The Gaga-Verseby Brandon Edmonds / 25.01.2010
No wonder she collapsed. Imagine being her for even a day. Lady Gaga is the greatest living pop artist. She’s precisely what drops from the fundament once pop has not only eaten itself, but like a dog and its sick, fed on the entrails, shat them out, and fed on that! She’d totally appreciate the imagery. Trust me. “Our hair is perfect/while we’re all getting shit wrecked” (from ‘Beautiful, Dirty, Rich’). Gaga-ism is really all about the imagery. So much so that the paparazzi, so routinely loathed by celebrity, is worshipped in the Gaga-verse, making of these rat-like image hounds, father-figures! Each shot a semen blast of life-enabling iconography feeding superstardom. “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me/Papa, paparazzi/Baby, there’s no other superstar, you know that I’ll be/your papa, paparazzi” (from ‘Paparazzi’). That’s pop writing at a pitch of knowing perfection last reached by the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it be Nice” or Snoop’s “Gin n Juice”. It’s Prince via Marilyn Manson. It’s loopy Britney after being chained for a lifetime to the basement stair-master of an oil sheikh in St.Tropez, and gang banged daily til she’s demented enough to love it! It’s Madonna after she’s finally dead and her image-captured corpse gets re-animated in the mind of a supreme bi-sexual gender-b(l)ending Arts school mama, who may have been a man at some point. “With a body like that/you got a grown man ready to blow” (from “Big Girl Now”). Whatever. Pop loves this kind of ambiguity, this blurring and snorting of the lines. Fixed categories are everything this Lady refuses. Her pop is fluidity itself. It’s an old Greek idea that everything is flow. That being is motion. That life is flight. Gaga even looks like an old Greek idea. She’s an avenging whore-Goddess swooping down to intoxicate humans with a daemon of jaded lust and just a fleeting taste of long lost Dionysian glee. Her body is pure anime, her eyes dead with cosmopolitan fatigue, her voice a machine-honed Donna Summer memory of indifferent feminine power, the hot disdain of every woman who’s ever broken hearts and loved it.
There is simply no other music-maker with the same expert control of self-referring signs. Her videos are existentialist essays on Baudrillard’s thought-bank, that images have swamped reality with enough unreality to have forgotten the reality of reality! For real, Lady Gaga is just that smart, a breath-taking pop consciousness as rare as genuine emotion in a Black Eyed Peas song.
Her favourite philosopher is swoony German mystic poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. If Britney has a favourite poet, it’s probably Kid Rock (to hit her, one more time).
Truly great pop artists live their age, their social moment, talking back to it as much as they feed off of it, in a thrilling feedback loop that makes both popular culture and the artist richer. Dylan and the 60s were locked in a dialogue of race riots and war protest and drug spun wisdom. They articulated each other. The Velvet Underground and the Ramones are two sides of the 70s: the bohemian, defeated side on a black tar death trip and the dumb burnt out side of inner city innocence, sweetly getting high, blue-balling over girls, and playing baseball. The Jackson 5 and Sly & the Family Stone work the same way. Innocence corrupted. The 80s saw Springsteen become the truth-teller of a de-industrialised American heartland, losing its grip on homespun certainties. While Public Enemy rehearsed the fiery talk of the Black Panthers and made thug life political. A strand hip hop has sorely lost in its all-out race to riches. The 90s were all about Radiohead’s searching lefty techno-fetishism, emotional melody run through machines, alongside Nirvana’s burning candour and thrift store integrity. Fearing the Man. While hip hop was on fire with Nas, 2-Pac and JayZ’s immaculate ghetto love alongside the WuTang Clan’s propulsive mysticism.
The 2000s gave us, um, fuck, Coldplay, Britney, and Justin Timberlake. Speaks volumes, right? Kill yourselves, music lovers. Then Gaga! Just in time, at decade’s end. The only recent pop song close to “Pokerface” is maybe Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”. It’s significant that they duet together on “Videophone”. Pity it’s a lame, throwaway bit of under-written, ill-conceived nothingness. But they are unquestionably the reigning sisters of pop. While Madonna is all too human, maniacally beefing up, those arms of hers would look right at home in a Bruce Lee chop-a-thon, heroically fighting the march of time and the dimming of relevance. Beyonce and Gaga look dipped in plastic, beyond human, no longer subject to the law of decay, shiny and immaculate pop toys you want to bite the heads off. “Nothin’ wrong with being just a little bit vain/We need a little pretty cuz this country’s insane” (from “Vanity”).
See how she slips from the personal to the political, from herself to the nation, as if one needs the other? That’s the sure sign of a great pop artist. The Gaga ego is easily big enough to equate itself with America. Disney moppet, Miley Cyrus tries to “sing America” as the great Civil War poet Walt Whitman once did in “Leaves of Grass” – a book Gaga probably has on her i-tablet – with “Party USA”. It’s a lovely, spritely summer hit but never once do you feel Cyrus has the vision or the confidence to “own” the nation in song, as James Brown does in the storming 80s hit “Living in America”. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, could take on America, and win. At barely 24, she contains multitudes as her “real” name suggests. “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but I’ve made it my goal to revolutionise pop music. The last revolution was launched by Madonna 25 years ago.” Now it’s Gaga time.