Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where I'm At With Lady GaGa

Oh, GaGa. I can say that I was in the legion of your earliest fans. As much as I hate crediting him for anything other than bringing down the world's average worth, when Perez Hilton posted "Just Dance," I knew I liked it. I sat on her MySpace (I think I just dated myself #OldQueenProblems) and waited for new songs to appear. Beautiful Dirty Rich was a filthy pop jam. Then the album mega-mix came out and the 30 second snippets of Poker Face and Love Game had me shaking and crying. Still...I always thought that she would join the large ranks of pop tarts that only the gays ever appreciate. But then I remember this tragic 18+ gay bar EXPLODING when Just Dance came on during Pride...maybe she WAS more than your average.

Then...Poker Face happened. Slowly, very slowly, but very surely...the name Lady GaGa started being known. Just Dance and Poker Face began to see some radio play. People started mentioning her slightly off fashion sense (this was long before meat dresses and incubated egg babies.) But somehow I still always felt that she would be ours. She was the gay community's new it girl...she wasn't the next Britney Spears.

Then, like she has done to so many of her critics, she proved me wrong. I went to her first tour The Fame Ball, and was positively crushed by every straight girl and their boyfriend in NYC...our girl had broken through the rainbow ceiling. And it was clear that she had the talent and drive to stay there.

GaGa, as we all know, became the biggest fucking pop star in the planet on the strength of her debut album. Every song got bigger and bigger. The album refused to leave the Top 10 Albums charts. When people weren't going crazy over her new song or video, she was getting attention for having increasingly zany outfits or interviews. She talked about how she was mocking the famous superstars all while having a #1 song and album. It seemed like those of us who "got" her were in on the joke...when she walked out in a rotating metal sphere, it all seemed like an elaborate gag. Sure, she was dressed up in fine "art," but her music was simple and perfect pop jams. It never seemed too serious. Even the overdramatic VMA performance of Paparazzi had me laughing the whole time.

When Bad Romance came out as the lead single to The Fame's re-release EP, The Fame Monster...it may have lost some of the humor, but that didn't even cross my mind because it was such a flawless pop masterpiece. It was easily my favorite pop song since Madonna's Hung Up...and if possible it launched her into an even higher pop stratosphere. The Fame Monster was basically a perfect pop album. It was moody, and dark, but never lost sight of the glamour and attitude of The Fame. Sure, the Alejandro video was a little off the mark...but no one can be perfect all the time, right? It was the end of one of the most sensational eras of any pop debut. The trashy art school dropout I fell in love with was taking the gay dance culture right to American Top 40. She was our generation's Queen...and I was happy to be along for the ride.

Fast forward a bit. GaGa had been relentlessly touring from the Fame Ball to the Monster Ball for over 2 years, showing that she isn't just a spectacle...she is a talent powerhouse with the strength and determination to give her "monsters" her everything. And yet...something was starting to seem a little off, wasn't it? Maybe it was unavoidable while living in a vacuum of fan adoration. But GaGa's success was starting to get to her head. The Monster Ball, while one of the most successful and enjoyable tours I have ever been to, half of the time seemed like a platform to tell her Monsters that due to her show, they could finally feel good and be themselves. Sure it was all an act...but arrogance much? Does she not remember that it was us gays who were being ourselves that embraced her as part of our culture that made her successful? Or does she think she did that?

Then she began talking about her second official studio album. She began throwing around "greatest album of the decade"and that it would set us Monsters free. OK...let's give her the benefit of the doubt. We know she works hard...she must just be really proud. Let's wait to see how the music stacks up to the claims.

Born This Way the song, in my mind, was a triumph. Yes, it was a replica of Express Yourself. But replicating works of the Ultimate Goddess of Pop is not a crime in my mind. The video was crazy, but in a way I could still enjoy, unlike Alejandro. It had a great, exuberant 80s sound, and a hair-metalesque look to go along with it. I thought it would be good! The clunky Judas was a sort of shitty Bad Romance rip-off, but who could blame her for wanting to replicate her huge success? Edge of Glory and Hair both had the sound I was looking for, so I was pretty sure the album would be perfect. 

It wasn't. Oh, boy it was not. 

First impression, I rated it pretty high based on the ambition. She was all over the place. She did a lot this album! She really went for it! But as the months have drug on and she has gotten increasingly obnoxious, self-serving, and arrogant both in her interviews and in her presentations of her music...I didn't really feel like giving her the benefit of the doubt anymore. I realized that somewhere down the line, I had stopped feeling like she was my girl. She started becoming a remnant of the pop star I used to love. Sure, I wanted her to evolve...but as her personality progresses into the self-centered Haus of GaGa bubble, the music has gone with it. 

First there was the badly done mixing of genres. That ambition I started off complimenting slowly lost its luster, and it just started feeling like an artist whose ambition was bigger than their skill to pull it off. Born This Way seemed to split between euphoric 80s rock and dirty dance techno-driven tracks. I am all for bringing together genres to make an album...but this just wasn't that. It was a smattering of over-produced indulgences. There are many sparkling moments on the album...but the effort as a whole just was not what it should have been. If she had pulled back to even about 90% of the clutter that she gave us...it could have been so much more.

Then there was her transparent obsession with being an "outlaw" and a "hooker." GaGa is one of the least sexually charged pop stars of our time, with more of an emphasis on glamour than sex appeal. But when convenient, she is some whore that all of her alienated monsters NEED in order to feel good about themselves. Mhmm. We all believe that GaGa. And all of this mixed in nonsensically with overdone and pointless religious references. Yeah, we get it...pretending to be Mary Magdalene being in love with Judas is SO revolutionary and not done before...no one has ever done that before. But at some point it felt like we were listening to the ramblings of some incoherent schizophrenic. I know I know...she wants to get "lost in the fantasy"...but did the music have to get lost as well?

So that brings me to now. Her recent choice to promote the amazing You & I, along with the relatively laid-back and humble interview with Jean Paul Gaultier, and an upcoming duet with Cher might be pulling me slowly back into her corner. Maybe it was just how great she looked during NY Fashion Week. I am not done with GaGa...not in the least. She is a smart, talented, and fabulous pop star with more promise than almost anyone in our generation. 

But I just really need someone in that fucked up Haus of hers to sit her down and really let her know that she has the opportunity to become the leading pop lady for years to come and and all of that trumped up bullshit is going to do nothing but ruin it. I need you to have ambition without clutter. I need you to be able to have your crazy performances and outlandish videos without losing all sense of what song you are narrating. I need you think about the fact that you can do everything you do, but not lose touch with your simple pop ancestry.

I don't want to suppress your evolution GaGa...just please get yourself organized and bring us a stronger set of imagery and music next album, please. I want to believe in you...and I hope you don't let me down.