Ok. I'm late to the game. But you have to understand, I normally ignore the latest diva of the month. I'm sure that I've missed some great music. Shakira, Beyonce, etc. But it's a habit learned from having grown up in the 80s. As far as this guy is concerned they're all some variation of Madonna. And for those of us who grew up in Reagan's America, trying desperately to find music that pushed boundaries, no one symbolized complacency, blandness, and materialism more than Madonna. Yes, yes, yes, somewhere along the line, some journalist/academic/grad-school-loser tried to rehabilitate her as someone on the vanguard of lipstick feminism… an academic discovered girl power while dancing to Papa Don't Preach! Wooo-freakin-hoo!
And somewhere the gay community, jumped on the wagon. To me, Madonna's music was aggressively heterosexual (her lesbian kisses were all for straight man kink) and exploitative . To those of us whose heroes were aggressively confused (i.e. Grace Jones, Annie Lennox ) or even the erotically challenged (i.e. Wendy O Williams, Laurie Anderson) Madonna was nothing more than another in a long line of bad 80s pop atrocities we had to endure. And no, we weren't sourpusses, we just knew when someone was trying to pull the wool over our eyes and Madonna felt cheap, inauthentic and obviously NOT talented on her own (She owes EVERYTHING to her producers).
Fast forward to my 40's and here is this young woman… Lady Gaga. She is obviously using Madonna's musical language and yet, the first time I heard her, three weeks ago, I was first intrigued then entranced and now enthralled.
Three weeks you say! yes I know.. late to the game- Screw you. I've had a bad year.
Why am I enthralled and why analyze it? 'Cause I am and 'cause I can.
I've been accused of over-intellectualizing music. Again, screw you. You don't like it. Go read something else.
I can tell you this.
1. Lady Gaga matters. She's doing things that others quite don't dare to do. She is not using her sexuality to push her music. She is sexual..very. The music is sensual and feels liberating in all sorts of ways. Her voice is hot. She growls and snarls and she soothes. But she is not portraying herself as some hot young vixen a-la Britney who is pushing sexuality to entice you. No. The music speaks sexual volumes and if you get the chance go to youtube and look for her acoustic versions of paparazzi. Damn! Her voice is just gorgeous. So she matters. Matters to what and to whom? Matters to art, and to feminism. She recently said about her album covers; “My album covers are not sexual at all, which was an issue at my record label," she explained. "I fought for months, and I cried at meetings. They didn’t think the photos were commercial enough…The last thing a young woman needs is another picture of a sexy pop star writhing in sand, covered in grease, touching herself.”
That is powerful. And she is powerful and I'm impressed.
2. She confuses people. I read an official iTunes review that said she was a throwback to 80s materialism with no irony. I'd like to state right here- that is fucking stupid. Irony that is well detected by the audience is sarcasm. Irony that stops you in your tracks and confuses you is Art with a big honking capital A. When the Sex Pistols first growled, "We're pretty…pretty vacant" or "I am an Antichrist! I am an Anarchist", audiences used to the saccharin sincerity of 70s singer-songwriters collectively gasped and asked themselves, "Are these guys serious?" Others giggled at the reaction, copied the smirk and growl, cause they "got it". It's in that space that irony is art. Not in "sarcasm" that passes as irony like most late Talking Heads or U2's lame venture into avant-garde posturing. No. Irony as art makes you scratch your head for a bit.
Am I saying that Lady Gaga's fashionista stance is a cultural watershed moment like the Pistols? Not yet, but I can tell you this. She's not wearing stuff just to make her look "pretty". She's not being "provocatively" slutty at a time when that pose is everywhere. She wears outrageous stuff because there is artistic intent behind it. And it's cool to watch- the last scene of the "Bad Romance" video is insanely good- go watch it. While I spent the 80s YAWNING at everything Madonna did, in three weeks I'm consistently being amazed at things Lady Gaga has done.
3. She gets down with the Dada. The non-sense syllables in Bad Romance, the robotic throbbing in Poker Face, the bubble dress, performing "Bad Romance" while sitting on a toilet, the scary red dress and the blood at the MTV music awards. hmm… sorry pointy bras and Madonna's "soft porn" like doesn't hold a candle to the spectacle of Lady Gaga bleeding on stage- dying in front of us and giving us , in vivo, the nauseating thrill of what we seem to love most about our celebrities- their demise. This is after all the year that millions wept over Michael Jackson. She basically said, "Here you go. This is what death is like, this is what you really want to see when you spend hours obsessing about the death or tragedy of a celebrity. Enjoy".
4. She is actually talented. She is an honest to goodness musician. She writes her own songs. She plays the piano like nobody's business and her voice has range.
5. I need a new obsession
Music heals me. It always has. Most of what I post about on musicmenow is about the music that has healed me.
You see my best friend died this year. No. My brother died this year. He tolerated and encouraged my inane ramblings. He had infinite patience with me. I could eulogize him all over again but this is not the right forum. Suffice it to say he was the best man I've ever known and not a day goes by that I don't think of him.
What does this have to do with Lady Gaga?
My brother is dead but she makes me happy. She makes me happy for everything I've already said, but because I can get lost in the moments of pure pleasure she provides without making me wince at stupidity or mediocrity.
She melts the coldness a bit. It doesn't make the pain completely go away. Of course not. But the music helps the healing.
She just makes me a little happier at a time when happiness is a little hard to come by.
Brother, I wish you were here. I'd bug your silly ass about Lady Gaga.