Saturday, November 21, 2009

Here's the thing about Lady Gaga

Here’s the thing about Lady Gaga . . .

I did not really know who this bitch was until a few months ago. I think I saw a music video of her on mtvU while flipping around one bored day. I don’t know the title, but within it was the line “I wanna take a ride on your disco stick, disco stick.” I wasn’t real impressed with the music or the video. The song wasn’t particularly catchy and the lyrics and video were overtly sexual. “How original,” I thought. “Just like nearly every dance pop song.”

The next time I remember seeing her was on the VMAs. She went all out on her live performance. It is even hard to describe, but it was definitely an elaborate set up. Everything was white and I believe at some point there was some swinging from the rafters. Lady Gaga was emoting dramatically (possibly overly so), and toward the end all the white costumes and props were covered in a bloody mess. She was singing the song “Paparazzi” which is just a godawful song. I was impressed with all her theatrics, but I figured the whole show was to make up for how horrible her song was (again, much like any pop song: style over substance). But I saw something this week that made me think twice.

I was listening to Slate’s Culture Gabfest as I do every week while planting some Arabidopsis seeds at work. Their first topic was that of Lady Gaga and what a cultural zeitgeist she is or is about to become. How she was a brilliant visionary and a perspicacious observer of pop culture. They held up as Exhibit A her new video “Bad Romance.” They claimed the video was a shrewd critique of society and consumerism in America. Stephen Metcalf (who kind of plays the curmudgeon because he dislikes almost everything) said “I think I am in love.” I was intensely skeptical for two reasons. 1) Because I have heard her songs and seen her perform and was not moved. And 2) because every time I hear some overeducated white person (especially the Gabfest peeps) recommend music I want to shoot myself. 95% of the time it is some obscure indie soft-rock bullshit made up of other overeducated WASPs that I cannot fucking stand, and the other 5% of the time it’s a half ironic, half I-don’t-want-to-be-exactly-like-every-other-white-person faux infatuation of someone like Taylor Swift or Lil Wayne or Brad Paisley. I’m sorry but that kind of pretentiousness makes me go a big rubbery one.

Anyway, back to my story. After a minute of all this fawning I had to see the video for myself. When I hit play I was a skeptic, but by then end I was a believer. The video was ridiculous, excessive, and fantastic. I’m not even going to try to describe it other than to say it was bizarre, and very well made. The director, Francis Lawrence, is a seasoned director who knows how to make every frame count. And whoever dreamed up that whole sequence is on drugs, but I’ll give them props for creating a pop video that is at once both intensely sexual and very dark - Troy Patterson from Slate described it as Stanley Kubrick meets Paris fashion and I can’t disagree. I can see a little David Lynch in there as well. Lady Gaga was also great in the video. You could tell this idea was not being forced on her solely for the purpose of generating “buzz.” She was eating it up. It was perfect for her.

The song was not really that great, although if you watch the video enough like I did little snippets will get stuck in your brain for hours. I am beginning to think that she is not even that interested in the music aspect of her career. Instead, judging from this video and her VMA performance, it seems to me like music is simply her vehicle for creating her own visual art - it is merely one color on her canvas. I think it could very well be interpreted as a critique on society, on celeb addiction, on any kind of toxic relationship, really, real or metaphorical, although I’m not sure if LG deserves all the credit for that. However, I do think she is the Madonna of this generation.

So if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the video. It’s worth a watch.

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