taylor Swift acted like a hormonal Girls World doll, Gaga was referencing Ingmar Bergman at the VMAs, vaulting around the X Factor stage covered in bandages and greeting fans in Germany with something akin to a giant Weetabix on her head. This is Lady Gaga’s imperial phase, her magnificently excessive Marie Antoinette-style indulgence. Little Monsters and casual observers alike
wait in anticipation for the ludicrous fibre-glass statue moment that is surely only a false eyelash blink away.
Meanwhile, the announcement of the art- RAVE tour offers an opportunity to witness the whirling dynamo in this glorious state of flux, as her ladyship takes to the road. Embrace the embodiment of post-everything pop. Observe pop cultural history being created right in front of your eyes. Get ready to applaud.
artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball is at Dublin’s O2 on October 17th. Tickets on sale now