Pop Culture: Lady Gaga, “Applause”

22 Sep



Ok, so I just did Katy Perry, and I have to follow-up with Lady Gaga’s single which came out at the same time.   Hell, I should have started with this one because love it or loathe it, Lady Gaga’s single is far more interesting than Katy Perry’s bland Chicken Soup from the Soul lyrics.

Now I’m not a diehard Lady Gaga fan, but I really like her because she managed to make something interesting out of pop culture at a time where it was a teenage wasteland.    She also doesn’t cater to teenagers or frat boys.   On top of that she really knows how to use internet culture better than just about anybody in the entertainment industry.   Also, your tolerance for Lady Gaga depends on how self-aware you think she is.  I think she’s incredibly self-aware, but if you think she’s some pop star who just gets off by acting weird, you’ll find her irritating in a hurry.

People complain that she’s pretentious and narcissistic, and I respond with that by saying, of course she is.  It’s not as if she’s been hiding these facets of herself, in fact she’s putting them right in center stage in “applause” sort of to get it out of the way.  (For heaven’s sake, she emerges from a magic hat with a peacock tail.)  She’s pretentious and narcissistic because she’s human, and most humans have aspects of this other than saints and masochists.  When healthily directed these things can create good art, and that’s what she’s encouraging.  She’s speaking to the inner drama geek that lives inside us, not the inner drama queen.

Also, I question the narcissism when seeing the video.  The applause here isn’t exactly comfortable.  We see people mechanically clapping, we see Lady Gaga in a cage in rags, alone on a mattress shaking like a junkie, with her head on a bird, holding a giant bouquet that’s about to crush her while dragging her leg behind her, her grabbing onto the edge of a stage to hang on rather than be blown away…in fact I think this video shows how difficult to remain artistically credible with an audience while keeping yourself together.  (The abundance of celebrity meltdowns would attest to this.)

Also what she’s going for is a Warholesque show for those who feel alienated by pop culture where she is the art.   I think she succeeds–this song has more energy than anything I have heard in months and also it doesn’t sound like a bunch of processed product.  She’s not interested in trying to talk to those who aren’t already predisposed to listen, and she makes people to go to her space to appreciate her.   Also, need I mention how hard this woman works?  This video is her trying to make something significant, not sell hamburgers.  She certainly isn’t going to allow you to feel comfortable, maybe that’s why she has so many haters, while roar panders to what audiences want to hear, Lady Gaga–no.  She won’t do that.   She respects you too much to do that, and respects herself too much too.

I’m actually thrilled she’s back, even though the song sounds very gaga-esque, it sounds like a blast of fresh air, it’s fun.   I’d better go before I morph into a fanboy.

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