Lady Gaga is getting love everywhere, from Sound Opinions to Oprah. What is going on here? I was exposed to this woman at some point during the fall of 2008, shocked by the sheer lack of good ideas in songs like "Just Dance," and yet at some point she became some sort of counter-Britney, or something, or someone who is so archly aware of her celebrity that everything she does in an extension of some reflexive need to be constantly studied or acknowledged.
But the music? It remains a sore point for me. If forced to, I would listen to any Britney or Black-Eyed Peas song before being forced to sit through those lazy goo-goo synths of "Just Dance," a song that never justifies its reason for being. There's no reason to judge an artist simply by one single, though, so I pressed on, only to find that tracks like "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance" were even worse.
I am perplexed. Here are ten questions I feel I must ask of the Lady Gaga fan:
1. I will assume you find many members of our society who so cravenly latch onto fame (reality show stars, balloon dads) to be generally ignorant and awful people. Lady Gaga's whole art shtick seems to be about the debilitating and dehumanizing effects of chasing fame. Do you believe that Gaga's awareness of her own need for attention somehow makes her music better, as opposed to artists who retain a certain amount of critical distance from the subject?
2. What, musically, do you find most interesting about Lady Gaga's songwriting? Which songs stand out, and why? How does one differentiate them from the music of pop starlets' past, in any meaningful way (I'm talking about music, so nothing about fame, crazy costumes, etc.)?
3. If you were to not have heard a Lady Gaga song on the radio, but rather through a friend, and you knew nothing of her look or her methods of performance, would you find anything remarkable about these songs? Would you go home and download them?
4. Which do you consider yourself more of a fan: Gaga-the-musician, or Gaga-the-dark mirror-of our-fascination-with-celebrity? If you like her musical skills, are you more interested in her as a singer or as a pianist, or something else? Does she actually bring anything original to the table?
5. Ms. Gaga has said in the past that she doesn't really have many real friends, and prefers to interact with her legions of fans instead. Do you find this to be healthy or worth emulating? If not, do you think it still has a place somewhere in our culture? What benefit does this woman laying her psyche on us have, really? Are you ever concerned for her, or concerned that her music may become more and more of an afterthought, with her brand being the primary focus?
6. Do you think the majority of her fans see her as some sort of alternative to the pop starlet paradigm? Do you think that she represents a positive change in this regard because she is less sexualized than her predecessors and more focused on new and bizarre fashions? Boiled down, do you think it is more healthy to be a Gaga fan than a Ke$ha fan?
7. What important points does she have to say about our society, other than vaguely artsy takes on celebrity and dehumanization? What messages of value do you find in her lyrics? Do you find the message of riding around on someone's "disco stick" anything other than idiotic and plodding?
8. Do you see her as being rooted in any sort of tradition? Do you buy the comparison to Madonna, or vaudeville punk, or whatever else? Is this good or bad?
9. At its basest level, what is Lady Gaga's music really an alternative to?
10. How would you rank her music in comparison to the rank stupidity of the Black-Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Flo Rida, half the people in American Idol, etc.?