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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mamma Monster!

Lady Gaga from the MTV Video Music Awards Sept 2009

That's the first time I saw Lady GaGa, and was both horrified and intrigued. Who is this woman wearing lingerie, playing piano, and dangling from the ceiling? Is she on drugs? Is she insane? WHO IS SHE?!

So I cannot write about eccentric and strange without commenting on Lady GaGa herself. Her songs, and then corresponding videos get more strange imagery and contain more head scratching fascination than any episode of Jerry Springer or American Idol auditions (remember the guy in the home-made Transformers costume?) Lady GaGa may be mad and a little bit genius; people hate and love her. One thing's for sure is that she is here to stay. She is to today's generation of youth what Madonna was for the 80's and Brittney Spears was for the 90's. However, one caveat: Lady GaGa not only makes catchy music that people shake their tush to in the grocery store, but she has a fan base that helps create and keep her image going.

She has a costume team who she calls her 'little monsters' (I think she calls her fans this as well, though I'm sure that's supposed to be endearing.) How else could she contrive these costumes where she resembles a slaughterhouse (her infamous meat dress), disco ball, or bubbles. Her name is even more interesting. It comes from a Queen song (did you know that), 'Radio Ga Ga' from 1984. Queen's front man, Freddie Mercury is also known for his theatrical antics, as is another of GaGa's idols, David Bowie.

She says this on the bio page of her own website:
“I always loved rock and pop and theater. When I discovered Queen and David Bowie is when it really came together for me and I realized I could do all three...I look at those artists as icons in art. It’s not just about the music. It’s about the performance, the attitude, the look; it’s everything. And, that is where I live as an artist and that is what I want to accomplish.” (

Lady GaGa was born in New York as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta; yes, she's Italian. She learned how to play piano by ear at the age of 4, and by age 13 she began writing her own music. At 17, she got in early admission to Tisch School of the Arts (one of 20) and had her first album out by age 20. She attended Convent of the Sacred Heart School, a girl's private school in Manhattan (where the Hilton sisters and Lady Gaga's own sister all attended). ( I like to joke that when I'm out on the town in NYC, I always call up my buddy Stefani G to see what she's up to.  I even think there should be apparel and bracelets that say WWSGD (What Would STefani Germanotta Do?).  Or, maybe what wouldn't she do? 

Apparently, Lady Ga Ga caused quite a stir in 2010 at her sister's graduation by attracting 'papa-papa-razzi'. They were all honed in on what she was wearing. It was the usual eccentric wear, a black veil and triangular conical shaped rice paddy hat (dǒu lì) with white sheer, lace pants and a sheer looking top. Is anyone surprised? The woman dines at expensive restaurants in her lingerie (not that it's a bad thing!)

Her song, 'Paparazzi' (which you watched above, is an MTV VMA performance from 2009) is certainly bizarre and the video is even more baffling.

 Lady Gaga video for 'Paparazzi' (2009)

Here's what Lady Ga Ga said about this song:
“'Paparazzi' might come off as a love song to cameras, and in all honestly, Gaga jokes “on one level it IS about wooing the paparazzi and wanting fame. But, it’s not to be taken completely seriously. It’s about everyone’s obsession with that idea. But, it’s also about wanting a guy to love you and the struggle of whether you can have success or love or both.”

If you don't think 'Paparazzi' is strange, check out the video for 'Bad Romance'.  It isn't only the music and corresponding videos that are outlandish, however.  Lady Gaga's clothes have perhaps become the more well-known iconic stamp on pop culture.  Many of her wild styles were designed by the late Alexander McQueen whose work was showcased in a special exhibit at the MET in 2011.  McQueen was known for his outlandish and otherworldly designs and at his death in February 2010, Lady Gaga paid a tribute to him at the Brit Awards.  If you look at McQueen's art, you can see the connection to Lady G.  Like McQueen, Gaga's clothes are just an extension of her art. It has become her staple signature on the world.  Alexander McQueen's website:

Video for 'Bad Romance' 

 Alexander McQueen's 2006/2007 'Ready to Wear' Collection in Paris

Another interesting thought is to ponder what Lady Ga Ga's clothing line would look like, if she had one. She has been talking about doing this since early 2009, and not that I would be aware of it, but I don't think it's happened yet. When we see mall rat teeny boppers and cougar-esque moms donning the Ga Ga 'look' then we might curse our creation; because, as you know the fans make the 'fame monster' a success in the first place. Other female pop-stars already are following suit and paying attention. Fergie wore a dress made out of Legos to the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards (so she is aware that the kids think the Ga Ga inspired look is hot right now). I can imagine it now, teen girls of the future will be buying clothes at Home Depot rather than Forever 21!

Lady GaGa has been everywhere, gracing many magazine covers (Rolling Stone, Elle) and her music was the them of the hit show 'Glee'. When will she stop? Will she stop? Will she just run for president? (gee, I hope not!) Maybe she'll be Sarah Palin's running mate! Last time I checked, though, Palin is not such a big supporter of gay marriage or gays in the military. I wonder what Sarah Palin and Lady Ga Ga would say to one another in an interview? I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Despite your love or hate for the new reining queen of pop, Lady Ga Ga has made her mark and just when her antics seem to be completely over the top and limitless, she does something to top that. How far is too far? I'd like to see her wear one of those transformers costumes that the guy on 'American Idol' created.  By the way, Drew Beaumier (the contestant) sang 'Born to be Wild' by Steppenwolf though he should have been singing 'Born this Way' by Lady Gaga!

The late, great Freddie Mercury once said, "I won't be a rock star. I'll be a legend." Well, that is definitely true for him and Queen. Brian May and Ben Elton wrote a rock opera (I refuse to call it a musical) called 'We Will Rock You' which made its debut in 2002 at the Dominion Theatre in London. I had the very lucky chance to see it during its first year, and now its been running for 8 years already (which is theater years is like 20 regular years), so it's friggin' old! The whole entire show is set to Queen music, and is set in the future, where making your own musical self-expression is outlawed. All music is manufactured and everyone listens to bubble gum mindless pop. People aren't allowed to play guitars or form jam bands. It is VERBOTEN! Pretty dull, right? Well the hero tries to save musical freedom for kids everywhere. It's outlandish and insane, just like Queen's music (which is why it's fan fucking tastic!)

It is no wonder why Lady Ga Ga named herself after a Queen song (whose video shows clips and is in the style of the 1920's film 'Metropolis'). Freddie Mercury was theatrical and eccentric with his performances, and his fans loved and still adore him for that fact. Bowie and Freddie would be proud that they've handed the rock-art shock genre onto this seemingly superhuman pop phenomenon. Only time will tell whether her fate will be more like the bold and the beautiful immortalized in music history or the washed up laughing stock joke found on every cover of tabloid trash media.

Trailer for Metropolis (1927)

"So don't become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don't know or just don't care
And just complain when you're not there
You had your time, you had the power
You've yet to have your finest hour"
-From Queen's 'Radio Ga Ga' off of the 1984 album, 'The Works'

 Video for 'Radio Ga Ga' by Queen

Lady Gaga is releasing her next album, 'Artpop' next month.  The first single, Applause, already has a video that was released.  The album is rumored to be bigger than anything she's done in the past.  Considering that this is only her third album, it is quite extraordinary that she's reached the same status as Madonna, Cher, and Michael Jackson.  Some would argue she has surpassed super rock star status and has leaped into rock goddess status. 

Projections of Lady Gaga's 'Artpop'

Video for 'Applause' 

What I respect about Lady Gaga is the fact that she's not an airhead.  She is a strong female who has even stronger convictions and lets everyone know about them.  She is an activist and is heavily involved in social justice work, especially around LGBTQ issues and gay marriage.  The gay community makes up a large portion of her fan base, so it is not surprising that she takes up these causes.  However, she could just be another rich bitch but she's not.  She has given money toward natural disaster relief with the Red Cross.  She has helped when the earthquake hit Haiti and when Hurricane Sandy hit NYC and NJ.  She even wore a meat dress to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to make a statement about fighting for your beliefs and for the rights of others.  She used the opportunity to soapbox about 'don't ask, don't tell' which in my eyes is noble.  She uses her power and celebrity status to be a living, breathing activist.  And I have tremendous respect for that.  She also encourages fans, young and old, alike to be themselves and embrace being strange.  So, as with my post about Steven Tyler, I have to advocate for Lady G because she's so damn crazy, she's bloody clever.
The meaning of the meat dress

I go back and forth saying that Lady Gaga is tacky and trashy but also bizarre and brilliant.  Say what you want about her but I know that society will remember he even when humanity goes extinct.  Hell, I'm sure she's built a bunker so that when the earth is purged of humans, she can crawl out of a pod, do a little shimmy and meat up with the aliens who come to inhabit this planet.  Then she'll embrace them as her 'little monsters' and give them a concert on top of the skeletal remains of Lincoln Center.  That's totally gaga!

Gogo for Gaga,


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