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Ga ga. ga ga

Yesterday morning, I woke up to hear someone talking about Lady Gaga. Apparently, Barbara Walters is interviewing her as one of the most fascinating people of 2009 tonight, and I generally agree.

I, of course, made the mistake of going to the NPR comment section to see what the listener reaction to the piece was, and I'd say that the "disagree" outnumbered the "agree" but not substantially.

I don't really listen to pop music. By and large, the commercial radio that I listen to (and only in my MP3-less car) is "rock alternative." Lady Gaga first appeared on my radar reading Jezebel. Usually they'd just post a picture from whereever she was, and there'd be come cute comment in the caption. And almost universally she'd be wearing something interesting. At first I thought that she was similar to Dita von Teese, a burlesque performer and model who also graces Jezebel's "snap judgement" posts from time to time. Sometimes though, Jezebel would post a little more substantively about her, and I started following those threads.

It wasn't until the MTV Music Awards in October that I actually heard her and saw her perform. I realized a few things. One, she can actually sing and play the piano. I don't know why I wasn't expecting that. Two, she's a performance artist, well beyond those that typically grace music videos. And three, I think she actually has something to say.

Shortly after the VMAs, I paid a little more attention to her, noting that she was beloved yet comparatively understated at the Gay Pride march on Washington, singing John Lennon's Imagine instead of one of her own songs. I checked out her Wikipedia page and discovered that she has a pretty impressive musical pedigree: started playing the piano at four, was admitted to Juliard, then went to the Tisch School of the Arts, wrote songs for a ton of other pop stars. She's only 23, and her first album only came out last year. I certainly wouldn't have been able to have a clue who she was a year ago, but I think now it's almost impossible to ignore her.

I made a point of watching her her American Music Award performance (and as an aside, this is why I love Youtube. I can watch the things I want to watch and skip everything else), and was again impressed.

But I think what I noticed most of all was this otherness about her. The negative posts on the NPR website point out that others before her have gone down this path and that she's not so special. Maybe. But in taking a look at her, at her amazingly fast ascent into popular culture, I think that she's bringing a little more to the table than a lot of break out pop stars. I think it is that I don't get the impression that Lady Gaga is manufactured or handled. She appears to be in more control of her music and her look than the others. Maybe it's because she's not coming from the Disney machine that brought us Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus. And she's certainly not coming from the American Idol machine that brings Kelly Clarkson. Maybe it's because she hit the burlesque and rock scene in New York before she went pop.

I saw a quote from a Rolling Stone interview with Madonna: "I see myself in Lady Gaga. When I saw her, she didnt have a lot of money for her production. she's got holes in her fishnets, and there's mistakes everywhere. It was kind of a mess, but I can see that she has that IT Factor. It's nice to see that at a raw stage." I think that's probably a fair statement, and since Madonna also started out in the New York club scenes instead of a studio machine, there are probably a lot of the same sort of opportunity to organically development their music and their looks before attempting to hit the mainstream.

I also felt something in that comment that I hadn't been able to put my finger on before. Lady Gaga reminds me of some of the performance art, production and costuming I've seen at Burning Man and related communities and events. I've never thought that she was that weird or crazy, in part because I've seen weirder and crazier.

Most fascinating person of 2009? Certainly more so than Kate Grosslin, who is also on Barbara Walter's list tonight. And she's fascinated me. I'm certainly looking forward to what she does next.

Maybe I'll even try to catch her live. And if so, I'll wear Burner Gear.


Dec. 9th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
What turned me on to really liking Lady GaGa was seeing videos of some of her acoustic performances. She's actually talented and she plays with her image in a very postmodern way. I like to call her the Madonna of the late aughts because she reminds me of early Madonna in a good way, but I really think she's more talented than Madonna at anything but maybe dancing.

She came to my attention when the gossip blogs were chasing her to discover whether or not she was a transsexual. I see that that controversy has died off to the point that it's not addressed in her wikipedia entry at all, but earlier this year there was a big thing about it.

I did Poker Face for karaoke earlier this year. We didn't win, but it was a fun song and surprisingly easy to learn. It made me appreciate the craft involved in her music.