Category Archives: Lady Gaga

GaGa: Verdict

OK, so I didn’t enjoy GaGa. This is either because my stadium pop tour expectations are high, as a function of my intelligence and evolved aesthetics, or because I am now old. Old things first: it was just too loud. So loud that a) my eyes were uncontrollably blinking to the rhythm, b) the sound horribly distorted into a deafening scream, and c) I was indeed somewhat deaf after the show, and well into the next morning. Does it make me old to want my hearing? Possibly, but not necessarily erroneously.

It wasn’t just my extreme age dulling my enjoyment. Basically, it wasn’t a great show. Or, rather, it wasn’t a show great enough to match the truly great things GaGa is doing in every other sphere – her clips, visual imagery, appearances etc. Because the production was merely mediocre, everything seemed slightly duller than one would expect: her costumes weren’t nearly as interesting or avant garde as her award show costumery, the imagery seemed timid compared to her clips and there was the distinct scent of mediocre American pop stadium tour hanging in the air – or maybe that had seeped into the walls after Britney let off her giant mediocre stink bomb a few months back.
It wasn’t so much that GaGa was mediocre, but the production surrounding her was cheap and clunky. Rather than seamless costume changes, curtains were dropped between sets. The stage seemed straight out of Dracula’s theatre restaurant. The dance troupe veered awfully close to Britney stumbling around the stage. There were pyrotechnics. And oh so many guitars. Annoyingly, what made this mediocrity even more obvious were the flashes of genius scattered throughout – mostly in the pre-recorded GaGa imagery – that teased you with how the show could have been. Stark (to use my favourite pop word), adventurous, and musically aligned to dance rather than Jacko’s big-haired guitar drones (who seemed to have been cloned and released on stage, in a slightly dazed manner). Basically I wanted a show put together by Haus of GaGa but what I got was a show put together by (I assume) merely average touring veterans.
What I should keep in mind though is that even while the Monster Ball Tour was being put together, GaGa was evolving at a fast pace. I just don’t think the scope of the show, as it was conceived at that point in time, could handle how awesome, and artistically adventurous, she’s gone on to become. In future she needs to put Haus of GaGa in charge of everything, and conjure the anal perfectionism of Kylie’s creative team. That would then create the perfect arena spectacular.
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Apologies for ripping this straight off Pop Justice, and indeed, ripping off the gist of their commentary too, but this is quite fascinating. While making Madonna comparisons risks accusations of hysteria, I think it’s true to say that the sense of shock and surprise attached to a GaGa press conference evokes Blonde Ambition era Madonna. Or maybe it’s just her referencing of a 1970s gay porn aesthetic.
It’s interesting this face-concealing thing she’s wearing, as it’s still playing around with themes of suffocation and fragility (like her tea-cup bearing Alice in Wonderland creations). There’s something fascinating about watching someone who’s obviously wielding such power choose to emphasise aspects of powerlessness, and also gain a kind of power through the strangeness of the look they’re creating. What unsettles demands attention.

This blog will not die like all the others. Rather, I’ve been momentarily pre-occupied. And in the interim there have been some significant shifts in the landscape of pop. Mostly, I no longer hate Lady Gaga. As much. And I’m late to the party here: it’s not just me. I don’t quite know what it is, but something has shifted, as if she’s now got some meat (as in, substance, not c***) to back up her constant references to Warhol and pop as art which have always irritated me, mostly because they implied this concept was something new. As if she was not aware of KylieFever2002.

For me and many others, the tipping point has been her amazing Jonas Akerland-directed clip to Paparazzi which is the most exciting piece of pop imagery I’ve seen in a long time. It makes me as excited as I used to feel waiting for Frozen to arrive on Video Hits when I was a young thing, and sadly, makes me realise how unadventurous everyone else is being. Come on Madge — this ghoulish look you’re working up could really be used in an interesting way, if you had the courage.
I’m increasingly liking GaGa’s look too, now that she’s removed those irritating lightning bolt things. What I particularly like is the sense of fragility she seems to be evoking in each outfit — glasses you can’t see out of, umbrella to keep the sun away, tea cup etc. Very decadent, as in the bit where the over-ripe grape starts to rot. And she’s always being clasped and propped up by big beefy guys, looking slightly dazed and confused. This is so different to the normal stardom protocol which is to appear even more strong and in control as your star ascends, papering over the inevitable breakdowns and benzo addictions. Intentional or not, it’s as if she’s acknowledging how chaotic it is inside the whirlwind she’s created. I like this a lot.
Blind, clasped.
Breakable.

Of course, I still understand the rage that she seems to tap into — all that Haus of GaGa stuff is a bit twee. And I still maintain she’s not as in on the joke as she insists she is, somewhat like the 19-year old Arts undergrad who’s not quite the socialist they think they are. And there are some duds on her album which, interestingly, reveal the various other artists she could just have easily been (Xtina, Pink). But annoying as she is, she is doing such interesting stuff that I can no longer call myself a hater.
Other things I’ll get around to, in no particular order:
  • Make a case for the transformative power of B*Witched’s Blame it on the Weatherman and The Corrs’ Breathless
  • Reassess Madonna’s American Life.
  • And finally, I’ll do a bit of Kylie housecleaning, to keep track of her completely *bonkers* touring schedule (do you really care about Poland, Ms. Minogue?)

I know I’m fuelling the fire here, but oh how she irritates… I’m not sure why, but her creative flourishes just come across as brattish. Perhaps underneath it all I’m just angry that I’m not Lady GaGa… could it be? No.

I just read the EG piece on GaGa properly, and eh, she is irritating. I feel like she doesn’t quite understand the concepts she’s playing with, but you can never pin her down on it because, according to the logic she claims to be using, so what if she understands it or not — whatever *it* is becomes meaningful once we start viewing it as meaningful, etc. Key points:  

  1. ‘All music is inspired by sex. It’s the primal rush and instinct and the insatiable need for orgasm and procreation. Isn’t that why we’re all here? Love and sex are the only reason to make art.’
  2. ‘I want to transform the ideas into something simple that everybody can understand. I don’t want to shock to the point of confusion or molest the audience. I want them to feel free and that they are a part of my exhibition, not at its mercy.’

Even though The Age might have stepped into line and started fawning over Lady Gaga as the ‘First Lady of Pop’, something good is nonetheless happening to music right now. And the locus of this rebirth has to be Taylor Swift. Seriously. I was so skeptical at first, but now I really do believe… in her talents as a lyricist, her high-concept revisitations to the schoolyard, her stage charisma, as well as her high quality twittering, which is much more evolved than, for example, Miley Cyrus’ constant preaching (‘Jesus Christ loves YOU’). Does this not break your heart? My only gripe is with her slightly unhealthy idealisation of marriage, but this is perhaps a mandatory aspect of being a country artist. 

Also very much enjoying the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which is almost pornographically melodic, and with a lovely melancholic bent. A bit late to the party with this one, but also liking Lykke Li, who provides another link within the pleasing Scandinavian musical nexus (Lykke Li>Royksopp>Robyn>The Knife>Jenny Wilson). And speaking of, I hear that Robyn has begun working on her new album with a tentative Snap and Technotronic influence. This is, of course, amazing, but I was actually hoping for more of a Colette influence… And as if I needed more evidence that the musical stars are aligned, now they’re playing Babooshka on Rage.

Lady Gaga

I’ve ignored Lady Gaga up until now, having filed her away hoping she somehow just disappears (along with Katy Perry). But now I can’t deny her ascent anymore, particularly with her somewhat surprising US success (Poker Face at no.1, etc.) Whatever my opinion of her, getting dance-pop to the top of the US charts is, at the very least, notable. I should be happy about this, but I feel *nothing*. Nothing at all. Why? 

For one thing I’m suspicious of her talent. But that’s not necessarily relevant. History suggests I’m more than happy supporting those without talent. No, there’s something bigger going on, and I think it’s to do with her act of self-creation. Everyone seems so thrilled that she’s channeled this Warhol aesthetic as some kind of commentary on pop culture, and valorisation of pop. The US market particularly (well, Perez Hilton at least) seems to thinks this is cutting-edge and novel. 
But it’s just not! Hello?? Kylie Has this not been her driving (touring) aesthetic for a very long time? What about Roisin Murphy’s avant garde wonders? What about Robyn? What about an entire continent that has acknowledged that pop can be cutting-edge for a very long time. What about Sweden for god’s sake.
Not to generalise about an entire country… but… it’s like the US car industry. After decades of churning out giant, clunky junk with live rear axles, orange-peel paint and panel gaps you can stick a fist through, suddenly it’s all about svelte, premium small cars. What a good idea. Just like in Europe. So there you go. Lady Gaga is crap because of the American car industry’s years of systematic mis-management, strategic mis-steps and desperate flight to Europe for commercial salvation. 

Lady Gaga.

Quality European original.