Aaron R. Davis
I have to say something about Lady Gaga that’s really been pissing me off.
And let me just say up front: this has nothing to do with her music. You all know me by now. I’ve talked enough in this space about the subjectivity of personal taste. You know I don’t judge you personally if you and I don’t dig the same music. In fact, I like Lady Gaga’s music. So this has nothing to do with that.
No, this has to do with the fans that are on their knees worshiping at the altar of a third generation synth pop princess. The fans that are in the pews singing her praises and looking up to her and constantly defending this soulless media construct by talking about how “genuine” she is. The fundamentalist Gaga fans. The fandamentalists.
I know a number of people, and have encountered a lot more — many of them teenagers — whose adoration of Lady Gaga is indeed this over the top. Weird people that you can’t talk to about this because they view the slightest criticism of her as an attack on their faith. They cling to her as the Patron Saint of the Marginalized, the Champion of the Disenfranchised, the Prophet of Outsiders. This says one thing to me: Lady Gaga is very smart. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s managed to sell herself well.
But it’s also total bullshit. And furthermore, I think Gaga knows it’s bullshit.
Here’s a telling quote from Lady Gaga: “Don’t forget to follow your dreams and always be yourself. You know what you can tell them when they tell you that you’re not right? You tell them Lady Gaga says fuck off.”
She’s a marketing whiz, I’ll say that. She’s a genius. She’s managed to sell teenagers on the idea that she’s somehow their personal friend. That she’s somehow standing up for them by being famous. And she manages to do it by dressing like an architectural nightmare, being as plastic as possible and naming herself after a Queen song. So, yeah, when someone who craves attention so badly that they wear exploding bras and don’t call themselves by their apparently mundane name of Stefani tells you to be yourself, you can take that to the bank.
Some people think that the entire Lady Gaga construct is just performance art. But the real performance art, to me, is that she has a legion of “little monsters” that actually buy her bullshit and take to their keyboards in rage every time someone says what I’m saying now. I’m actually kind of in awe of her for pulling it off when it’s phonier than Naugahyde.
Let’s be honest about Stefani Germanotta for a minute here. If she really had the kind of confidence in herself that she keeps extolling as a virtue, why does she need to give herself a lame stage name and wear the costumes? Why does she need to pretend to be this erstwhile burlesque character? Is it because this is the “reality” of who she is, or is it because it’s easier to become successful and famous being a superficial studio-produced pop star with an attention-getting gimmick?
And it really seems to be all about fame and not about anything else. A friend of mine told me she admires Lady Gaga in part because she doesn’t complain about her fame, but embraces it. Well, of course she embraces it. It’s the whole point of her act. The Fame Monster is the most apt name anyone could come up with for her last album, because that’s what Lady Gaga is: a fame monster. She’s going to have to be dragged away from the spotlight with her teeth and claw marks in it, and doubtless as she’s being pulled off she’ll still claim to be entirely disaffected by the attention. There’s no point to Lady Gaga other than to be famous. Without fame, she wouldn’t exist.
This is nothing new. She’s capitalizing on being weird by calling it daring; the way pop star after pop star after pop star has done throughout the last 40 years of music.
Seriously, stop telling me how experimental, groundbreaking, different and original she is. It’s all been done before by others. Christina Aguilera did the burlesque thing. Marilyn Manson did the “be yourself” spiel. Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. Madonna. Elton John. Cher. David Bowie. And at the height of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie never once said that the important thing in life was to express your individuality and be yourself. He knew he was doing performance art, and he didn’t pretend he wasn’t. But somehow, when Lady Gaga is called an amalgamation of earlier, better artists, her fans turn that unoriginality into one of her great virtues.
And that’s the distasteful bit to me about Lady Gaga. She tries to justify herself by pretending to be honest and substantive, when really she’s empty and vapid and just happens to write pop music that you can dance to. But those fandamentalists don’t see it that way. They see her as their mother. Their savior and Godga. They eat it up when she says the most trite and self-praising things about how genuine people should be and don’t see the stupid irony that she says it while covered in Kermit the Frog dolls.
For those fandamentalists it’s not about the music or the fame. It’s about their own fear of expressing themselves through their style or their opinions. It’s about their own fear of being honest with the world about who they are. They’re so hungry to cast off that fear, and Lady Gaga is a cynical genius because she takes that hunger and uses it to make herself famous. And she does it by telling a generation of teenage girls that the way to strike out and be who you are inside is to cling to becoming one of the faceless mass of Lady Gaga fans because it’s the same thing as being an individual.
I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. You can call it fine Corinthian leather all you want, but it’s just vinyl, and it’s not that deep or special. It’s just there. But at least she’s only using her power to sell records.
“You know what you can tell them when they tell you that you’re not right? You tell them Lady Gaga says fuck off.”
Same to you, Lady Gaga.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.