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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

deep thought

Who the fuck is Lady Gaga?

It makes me feel old that I must ask this.



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  • Rob

    You’re clearly not a gay man. ;)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Gaga

  • It’s funny, I got the same feeling/question from looking at the nominees for Best New Artist.

    But I did know who Lady Gaga was. :)

  • RyanT

    Knew her. Even listened to some of her music. What I didn’t know until only a few weeks ago was that I sorta knew her in high school. Stuff like that hits you. Here you are working off your loans and she’s out there earning millions and winning Grammys. Crazy.

  • MaryAnn

    I mean… I know she’s some sort of singer. But really: Who goes out of the house calling herself “Lady Gaga”?

  • funWithHeadlines

    Who goes out of the house calling herself “Lady Gaga”?

    Because you hear it once and you remember it. Like Madonna. It works.

  • t6

    She’s basically a pop performance artist.

  • She’s a Madonna wannabe, 20 years after Madonna’s dominance of the pop/dance market. Oh God, has it BEEN 20 years?!

    All you need to know about Lady Gaga is from her Poker Face video.

  • Keith

    From what little I know, I don’t care to know any more about her.

  • Lenina

    I mean… I know she’s some sort of singer. But really: Who goes out of the house calling herself “Lady Gaga”?

    I had assumed that it was a drag queen name. And then when the rumor went around that she was really a man, I wondered why this was news to anybody, since her stage name was Lady Gaga.

    But she’s not a drag queen, and her real name is pretty unique, not anything that would seem to necessitate a stage name. So there seems to be no logical explanation.

  • MBI

    She’s a phenomenally talented artist who for some reason chooses to only make shallow pop music, as well as wearing the most ridiculous and awful stage name in years.

    She’s a graduate of NYU’s music program and will, on occasion, demonstrate some amazing, mind-blowing musical skill, nearly none of which is apparent in her actual recorded output.

  • I think she’s the closest we have to an anime pop star in the US. Coming from a guy who likes Slayer and the Alan Parsons Project, I think she’s particularly pop savvy and an underrated musician behind all those theatrics. Whether she’ll have the staying power of a Madonna is anyone’s guess, but I think she’s making more and more believers with every performance.

    Last night’s Grammy performance was particularly sweet. There was a moment where all you could see was the smile of a little girl who got to perform with one of her idols, and it was kinda touching. I guess I’m Team Gaga. /shrug

    Now if we get Ke$ha to cover “Cars That Go Boom”, I’ll get a little worried for the planet Earth.

  • funWithHeadlines

    I’m no fan of her, but I agree with the above that she is quite talented musically. I saw her on SNL, and I was impressed by her performance: it was a real performance, not just a repeating of some pop song. She played the piano and did unique things.

    My guess is that talent will help her carry on.

  • MaryAnn

    I think she’s the closest we have to an anime pop star in the US.

    Ha! That’s, by far, the best explanation I’ve heard.

  • doa766

    on a recent south park episode Cartman did a cover of one of her songs and sounded 10 ten times better than her

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-DetYirwzI

  • Josh C.

    She claims her nom de guerre is a reference to the Queen song “Radio Gaga.” To be fair, Lady Gaga is a name that’s easier to remember than Stefani Germanotta, her birth name.

  • JoshDM

    I wonder whatever happened to Apollo Smile.

  • ashok

    As a film fan, you might enjoy the skill that some of her videos are made with.

    She’s actually borderline genius, judging from her interviews/background. And an uber-nerd too.

    I just wish she made the sort of music I could enjoy.

  • Knightgee

    An awesome woman, that’s who she is.

  • Rob

    She’s an acquired taste. Actually, The Detroit News had a great article about the 5 Stages of Gaga, which goes from 1) Confusion; 2) Dismissal; 3) Curiosity; 4) Acceptance; 5) Obsession, and that’s exactly what happened to me and pretty much every Gaga fan I know. (http://detnews.com/article/20100107/ENT04/1070309/The-five-stages-of-Lady-Gaga-fever)

    What sets her apart from other people who produce dance music is her brilliance, her innovation, her musical skills (she not only attended Tisch but was accepted at Juiliard at a young age, though turned it down, and remains one of the few pop stars who doesn’t lip synch at concerts and actually plays instruments, such as the piano), and her philosophy, which she discussed on “Ellen,” which is that she dresses and acts like a freak in order to create an open space in which young fans can feel comfortable in their own skins, expressing themselves for who they are.
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-48Gn35FNbo)

    She has many influences–glam rock, Madonna, Elton John–but she is no pale imitator. She is a performance artist who take these influences, as well as many cinematic ones, and uses them to create this open space. Some people dismiss her music on a first listen, but it is much more complex than the average dance music. It actually improves enormously on repeated listens. “Bad Romance,” for example, is quite simply one of the most sophisticated and complex pop/dance songs ever written. Her music is absolutely infectious, and the lyrics are deceptively simple. If you read them, they actually often are either sad, deliberately clashing with the sound, or surprisingly multi-layered.

    She also happens to be one of the most open-hearted celebrities you can find. If you check out her Twitter (@ladygaga), you will find numerous, humble messages thanking her fans for where she is today. “We won big tonight. I am so proud to make music 4 you. I hope I continue to inspire u the way u inspire me. You’re everything.,” she writes, upon winning her Grammys. She also, unlike most celebrities, actually follows her fans back and Direct Messages them often. Most celebrities are being followed by thousands, if not millions, of people and only follow 6 or so. Gaga follows over 154,000.

    And this is all being written by someone who decided to hate her over a year ago and then found himself completely under her spell.

  • Nina

    She’s an acquired taste. Actually, The Detroit News had a great article about the 5 Stages of Gaga, which goes from 1) Confusion; 2) Dismissal; 3) Curiosity; 4) Acceptance; 5) Obsession, and that’s exactly what happened to me and pretty much every Gaga fan I know. (http://detnews.com/article/20100107/ENT04/1070309/The-five-stages-of-Lady-Gaga-fever)

    What sets her apart from other people who produce dance music is her brilliance, her innovation, her musical skills (she not only attended Tisch but was accepted at Juiliard at a young age, though turned it down, and remains one of the few pop stars who doesn’t lip synch at concerts and actually plays instruments, such as the piano), and her philosophy, which she discussed on “Ellen,” which is that she dresses and acts like a freak in order to create an open space in which young fans can feel comfortable in their own skins, expressing themselves for who they are.
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-48Gn35FNbo)

    She has many influences–glam rock, Madonna, Elton John–but she is no pale imitator. She is a performance artist who take these influences, as well as many cinematic ones, and uses them to create this open space. Some people dismiss her music on a first listen, but it is much more complex than the average dance music. It actually improves enormously on repeated listens. “Bad Romance,” for example, is quite simply one of the most sophisticated and complex pop/dance songs ever written. Her music is absolutely infectious, and the lyrics are deceptively simple. If you read them, they actually often are either sad, deliberately clashing with the sound, or surprisingly multi-layered.

    She also happens to be one of the most open-hearted celebrities you can find. If you check out her Twitter (@ladygaga), you will find numerous, humble messages thanking her fans for where she is today. “We won big tonight. I am so proud to make music 4 you. I hope I continue to inspire u the way u inspire me. You’re everything.,” she writes, upon winning her Grammys. She also, unlike most celebrities, actually follows her fans back and Direct Messages them often. Most celebrities are being followed by thousands, if not millions, of people and only follow 6 or so. Gaga follows over 154,000.

    And this is all being written by someone who decided to hate her over a year ago and then found himself completely under her spell.

    This.
    She also bought like 100 pizzas for a group of fans who’d waited for hours outside of a Best Buy where she was signing copies of The Fame Monster on the day of its release. I think she’s definitely got the staying power of Madonna. Her humility and generally sweet attitude (in contrast with Madonna’s coldness and holier than thou attitude) are also going to help her, no doubt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for some old school Madonna, but there’s something about Gaga’s performances, as over the top as they can be, that come off as so much more sincere than Madonna’s. With Madonna, so much of what she does seems so contrived, like,
    “How can I piss people off?”
    Gaga’s done some shocking stuff, but from her it seems so much more natural. Maybe it’s because we’ve become desensitized, I don’t know. But I do think that she’s here to stay.

  • markyd

    Holy shit! There’s people who actually LIKE this garbage?! Her “songs” are simply terrible! She repeats the same godawful lyrics over and over again with some generic bass drone in the background.
    Poker Face, Paparazzi, Bad Romance, Just Dance.
    All complete shit.
    I remember the song names because corporate radio plays them like the friggin’ plague.
    Maybe she does have some real talent there, but I sure as hell haven’t heard it.

  • She’s an acquired taste. Actually, The Detroit News had a great article about the 5 Stages of Gaga, which goes from 1) Confusion; 2) Dismissal; 3) Curiosity; 4) Acceptance; 5) Obsession, and that’s exactly what happened to me and pretty much every Gaga fan I know. (http://detnews.com/article/20100107/ENT04/1070309/The-five-stages-of-Lady-Gaga-fever)

    Heh… that’s a cute article. I think all the stages are represented in this little petri dish of comments. :)

  • Lisa

    yeah she really annoyed me when she started out but I like her now she’s got her own style, she’s not boring

  • markyd

    My ONE stage of Lady Gaga, and most music on the radio today:
    1. This is complete shit, and I will never listen to it again.
    Generally, I will listen to a song a second to validate my initial reaction. I rarely make it halfway through before turning it off.

    Thank goodness for XM, Pandora, ITunes, and the like. There is so much good music out there. It just needs to be FOUND.

  • Victor Plenty

    Lady Gaga’s producers are absolute masters of the musical hook.

    In fact, the word “hook” itself is actually too weak in this case. The repetitive, insistent, earworm component in each of the tracks I’ve heard is so powerful, a more appropriate metaphor would be a barbed harpoon with spring-loaded flanges that expand inside your brain with stunning force.

    Being somewhat interested in dance music for its irrationally exuberant physicality, there are many elements I might tend to like in Lady Gaga’s work, but I end up having to avoid it because I just can’t stand the intensity of its earworm effect.

  • Who the fuck is Lady Gaga?

    She is allegedly a singer.

    And judging from the hype posted above, she sounds like the twenty-first century equivalent of Taylor Dayne–yet another pop singer who was alleged to have highbrow bonafides.

    Then again I own CDs by Poe, Shakira and the Dresden Dolls so what do I know?

  • LaSargenta

    Then again I own CDs by Poe, Shakira and the Dresden Dolls so what do I know?

    Ya know, I have saved my copy (vinyl) of ABC’s The Lexicon of Love that I bought new just to keep myself humble. I may have been buying Joy Division, Prince, and The Clash at the same time, but I had shitty enough taste to purchase that, too.

  • Knightgee

    She is allegedly a singer.

    I’m always so shocked at the number of people who are so willing to dismiss her because of her genre and assume she has no actual musical talent. She sings live and she sings very well, she can play the piano extremely well, she’s always nice to her fans. Her music videos, her performances, etc. are all her own design. She writes music that is self-aware and introspective and is always creative when putting those songs to a visual performance. But apparently, because she doesn’t choose to make the music some people like, she’s “garbage” and “allegedly a singer”. She’s an outspoken advocate for gay rights, donates to charity, she manages to own her sexuality as opposed to simply being a sex object and she encourages others to embrace the unusual, the transgressive, the subversive and the androgynous and she does this all while actually making her own music and being in control of her own image, as opposed to letting a studio dictate it to her. We shouldn’t be dismissing her, we should be elevating her for doing something that many women aren’t allowed to do in the mainstream: be who she wants to be and encouraging others to do the same.

  • Paul

    Hey, I like Poe. She’s haunting, pun intended. And I hear Shakira writes hear own songs. I always give modern rock stars extra points for that.

  • JoshB

    she’s always nice to her fans…She’s an outspoken advocate for gay rights, donates to charity, she manages to own her sexuality as opposed to simply being a sex object and she encourages others to embrace the unusual, the transgressive, the subversive and the androgynous

    What does any of this have to do with her merit as a musician?

    Her music is completely generic electronic dance. Inoffensive, bland, uncomplicated. Assuming she doesn’t use Autotune her voice is above average, but not spectacular.

    Her uniqueness, such as it is, is in her outfits, and that’s where she gets the most press.

  • Self-aware, introspective, creative, bland, inoffensive, uncomplicated…

    Heh.. let’s just settle on “above-average” shall we?

  • Knightgee

    And how many of you accusing her of just being another autotuned singer have actually heard an acoustic performance by her?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3R3KqrJAI4

    Everyone here has already decided that she can’t have any merit as a musician because she’s decidedly pop/dance so is there really any point in me wasting time discussing the layers of influence that are apparent in her music, or the clear multi-layered meanings of her songs and videos? Probably not. Anything I say will be dismissed with the same generic degradations of her being “bland” and “inoffensive”. So to answer Maryanne’s question: She’s a talented singer doing some interesting things right now that many people will never give any respect to because she’s slumming in a genre that gets no respect nowadays.

  • Knightgee

    MaryAnn*

    I hate when I do that.

  • Bluejay

    I’d heard her name in the media and assumed she was just the latest manufactured pop creation, and my first real exposure to her was the link Knightgee just posted.

    My first impression? Wow. Yes, she has talent.

    I’d be leery of judging her just by media coverage of her outfits, as the entertainment media tends to pay attention to all the wrong things anyway.

    She’s a talented singer doing some interesting things right now that many people will never give any respect to because she’s slumming in a genre that gets no respect nowadays.

    Reminds me of quite a few authors I read, who get no respect from some circles because they’re working in fantasy and science fiction. So she gets automatic sympathy points from me. I’d be willing to check out more of her stuff.

  • JoshB

    And how many of you accusing her of just being another autotuned singer have actually heard an acoustic performance by her?

    I’m the only person on the thread that mentioned Autotune, and I didn’t accuse her of using it. Reread my post. Also, you’re not up on the technology if you think Autotune can’t be used to correct live music. She could easily have been using it in that video.

    Everyone here has already decided that she can’t have any merit

    Everyone here has not decided that. Only a handful of many posters on this thread have dismissed her. That’s a silly exaggeration that betrays your emotional investment in this conversation. You are not a victim of my anti-Gaga meanness.

    …is there really any point in me wasting time discussing the layers of influence that are apparent in her music? Anything I say will be dismissed…

    If you want to then there’s plenty point. I’ll listen.

    Layers of influence? I’m baffled. I’ve not listened to her entire oeuvre, but what I have heard is mostly indistinguishable from a zillion-jillion other synth pop artists.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Found on the interweb:

    “There’s a fine line between ‘generic person from the ’80’s’, and Janice from ‘The Muppet Show’. And Lady Gaga dares to ride that line.”

  • Knightgee

    Also, you’re not up on the technology if you think Autotune can’t be used to correct live music.

    If you’re going to play this game of “Well live music can be made to sound good too” then there really is no way for me to show she has talent that you can’t refute unless I literally get her to go to your house and play for you, now is there? Here, this is her singing live at the AMAs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAM5xvA89Hg

    Everyone here has not decided that.

    You’re right, that was an exaggeration.

    Layers of influence? I’m baffled. I’ve not listened to her entire oeuvre, but what I have heard is mostly indistinguishable from a zillion-jillion other synth pop artists.

    Much of her music is completely lacking in any R&B influence and is very much stylized after European electronica and 80s synth pop. It would be kind of fair to say she is indistinguishable from many synth pop artists and if you tossed her into the 80s, she probably wouldn’t stand out as much, but it’s also important to point out that synth pop artists don’t dominate mainstream American pop music and that mainstream pop for the past 20 years has not been one where the 80s-style Euro techno pop has been dominant. The fact that she is so lacking in R&B influence is a fact that right there sets her as different from many mainstream artists today, as the 90s and upwards saw a huge cross-over between hip-hop, pop and R&B. She’s channeling an entirely different era of music with entirely different stylistic roots than most major artists out there. I would definitely say the singles she started out with releasing were the most radio-friendly off the album, but I feel they’ve gotten progressively closer to the above mentioned style.

  • Knightgee

    A poster on another site posted this examination of her, both her image and her music, and I feel it does a better job of summing her up than I could. Be forewarned though, it’s rather long.

    http://andrewtsks.blogspot.com/2009/09/lady-gaga-exhaustive-exegesis.html

    Also, to Bluejay: Yes, I would really like for her to release an acoustic album sometime. Her arrangements for acoustic numbers tend to be very different from the studio versions. The studio version for that song sounds very different.

  • Hey, I like Poe. She’s haunting, pun intended. And I hear Shakira writes hear own songs. I always give modern rock stars extra points for that.

    What? No love for the Dresden Dolls, Paul? I realize that lead vocalist Amanda Palmer is not everyone’s cup of tea but I’d like to think she has some talent.

    Seriously, the point of the last line of my last post was not to diss the above artists but to put my own musical tastes in perspective in what was meant to be a self-deprecating manner. I’m sorry if it didn’t come across that way.

    And now that I had listened to the Lady Gaga video, I have to admit that Lady Gaga just might have more potential than I initially subscribed to her.

    Granted, I’m still not a big fan of the Lady Gaga singles that have seen radio play but then more than a few of my favorite artists haven’t always seen their best work played on the radio either.

    Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

    Ya know, I have saved my copy (vinyl) of ABC’s The Lexicon of Love that I bought new just to keep myself humble. I may have been buying Joy Division, Prince, and The Clash at the same time, but I had shitty enough taste to purchase that, too.

    I actually used to own an used copy of that ABC album on cassette until I sold it to the local used book store some time ago. And I still have several ABC songs on my hard drive. It’s not something I’m especially proud of and of course, there are many 80s groups–Oingo Boingo, the Waitresses, the Pretenders, the Talking Heads, etc.–that I like a whole lot more. But it’s true.

    Then again it’s difficult for me to pretend I can dislike any group that can come up with something as applicable to the present day as “I’ve seen the future./I can’t afford it.” If only they or their songwriters had come up with lyrics like that more often…

  • Bluejay

    Okay. I’ve checked out a few more clips of her videos and live performances. And I think I’m in serious danger of becoming a fan. :-)

    I hate it when gimmicks are used to camouflage mediocrity; but I LOVE it when seriously talented performers (as she clearly is, IMO) have that extra level of cheerfully transgressive weirdness. I think you can trace a line from her back to the Scissor Sisters and, of course, to Elton John.

    I was just thinking it would be great if she and Sir Elton did something together; and then I stumbled on this. Awesome. (Yeah, I don’t usually watch the Grammys.)

    EJ, the Scissor Sisters and Lady Gaga should do an album together. And then my stereo would melt.

    By the way, Knightgee, I disagree that there’s no R&B in her music. I can hear it in her live vocals. But yes, that’s not her main influence.

    And… breaking glass bottles on her piano keys? Amazing visuals, but I hope she didn’t get any cuts.

  • markyd

    She may very well have real talent. But if someone hears several of her radio songs and HATES them, why would they bother to find out if there’s more to her? I gave her a chance. I have listened to FOUR of her songs released on the radio. They are all poorly written, ultra-repetitive,with generic background music we’ve all heard a zillion times.
    The genre she’s in has nothing to do with it. I actually tend to like club/dance music when it’s done right.
    Heck, Ray of Light is one my favorite songs EVER.

  • Bluejay

    @markyd: I did like her music, but I must admit that the visual outrageousness of her live performance clips did a lot to help win me over. That’s something you wouldn’t get from the radio.

    I’m not saying you can’t form a valid opinion based on just the music; of course you can. I’m just saying how I arrived at my own view. Ymmv.

  • Knightgee

    I have listened to FOUR of her songs released on the radio. They are all poorly written, ultra-repetitive,with generic background music we’ve all heard a zillion times.

    I’d agree with you on the first 3 singles, but I really don’t envision any other major artists right now or in recent years doing a song like Paparazzi. I only listened to her CD on a whim when she only had 1 single out, one I didn’t really like to begin with, and ended up really liking what I heard.

  • JoshB

    @Knightgee, regarding the link you posted:

    The blogger (Andrew Tsks?) admits to being drawn in first by her outfits, then by her stagecraft. Neither of those things mean anything to me. I like musicians for the music, and what I hear is standard song structures involving a thumping beat verse, hooky chorus, followed by another thumping beat verse. This sort of song serves a popular niche (dance clubs) but is not anything that inspires me to listen for its own sake.

  • Knightgee

    The blogger (Andrew Tsks?) admits to being drawn in first by her outfits, then by her stagecraft. Neither of those things mean anything to me.

    Did you read the section specifically on her music? Because he talks about more than her stagecraft and outfits, with the post being divided between her image, her performance, and her music.

    However, if that’s just not your type of music, that’s an entirely different and understandable matter.

  • Bluejay

    Interesting points by JoshB and markyd. There are some artists I like primarily for their music–say, Paul Simon, off the top of my head; I couldn’t care less what he wears or what he does onstage. Then there are others for whom wardrobe and stagecraft are part of the artistic package; they’re integral to whatever the artist wants to communicate. If the point is to entertain, then costumes and choreography become part of the entertainment arsenal. I don’t think, for instance, you could have a full artistic assessment of Michael Jackson without discussing his dance moves and his music videos; the visuals were part of the point. I think Lady Gaga falls into the same camp.

    I do think that, stagecraft or no, I have to like the music as well. If I don’t like it, the other things probably won’t matter.

  • Muzz

    Summary for MAJ

    She’s some pop star person who dresses outrageously. Like The Matrix gave action movies an intellectual, philosophical sheen for everyone to get excited about and extoll its genius, Lady Gaga gives the slam electro-pop of Timbaland and The Neptunes that everyone has grown up with these days a post-modern twist. This fascinates kids and a lot of jaded gen-X-ers alike.

    She’s really doing things that Bowie and Marilyn Manson have done in the past. But it’s been a while since someone’s done it in ultra-populist pop. And in a world where we think all such pop is manufactured image manipulation anyway, an artist consciously embracing it and being open about it is kinda intriguing I have to admit.

  • Paul

    @Tonio:

    I’m actually unfamiliar with the work of the Dresden Dolls. My brother is the music expert in the family, I’m the book person, my mother is the money person, and my dad is the Trivial Pursuit Master. Literally, all three of us have to gang up on him to win at that game. I edge him out at chess, Mom wins at Monopoly, and my brother plays poker.

    Actually, I’m exaggerating for effect. There’s a heck of a lot of overlap.

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