Lady Gaga – Where Did It All Go Wrong?Lady Gaga – Where Did It All Go Wrong?

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.

Lady Gaga – Where Did It All Go Wrong?

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.

Lady Gaga – Where Did It All Go Wrong?

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.

Lady Gaga – Where Did It All Go Wrong?

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.

Lady Gaga can be found at her website and at her Facebook, Twitter, and SoundCloud pages.

All words by Joe Whyte. More work by Joe on Louder Than War can be found here.



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Joe Whyte is guitarist with punk rockin' Johnny Cash tribute Jericho Hill and reformed 70's punks Reaction. He has formerly played with End Result, Reverend Snakehips Country Messiahs, God-Fearing Atheists and many, many other failed attempts at rock notoriety. Joe also writes for Vive Le Rock and Louder Than War magazine. He lives in Glasgow and in his other less glamorous life works in mental health.


  1. She went wrong by trying to be a pop star instead of a musician. Relying on publicity and attention seeking rather than talent. I REALLY disliked her for that. But now she doesnt seem so popular anymore, i hate her less. Clearly better off just trying to make music and not trying to be a celebrity.

    • First of all, I would never hate someone who I do not know. She is a fine vocalist and musician which has nothing to do with her fame or celebrity. Being into underground music, I do find it annoy that it’s not cool to like someone or something that is popular yet even if an artist is less known and less talented it’s considered more acceptable to like them. Furthermore, so many bigger alternative acts annoy me when they start acting like musical elitist, dissing the mainstream music industry that they are also very much apart of. It’s very convenient to play it both ways, benefiting from the mainstream music industry and complaining about it at the same to appear more respectable whereas they are some artists who are truly alternative and rely on virtually no mainstream exposure. As for music fans, like what you like regardless of it being popular or unpopular.

  2. I will also add that I am a fan of original, authentic punk music. I also appreciate pop and during her reign, yes I was a Gaga fan. First and foremost I am also a Madonna fan as well as a Bowie fan, but I thought Gaga made pop fun again-for a brief while. I can also add in some more info as to where the Gaga phenomena went down hill. You were right it was BTW including it’s late and canceled tour 1.) She over toured. The Monster Ball had three US legs and went on from late 2009 to spring of 2011, somewhere getting a new overhaul. By the time the tour was over her BTW album was about to be released. 2.) Poor planning: She simply was too tired to tour for Born This Way after over touring for the Monster Ball and waited a year. 3.) Going too fast and running out of ideas: The BTW Ball was very similar to her Monster Ball tour but with a more flat stage. It simply was not as good. 4) Preaching: It also become apparent that her rants were also the same. While I support her message, I do not like it shoved down my throat. I started to feel like I was in a rainbow cult. This may work with younger, more naive fans but it did not for me. She also seems to yell a lot on stage, go over the same message of how she become famous, and breaks in between songs to babble on especially through the piano power ballads. By the time this tour finally made it to the US, the album was already nearly two years old. The wacky clothes, on stage banter, and same message also seemed old as well. I do not see her as Madonna-esque at all which is neither good nor bad. I did find it insulting that critics hailed her as the new Madonna. One can not compare a 3 year career to a 3 decade one. Madonna has worn some creative fashion but did not need the clothes to grab attention. She completely reinvented herself in a way that seemed far more organic and this was done multiple times. It seemed more like an evolution and extension of herself through the times. Gaga makes headlines on the street and in the airports for kooky outfits and the whole thing started to seem like over kill. Madonna would be seen photographed in a short and cap jogging (not wanting attention but working out)…which brings another thing…on this tour Gaga gained weight. 5.) Weight gain on tour: While I can accept that pop stars are human, I can not accept this from a performer whose shows are heavily dance/pop productions. To gain weight on such a tour demonstrates laziness. And on to Madonna, why was Gaga getting hip surgery and canceling when she is half Madonna’s age? This says a lot about the new generation. There is much to be respected in professionalism, hard work, and careful career planning. There is no doubt that Gaga is highly talented but she needs some lessons. The BTW Tour to me was when Gaga went downhill. It simply was not fun anymore and all started to seem well “reductive”.

  3. I reviewed last years BTW Ball on this very site and it was up there as one of the gigs of the year. This is from an ardent Black Metal fan!
    I don’t think it has gone wrong for good old Steph, her momentum was slowed by the hip issue and it’s hardly surprising she sustained such given the intensive tour schedule and impact the dance routines must have on a person.
    I’ll will agree that the BTW album wasn’t as strong as the debut but hopefully in her recent downtime, writing will have taken place and the ‘difficult’ third album won’t actually prove to be that difficult.
    As for Rihanna, Jesus, what purpose does she serve? Don’t get me started on Ms Ciccone, all I’ll say on that car crash is have some dignity and retire.

  4. ‘You And I’ from the second LP was pretty good. But let’s face it like Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ and Metallica’s ‘Load’ and ‘ReLoad’ LPs (yes I listen to all kinds of good music!) nothing she could have released could have lived up to the hype.

    And her work for the LGBT community was great and not in a Madonna ‘help-I’m-old-and-need-something-to-relate-to-da-kidz-with-oh-I-know-I’ll-pretend-lesbian-kiss-Britney-and-Christina’ way. A more genuine, heartfelt way. A great role model to young women I think, as opposed to Rihanna.

  5. Like any relationship, in the beginning, the newness and freshness is paramount and you only have good expectations. Everything seems so awesome. But the more you get to know someone, the more their flaws become obvious. Gaga overexposed herself (not to mention overhyped herself) to such a degree that it got really annoying. Her copious “borrowing” is another issue. Right off the bat, the treatment of “Speechless” to sound like John Lennon’s “Mind Games” was very apparent, as was the intro of “Poker Face” sounding like the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” etc. There are so many more examples but you get the idea. This could have WORKED too if she wasn’t out there insisting she was so original, so unique. It was very disingenuous. There is no doubt that the lady can sing (sometimes she oversings live, but sometimes she nails it brilliantly) and she plays the piano all right, and earned my respect in the very beginning… I thought for a moment she could have been a legend. But after all the glitz wore off, I realized that she had absolutely nothing to say, nothing honest of herself to offer… she really only had her hunger for fame and to be someone important… without having relatable life lessons to share, or anything deeper to offer. Simply put, she is a talented performer but people want more than that from someone claiming to be a legend and an icon. Finally, and this was the nail in the coffin, her ridiculous antics took center stage. Even now as she prepares to release Artpop she is getting naked and walking barefoot in the streets with her breasts on display, acting like a loon. If she put half as much effort into the music as she did into making headlines for ridiculous behavior, she would have had something better to offer product-wise and ultimately the music is what matters…. we don’t buy the CD because we see her boobs (at least I don’t). And finally, if she put one tenth as much effort into developing her TRUE character as she put into developing her fake one, people wouldn’t have disliked her as much.


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