For a while she was the queen of pop – inspired, outrageous and just a little bit bonkers – but then it all went pear shaped. Joe Whyte considers the errors in Lady Gaga’s world domination strategy.
Any reader of my regular warblings in LTW and elsewhere will know I’m a product of punk. I hesitate to use the expression ‘punk wars’ as it’s getting a bit old in the tooth now. A bit like ‘back in the day’ which in my opinion is basically used by people who weren’t really there.
Anyway, to the subject in hand.
As mentioned, I’m an old punk. Pop music isn’t really my thing, although having kids means that you’re pretty much exposed to it, like it or not. The golden era of pop music for me, the kitsch, the so-bad-it’s-good time was the early eighties. ABC’s Lexicon Of Love. Now that, friends, is how to make a record.
Soft Cell…. Human League…..Goddammit, Michael Jackson, too.
Perfect pop which was perfect for the times. Carefree, glittery, throwaway (although, in retrospect, it wasn’t) and just a little bit deluded and unstable. That’s how pop music should be.
So, Lady Gaga. For a time it seemed like there was a new pretender to the throne.
She created, for the briefest of moments, her own world; The Haus Of Gaga creating the lunatic outfits; the tea cup and saucer; the meat dress; the unlikely pronouncements.
Jesus, at one point there was even conjecture about her being a transsexual.
That, people, took me right back to the school playground in the seventies when we music fans would endlessly debate the ‘is he/isn’t he’ of Bowie, Bolan and all of those other glam rock brickies-in-make-up that TOTP blazed into our living rooms the night before.
She was here to save pop music one gilded, delicious pop nugget at a time.
Poker Face. You know when it’s lodged in the brain of every facet of society and you hear it everywhere that it’s became part of the fabric. And a damn good tune, to boot..
Just Dance. References to falling out of nightclubs and falling off of heels whilst some spurned beau is trying to call your mobile resonated with generations of alcopop teen girls. These are the moments in pop which just define a star.
The Little Monsters. Give your army of fans an identity. Genius.
The ‘claw’ gesture. A billion fans followed suit on dance floors across the world.
Gaga, it seemed, could do no wrong. Critics called her a Madonna copyist.The fans that flocked at her feet were mostly too young to remember Madge’s Imperial period and it mattered not a jot. When the red tops are doing features of fans as look-a-likes, you know you’ve made it.
The first album (The Fame) was basically a singles collection. Nothing wrong with that in this digital, pick-yer-faves world. The tie-in single, Telephone, was another masterstroke; the long period of teasers for the ‘banned’ video, the collaboration with Beyonce which appeared like the old guard (well, about a year older!) handing the baton of pop royalty over.
The Monsters Ball tour was a global phenomenon. Refusing to come onstage until Gaga and her huge entourage felt the vibe was right left many parents of pre-teens somewhat miffed; the t-shirts, posters and programmes flew off the stands as the tickets changed hands for ludicrous amounts.
And then came the follow-up, Born This Way and what a stinker. It appeared that songs were specifically written to order as modern day gay anthems in the vein of I Am Who I Am or I Will Survive.
Say what you will about the LGBT community; they’re certainly not stupid or easily fooled. This is, after all, the audience that actually have the style and the suss. And this kind of crass cash-in felt like just that. No-one wants to be force fed something quite as patronising as Born This Way and the people, it seems, felt this was chicanery on a grand scale.
Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?
Add to that the not-very-good power ballads, the overwhelming cheese factor and the glossy over-production that made BTW a huge amount of bluster and little substance.
It seems, to the casual observer, that Rihanna has overtaken The Gaga somewhere along the way. She’s the one that currently holds the biggest-popstar-in-the-world crown. I like to think of Rihanna as a bit of a 21st Century pop Bon Jovi; she seems to have a new single in the charts every ten minutes and that, is what pop artists need to do.
Smash-and-grab, make the bucks quickly and retain the fans for the comeback after the movie successes.
Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe the gay community and the Little Monsters still hold Gaga close to their hearts. Maybe there’s a new world-dominating Gaga project in the offing.
Just for a minute, she was there; unbeatable, new and let’s be honest here, nuts.
I hope I’m wrong, I hope she comes back stronger.The pop world needs the mavericks, the renegades, the loons.
Lady Gaga, your world awaits.
All words by Joe Whyte. More work by Joe on Louder Than War can be found here.