Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Andrew Sullivan doesn't much care for Lady Gaga's new single and its Catholic League-baiting, nor Gaga herself:

This latest "diva" is a costume in search of musical innovation. And what's dismaying about this latest stunt is not its bravery (ha!) or its wit (please) but its dumb derivative barrel-scraping predictability. Madonna was sometimes prey to this, but a song and video like "Like A Prayer" actually did assert a form of spirituality that challenged a church grown stale. It had its moments. Gaga is a pale, plagiarizing echo of this. There's a particularly irritating appropriation of gay culture for general consumption, perhaps guiltily over-compensated by Gaga's crashing every gay rights event known to man. Perhaps this happens with every civil rights movement. In the end, the outsiders raid the insiders and give it back to them at 0.99 cents on iTunes. And I sure wouldn't stop anyone on this well-trodden path.

The appropriation of the gay rights movement doesn't much bug me; it's a generational thing, I suspect. Growing up in the shadow of of the AIDS epidemic instead of in the midst of it will do that. But the mistake here is in trying to take Gaga at all seriously. She's a disposable pop star making disposable--and so, so danceable--pop music, and she makes no apologies for it. Her gay rights activism is, like Glenn Beck and right wing paranoia, a happy marriage of conviction and commerce.

Gaga's calculated absurdity and queer audience cultivation have until now kept her ever-present in the public consciousness. But the two approaches are fundamentally at odds: the former is cool and cynical marketing, the latter impassioned and earnest. So when she birthed (hatched?) to the world "Born This Way," a gay pride anthem steeped in hip-shaking synths and Madonna homage (if not outright theft), one had to ask, "Is she serious?" It's the Shepard Fairey contradiction.

"Judas" has the opposite problem. Best interpreted as another bad romance song--it's cast from the same mold, right down to the chorus 'WhoooOOOOooooOOOOaaaa' and Gaga name-dropping in the babbley opening--the manufactured controversy of its provocative lyrics and Easter video release date smacks of trying too hard to get attention (her detractors would probably say it's been so all along). This happened to Marilyn Manson a decade ago and, more recently, to Sarah Palin. Eventually they pushed the boundaries farther than they could reach.

This is hardly the end of Gaga's career, and perhaps these latest missteps are just a hiccup. But I find it telling that one so aware of how the music industry operates would to refuse to allow Weird Al Yankovic to use his spot-on parody "Perform This Way" as the lead single off his next album. Such an honor is reserved for those who have "made it," which no one doubts Lady Gaga has. But where does go from there? One has to wonder how a figure whose public existence is premised on deconstructing the glittering ephemera of pop music, will grapple with her own eventual destruction.


  1. I hadn't heard the bit about the Weird Al snubbery - when does that ever work for someone? I vaguely remember when... Coolio I think it was (Coming soon to a "Where are they now?" near you!) got all offended about the Gangster->Amish Paradise parody.

  2. The Coolio incident is the reason he now asks the performers's permission to parody their work and release them as singles/videos. In 2003 Eminem wouldn't allow him to shoot a video for his "Lose Yourself" parody, and Atlantic Records wouldn't let him include "You're Pitiful" on Straight Outta Lynnwood. It went straight to YouTube and Al vandalized Atlantic's Wikipedia page in the "White and Nerdy" video.

  3. Interesting. I don't keep up much with the Alinator these, he is getting old.