FORE NOTE: Sincerest apologies. My laptop was dying for quite a while until it finally decided to pack up shop. So now I’m back, and bec ause I’ve made you wait so long I think it’s time I repay you with a selection of reviews… or maybe just two: I haven’t decided yet. Here goes:
From the very moment I finished my first listen of ‘Just Dance’, I avoided Lady GaGa like the plague. My first thought upon hearing her début single was: “It’s been a while since we’ve had a one-hit-wonder”. I cynically concluded I could easily spot these flash-in-the-pan popstars before the song even took off. And just so I didn’t look like an idiot in a year’s time when the said one-hit-wonder had relinquished their imprint on the nation’s mind, I chose to become ignorant of it’s success, it’s very existence even, branding it simply a dark period for chart music when it peaked at #1 for three consecutive weeks. Then along came ‘Poker Face’. Instantly I thought I should dislike this song too because it was “by Lady GaGa”, and it was henceforth submitted into some kind of “non-song” drawer at the back of my mind and out of consciousness.
But, it was round about ‘Poker Face’s second week at #1, when it fought off heavy competition from The NOISEttes’ ‘Don’t Upset The Rhythm (Go Baby Go)’, that I realised that ‘Poker Face’ was actually one of the best songs to emerge from the pop scene in over three years. So, being my cynical self, I began to respect the song, but not the artist: I still felt like I’d seen many of Lady GaGa’s type in that year alone – Pixie Lott, Ellie Goulding, Little Boots, Ladyhawke – all newly discovered blonde pop bombshells assaulting the charts but offering very little more than a moment’s excitement on the musical front. And on the outrageous costume front, well, there was always and Paloma Faith or Marina Diamandis.
But that was nothing compared to what hit me on the release of ‘Paparazzi’ – the arrival of GaGa’s deeper metaphorical genius within a pop song was when it was finally as clear as the shiny, metallic shards on many of her overtly extravagant costumes, that Lady GaGa was no mere one-hit-wonder. And the video – which, to be honest, I only watched in the first place because a friend tipped me that “she gets thrown out a window” – for ‘Paparazzi’ reflected this. She was erupting out of the pop scene like a new-world Madonna, exposed to the consumerist public at the unprecedented speed of the internet, the media, and wildfire conversation. No sooner had she stormed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic had she trampled down her chart competition, walked across the face of Awards Ceremonies; the worlds of fashion, celebrity and music alike, all bowed down to her stronghold which was fast becoming one of the most spectacular rises to world-wide prominence in musical history.
Although, putting it like that makes it seem like her arrival on the pop scene was a smooth one. The true story is very much the opposite, in fact – some nay-sayers still shake their heads in disapproval at the mere sight or mention of “Lady GaGa” and all the ribbons and masks that come with her, branding her a one-dimensional facsimile of Madonna, Grace Jones et al with all the innovation of a Steven Segal monologue. Her pretentious, attention-seeking nature and how she affectionately dubs her fans “Little Monsters”; how she comes across as very inaccessible as a person; how she’s making a name for herself for fast becoming the most quotable celebrity of the Now, regularly making sensationalist claims along the lines of “my fans are my life force – without them I would be nothing”, “‘Born This Way’ is the album of the decade”, or “I’m the most judgement-free person in the world”, has enough irritating stink to it that a house full of skunks would need to stock up on the old Oust.
So there’s plenty of valid reasons for turning a nose upward to GaGa’s dithyrambic nature. Hailed as “original”, “feminist” and “iconic”, the latter two qualities dependant of the first, she is commonly defended using these adjectives, but “original” is precisely where the argument falls apart – from her stage alias (which she claims was inspired by a Queen song) to her outrageous costumes (of which, “the meat dress” was designed and worn by Elsa Schiaparelli over seventy years ago), to her artistic inspiration (hello Marina Abramović…) it’s a very rare occurrence there’s much originality to be found within Stefani Germanotta as “Lady GaGa”.
From the minute she laid down on the back seat of that tinted limousine, her heels pompously positioned out of the window and began dancing to that riff, people – like myself at first – found her schtick too much of an act. It saw many a critic rummage around in their back catalogues of critiques, throwing up the old greats like “style over substance”, or that she’d only have “fifteen minutes of fame”. Of course, not to deter from opposing opinions but, if this is true, GaGa has already made it – and will no doubt continue to make it – one of the most eye-catching and controversial fifteen minutes in the history of music and celebrity culture.
‘Born This Way’ proves just that, in both content and title. It’s title is a landmark statement for the album and Lady GaGa herself, so it makes sense to release it as the first single… however, ‘Born This Way’ doesn’t exactly deliver what was promised by so many big names – Elton John, Akon, RedOne, even Ellie Goulding – all supported it for it’s equality march theme, yet on the radio début, it appeared many fans and critics alike were torn by the apparent ‘Express Yourself’ re-write.
I suppose you could say it’s catchy, but at the end of the day, that’s all there is to it. The lyrics are alright – very eloquent in a sort of well-mannered way – but Lady GaGa, ‘Born This Way’, and the hype they both received cannot stand on catchy alone. They both need to be original, iconic, thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the stale offerings of ‘Born This Way’ have undershot drastically. Lady GaGa has lost the only thing stopping her detractors from eating her alive: her ability to be unexpected.
No video as of yet… -sad face.
Another observation that’s about as obvious as a moose on a motorway is that Lady GaGa is clearly using the LGBT Community to her advantage again. She claims that her music is “for the LGBT people” and that they, her gay fans, “liberate her”, and pays incessant thanks to “all the brave, brave homosexual and transgender souls”, and sure she’s always held up her end of the bargain – the abolition of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is closer now than it ever has been – and whilst she has every right to respect and acknowledge her gay fans and how they “accepted” her and helped her get a foot in the door of the music executives’ offices at Interscope Records, she’s already been active for three years now – her fanbase had widened exponentially in that time; so why she’s under the impression all her fans are gays or closeted gays or those not afraid of exploring their sexuality (again, no offence to those that do), it’s probably best to put that demographic to one side now and vocally appreciate her millions of other, “straight” fans too, who, whichever way you cut it, most definitely out-populate her gay fans.
To conclude this review, there aren’t many popstars left in the music industry – very few artists who regularly sell millions of records and top worldwide charts, actually come close to meriting the names of “pop” or “star”, let alone the highly esteemed contraction of the two. Ask any real popstar – the kind of popstars who’ve had to bid farewell to chart success and settle with only ever make money from tours or the odd compilation album – ask them what a real popstar is and they’ll gladly tell you that the formula is not something you can fabricate through the means of a warped reality TV show’s agenda or reels upon reels of tabloid coverage. Popstars like Seal, Prince, Elton John, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Sadé and even Goldfrapp had/have a certain mystique, or a certain ‘distance’, between themselves and their fans, but managed to convey a personality or something relatable through their music, rather than rely on popular media to the bridge the gap between the fan and the celebrity and have the music as an after-thought; some kind of consolation prize.
Lady GaGa, whilst being in the media for the most-part of the last two years, has revamped what it means to be a popstar in today’s culture. She’s brought back that mystique – the fact that the fans will only ever see the performer, rather than the person (which will always disappoint a fair few) – and leaves her music to illustrate her story, her agenda, even, to her fans. She is, by that logic, one of a dying breed of musical talents – an enormously talented musician, a beautifully gifted singer, and one of the best, most dedicated performers the world has to offer – a true popstar. Sure, ‘Born This Way; is a little shabby; a tiny bit rough around the edges, but from here on out she should be releasing the good stuff, now that the quality march that could only ever work as a first single is out of her system.
But Lady GaGa is not just a popstar: she’s the Yussain Bolt of pop music. However, she’s not just literally three strides ahead of everyone else in the competition: she’s dancing across the finish line in 12-inch heels wearing half a cow, with a telephone poised on her head and still has time to laugh at her competition as it clumsily struggles to keep up.
END NOTE: Whilst Lady GaGa’s fans are amongst the most vocal in the world, so are her detractors. Can we have a sense of perspective from both sides please? Let me elaborate – “Little Monsters”, you will have to accept that Lady GaGa is not the past, present and future of all that is pop music and should not ever placed upon that pedestal. And detractors, you will have to accept that Lady GaGa has come closer to being the past, present and future of all that is pop music than any new artist has in the previous eighteen years of popular music.
Now, group hug, everyone?
Rating: 3.0 STARS
Download: February 12, 2011 (OUT NOW)
Featured Album: ‘Born This Way’