Being a Lady Gaga fan is akin to being in the closet. Like a deep, dark, terrible secret you cannot truly avoid for fear of going insane, one day you will have to face the music and admit to this forbidden desire, with the danger of losing the love and respect of your (more tasteful) friends.
So says my boyfriend, anyway.
And I can see what he means. Admit to liking Lady Gaga and prepare yourself for a shower of derision and condescension, most of it from so-called “real,” self-appointed, “sophisticated” music fans. The kind of people who overstate their own knowledge of pop but use it to patronise anyway, as if the only people who can possibly like Lady Gaga are dumb listeners who don’t know their music history. Puh-leeze. It is possible to know what Gaga is ripping (and riffing) off and still enjoy her work. It is possible to like Gaga not because of lack of knowledge, but because, you know, regardless of where they came from, you like her tunes.
But that’s the thing about Gaga, for me, anyway. I WANT to like her, I really do. And I do like her, to an extent, as far as all her visual and presentation work is concerned. But I have tried to get into her music, and failed. And in the proper context too: drunk, snorting poppers in a gay bar. But, alas… Nothing.
Until I heard “Do What U Want” that is, a relatively slow groove that marries the cold electronics of Glass Candy/Italians Do It Better with the over-heated melodramatics of guest vocalist, R&B don R Kelly. The wisdom of putting Kelly on a track with that name/hook may be very questionable (as are the lyrics of the track itself) but the song and production are pretty undeniable. Musically at least, Gaga seems to be finally transcending her influences.
Yet it seems like the irony of life, which has happened before, that once a major pop act begins to release interesting, decent music that I like, the public goes off them. Which, if the lukewarm response to the ArtPop album leak last week is anything to go by, is already happening. To an extent it is understandable. Gaga’s “weirdo” schtick could be said to be wearing thin, and perhaps she is presenting nothing new to the fans who have been soaking all this up for the last five years. Especially now that practically everyone in pop has to feign some kind of wacky weirdness in the wake of her huge success. But maybe just because of that overload of the faux-strange, right now Gaga actually comes across like she’s, whisper it, the real deal.
And before anyone starts, don’t bother trying to throw names of artists and bands at me in the presumption that, like, if only I’d heard that Nina Hagen b-side from ‘82 I’d see that the only proper course of action to regain credibility is to dismiss Gaga out of hand as just another pop product. Pop she may be, but so fucking what? I mean, seriously, who else is out there doing anything close to these things in popular music right now? Being the first musician to perform in space (yeah, let’s repeat that: IN. SPACE.) Her performance art tutelage under Marina Abramovic. Handing over design duties to Jeff Koons (even if he is over-rated, name another pop act who have given an artist of his stature control of their whole aesthetic, not just a record sleeve.) Her recent red carpet, ugly-teeth look (which seems to me as much a tribute to Jodorowsky as Michael Jackson.) Creating, and piloting, a flying dress called Volantis.
I have yet to see Gaga perform live, and from what I have heard, it is her live show that will make a convert of even the most cynical stone-heart. Looking at this very recent ArtRave show, I can see why that may be. Nevermind the Jeff Koons set design and the bizarro Gareth Pugh inflatable outfit (which already has come in for stick for apparently resembling the KKK) there’s stuff going on here that reminds me—in a good way, not a reductive way—of one of my all time favourite acts, the Pet Shop Boys, a band that managed to combine all the best bits of art and pop with genuine sophistication and class.
Yes, she is pretentious, yes, she is over-rated, but maybe now that she’s on her fourth album, and actually beginning to deliver some decent music, Lady Gaga will shed some of her more fickle fanbase and begin to appeal to the real weirdos out there. I think it’s beginning to happen already, but we shall see. Would it even be possible to convert some of you dyed-in-the-wool, cynical DM readers to the dark side?
Lady Gaga - ArtRave (Full Show)
PS I don’t know if this rip is legit or not, but somehow I doubt it. Watch it now before it gets pulled!