“The last thing a young woman needs is another picture of a sexy pop star writhing in sand, covered in grease, touching herself. My image was an issue at my record label. I fought for months and cried at meetings. I got criticized for being arrogant because if you’re sure of yourself as a woman, they say you’re a bitch, whereas if you’re a man and you’re strong-willed, it’s normal.” -the LADY
People. I’ve put off writing this post about Lady GaGa for a while, since there seems to always be something new accumulating in our era of viral video and always a new juicy tidbit to incorporate. Two occasions finally pushed me over the edge and I can’t hold back any longer…
First, by the time I finish writing this post Black Maps will have already hit a quarter of a million views since launching in January, 2009!!! This is an incredible triumph for me and commemorating it with a
Second, next week’s episode of Glee is gonna be entirely themed around Our Lady of Gaga– and I can’t let Glee beat me to the punch. (also, glee? gaga? already??! can we say too soon?! didn’t they JUST do an amazing Madonna episode? please don’t go and ruin it by jumping the gun you guyz :P )
and thus I present to you…
Fame Monsters: Talent Shows, Music Reviews, and Bad Hotels
So my place of work has been completely overcome with gagamania for going on a year now…, and given that we’re a crunchy non-hierarchical collective (average age of our staff… early 30s?), I can understand the disbelief when our recycling person showed up today and was like “Jeez! Even YOU guys?!” as “telephone” was bumping in the back of the store. He launched into a cranky tirade about how his gym blasts nothing but Our Lady of Gaga, and he just doesn’t understand how everyone is brainwashed into listening to the pop-cacophony and what the deal with all this?
I’d break it down like this. Nobody gives a frack about Lady Gaga. Her songs are mediocre when it comes down to it (they grow on you like all pop songs, I enjoy them now) and her voice is on par with your average American Idol tryout. But but BUT, if you just stop there then you’re missing the anthropological phenomenon that has become the House of Gaga. Its not about her, per se, its about the project of Lady Gaga…
Here we have a female bodied drag queen, which is short circuiting a few mainstream culture braincells right there, and her ability to be a high-femme chameleon is like a flux capacitor for whatever subversive dreams or subcultures teenagers, queers, capitalists, curators, feminists or glitteratti are trying to ignite. And it works, cuz she’s all about all of it.
Apparently her live shows (in addition to having dazzling choreography and special effects), is like a motivational speech for kids who feel like they don’t fit in. She tells people they should never feel too fat, or too weird, or too feminine or too masculine, and that they are beautiful (and then breaks out into song).
So the thing is… we don’t need Lady Gaga as much as we use “Lady Gaga,” and we use her to inspire us to do incredible things that we always had the power to do (think ruby slippers).
we instrumentalize Lady Gaga to believe in our own fabulocity.
Exhibit A. This kid is thirteen years old, performing at his middle school talent show, and he will take over the world in fabulous kate bushian ways!!!
Exibit B, LGBT and Queer activists in San Francisco parody Bad Romance in a piece of brilliant guerrilla theater aimed at Boycotting the Hyatt and other “Bad Hotels”:
They are calling on folks to support Hyatt and other hotel workers across the country in their quest for jobs with respect and dignity, decent wages, affordable health care, and safe working conditions.
Exhibit D, Newsies bring the ruckus through a retro-new york Bad Romance danceparty!
Obviously examples abound. The viral videos are endless. We’ve all seen the army battalion lip-sync implicit protests to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (meh, armies…), the bedroom best friend sing alongs and all the rest of it. There are also plenty of blog deconstructions, and I don’t need to get in on that (I do it in the student lounge at grad school, which is more than sufficient thank you very much).Oh, except that can we just say that (prison industrial complex notwithstanding), making Beyoncé a homicidal boyfriend killer in favor of lesbian affections was a triumph I didn’t think we’d see from the hip-hop R&B charts for a while (I mean, OMG, Queen Latifah is still closeted!!!)
Anyways, I think the lesson is clear: at a certain level, we’re all drag queens!
I’ll leave you with the best review I’ve read anywhere of the Fame Monster (just a snippet, the full awesomeness is something you’ll just have to surf to yourself).
If we can define good pop albums the way Howard Hawks famously defined good movies- that’s three great scenes and no bad scenes- then Lady GaGa’s The Fame Monster is certainly a good pop album. At least three songs are great, the rest aren’t bad, and at only 34 minutes long it never threatens to wear out its welcome. It’s shamelessly sleek, glossy and digital, but with enough heart, humor and horror that it is far from soulless. The only significant problem I can hear is that its tracks are in slightly the wrong order.
It starts with the current mega-hit “Bad Romance,” a move that might have made more sense if not for the last track, “Teeth.” One of the album’s fun n’ catchy fillers, “Teeth” throbs with four-on-the-floor stomp and neo-burlesque brass as Lady GaGa entices the men in the house to show their proverbial fangs. It sounds like a slow-burning fuse that’s supposed to psyche us up for a big-ass pop explosion, and for some reason it’s anti-climactically placed at the very end of the record.
So after my tenth spin through The Fame Monster, I shuffled “Teeth” to the top of the order and it worked much better. Besides, a song as show-stopping as “Bad Romance” deserves at least one opening act. The profusion of succulent hooks, the Amazonian-cyborg lust and the near-operatic drama would have been enough to cement this song’s status as an instant classic, yet Lady GaGa goes the extra inches when she delivers one of the most deliciously reprehensible lyrics that will ever infect the Billboard Top 40 (”Want you in my room/ while your baby is sick.”) [editorial correction, its actually this whole Hitchcock thing: “I want your Psycho, your Vertigo schtick. Want you in my Rear Window, baby, you’re sick.” -SS]
If “Bad Romance” has any warts, they’re the moments when she insists on reminding us in plain English that she’s “a freak bitch, baby.” Well duh- she made that crystal clear with that sick baby lyric. I’m nit-picking, though. Criticizing Lady GaGa for her lack of subtlety is kind of like complaining that Andy Warhol didn’t use enough earth tones.
Be Fierce+Embrace Yr Inner Drag Queen
(let her crawl out),