Posted by: Jeff | May 27, 2010

“Lady Gaga is Arty Spice”

Lady Gaga is rolling her over-the-top baroque concert tour through town twice in the next year.  She’s playing the Verizon Center, a hockey arena with horrible acoustics and sightlines, but that seats like 20,000 screaming fans.  Tickets must be pretty cheap, right?  Wrong.  Try $88 (+$14 “convenience” charge) per seat.  In the upper deck.  The upper upper deck.

Why in the world would anybody pay that kind of money to use binoculars to see an overrated pop glutton with mediocre pipes saunter her way through her entire repertoire of twelve songs (and fifteen costume changes)?  It’s truly beyond me.  For that kind of money you could see 6 separate acts with a deeper discography and much more musical talent at the Black Cat or 930 Club.  For that matter, you could bring three of your friends with you to see Beach House and Vampire Weekend at the far superior large venue at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

I’m just really over this whole Lady Gaga fetishization.  Poker Face and Bad Romance are catchy, but they’re not exactly clever.  Or terribly musical.  It’s pop pornography really – if art was created to convey human emotion, what message is Lady Gaga sending when she’s “bluffin with her muffin” while wearing a telephone on her head?  If this was 1996 I’d think Lady Gaga was a stage prop for U2’s PopMart Tour, which was designed to satirize the state of popular culture by making fun of how absurd it had become.

U2's PopMart Tour

Joanna Newsom, a musician who writes her own music and has garnered much critical praise for the depth of her new album, Have One on Me, has brilliantly cut Lady Gaga down to size in a recent interview in London:

“I’m mystified by the laziness of people looking at how she presents herself, and somehow assuming that implies there’s a high level of intelligence in the songwriting. Her approach to image is really interesting, but you listen to the music, and you just hear glow sticks. Smart outlets for musical journalism give her all this credit, like she’s the new Madonna …”

Later, she emails to clarify what she describes as her “late-afternoon dopiness” on this subject: “I may have contradicted myself. My problem isn’t actually with Lady Gaga. But there’s not much in her music to distinguish it from other glossy, formulaic pop. She just happens to wear slightly weirder outfits than Britney Spears. But they’re not that weird – they’re mostly just skimpy. She’s fully marketing her body/sexuality; she’s just doing it while wearing, like, a ‘fierce’ telephone hair-hat. Her sexuality has no scuzziness, no frank raunchiness, in the way that, say, Peaches, or even Grace Jones, have – she’s Arty Spice! And, meanwhile, she seems to take herself so oddly seriously, the way she talks about her music in the third person, like she’s Brecht or something. She just makes me miss Cyndi Lauper.”

I’ve gone on record before saying that Lady Gaga might be playing a trick on everyone – that she might be engaging in some sort of pop culture satire herself, pushing her image more and more to the extreme in an attempt to showcase just how absurd our pop culture consumption really is.  But it’s becoming hard to get past the fact that she is still complicit in distorting musical taste even more to the extremes of sideshow spectacle.  “Arty Spice” is a great summation of her body of work – like the Spice Girls before her, she uses image to fan the flames of popularity – other people write these huge synthesized hooks for her and she struts around in a torn leotard and balls orbiting her face and suddenly she’s creating a movement.  Lady Gaga allowed Ke$ha to become a thing, and for that I don’t know if she can ever be forgiven.

“I’m mystified by the laziness of people looking at how she presents herself, and somehow assuming that implies there’s a high level of intelligence in the songwriting. Her approach to image is really interesting, but you listen to the music, and you just hear glow sticks. Smart outlets for musical journalism give her all this credit, like she’s the new Madonna …” She breaks off and laughs. “Although I’m coming from a perspective of also thinking Madonna is not great at all. I’m like, fair enough: she is the new Madonna, but Madonna’s a dumb-ass!”Later, she emails to clarify what she describes as her “late-afternoon dopiness” on this subject: “I may have contradicted myself. My problem isn’t actually with Lady Gaga. But there’s not much in her music to distinguish it from other glossy, formulaic pop. She just happens to wear slightly weirder outfits than Britney Spears. But they’re not that weird – they’re mostly just skimpy. She’s fully marketing her body/sexuality; she’s just doing it while wearing, like, a ‘fierce’ telephone hair-hat. Her sexuality has no scuzziness, no frank raunchiness, in the way that, say, Peaches, or even Grace Jones, have – she’s Arty Spice! And, meanwhile, she seems to take herself so oddly seriously, the way she talks about her music in the third person, like she’s Brecht or something. She just makes me miss Cyndi Lauper.”
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Responses

  1. As someone who paid $88 + the $14 convenience fee, I take umbrage with your derision. She’s fun, she’s crazy, and she is talented. Even if her music is not as innovative as her visuals, it’s all the more reason to pay to see her in person.

  2. While I agree with the substantive point that Lady Gaga isn’t uncommonly talented or innovative musically, I don’t quite get this level of haterade. She’s really fun to dance to and I like seeing her costumes. I don’t think I’m contributing to the death of American music or culture for thinking so.

  3. Agree w/ Whitney & Kate. Your comments are seconded by me. I think someone’s just jealous he didn’t think of this first.

  4. […] disappointment of the festival: Lady Gaga.  I’ve drawn some heat for criticizing Madonna’s heir apparent already, but I didn’t go into this show wanting […]


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