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Lady Gaga

January 10, 2012

2016 update: she got less interesting in terms of all the art theory crap about a year after writing this. Disappointing.


I’ll exorcise this in one go. I’m well aware my obsession with Lady Gaga is fairly at-odds with the rest of my music taste – which most of the time is atonal classical, free jazz, extreme metal, and avant-prog –

Theory. OK, I’m aware I’ve set up a pretentious blog, but I’m also aware of my own limitations when it comes to writing concisely about theory stuff in a way that makes sense, is interesting, and is articulate. I’m fine with writing prose fiction, as I just write stuff that’s meant to be hella confused/confusing anyway. Anyway, this blog is one of my favourite sites on the whole internet – Gaga Stigmata – a bunch of academics writing about Gaga and utilising a load of postmodern art theory and philosophy. Makes me very happy. This here blog post of my own is basically just an introduction; go scour that site for the genuinely interesting Gaga analysis. Roland Barthes, Guy Debord, and Jean Baudrillard would probably have interesting things to say about her.

Anyway, without boring too much with too much text…. Gaga is a brilliant Situationist spectacle, living life as revolutionary art; a fantastic collage of references and theories and detournments, and some of the most genuinely fascinating stuff I’ve ever seen in music – yet all the while maintaining her position as one of, if not the biggest pop-star in the whole world – sure, her ideas aren’t the most profound things ever by a long stretch, but when you consider the medium through which she does it all (mega-celebrity electronic-dance-popstar – as one of the Gaga Stigmata editors writes: “That may be her one entirely new thing. Warhol brought pop into the museum; Gaga is bringing high art into pop culture”) it’s hella impressive. Intriguingly convoluted performance-art. I’m pretty sure half the world, and indeed most of her fans, see just a fun dance-pop star who wears ridiculous clothing and who says some things they think are a bit pretentious sometimes. Most times I ever hear people mention her it’s in conversations debating whether she’s ‘hot’ or not, or whether she’s got a penis. I myself was totally uninterested in her until February 2011, when I bothered actually listening to her music and paying attention to what she was doing instead of presuming she was yet another plastic celebrity making vaguely fun pop. Gesamtkunstwerk. OK, sure, she’s flawed – hell, she’s 2 weeks younger than I am, yet she’s achieved all this – some aspects of her career-performance aren’t as strong as others and she says/does some seemingly stupid/crap things at times, and if she rehashes various sentiments ad nauseum on the campaign/publicity trail, but it’s still awesome. She’s almost the heir to the great Frank Zappa’s role in the music/fame machine, as Dada-Situationist undermining the spectacle from within. Zappa mostly played weird outsider-music, however, whereas Gaga’s position as pop-superstar allows her more freedom, and the freedom to propagate the sorta ideas usually done by theorist most of the world ignores is awesome. Visually, she’s the manifestation of Bakhtin’s ideas – the carnivalesque monster. Hell, in terms of gender, her ideas are clearly rooted in stuff like Judith Butler and Julia Kristeva; and to see that being bandied around in the mainstream is ace.


The Manifesto of Little Monsters –

“There’s something heroic about the way my fans operate their cameras. So precisely and intricately, so proudly, and so methodically. Like Kings writing the history of their people. It’s their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as the “kingdom.” So, the real truth about Lady Gaga fans lies in this sentiment: They are the kings. They are the queens. They write the history of the kingdom, while I am something of a devoted Jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond. Or, the lie, I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be, or rather to become, in the future. When you’re lonely, I’ll be lonely too. And this is the fame.Love and art. 12-18 1974. Lady Gaga”

Compare: ” This is why it is absurd to hear the new writing condemned in the name of a humanism which hypocritically appoints itself the champion of the reader’s rights. The reader has never been the concern of classical criticism; for it, there is no other man in literature but the one who writes. We are now beginning to be the dupes no longer of such antiphrases, by which our society proudly champions precisely what it dismisses, ignores, smothers or destroys; we know that to restore to writing its future, we must reverse its myth: the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the Death of the Author”  (Roland Barthes, 1968)

In similar veins, also see:
– Vomit Interlude –
– For Mugler –
– The Fame: Part One – – “Pop music will never be low brow” (from 2008 before she was at all famous – meta-popstar portfolio).
–  Gagavision transmissions
– Crevettes Films

Have you ever loved something so much, you told a tiny little lie, a negative truthAnd you believe and you love your new invention so deeply you would kill to make it true. Your visualization, your futurization, your self-masturbation is all you have – so honor it. Some say that Lady Gaga is a lie – and they are right. I am a lie and everyday I kill to make it true

What I’ve discovered is that in art, as in music, there’s a lot of truth-and then there’s a lie. The artist is essentially creating his work to make this lie a truth, but he slides it in amongst all the others. The tiny little lie is the moment I live for, my moment. It’s the moment that the audience falls in love

” “When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time”

And her column in V magazine, that I’m not going to copy-paste here as there’s a load of it, and much of it’s good, and strays away from her more familiar vacuous/silly public persona, and actually talks about her theory more – click here  for a full archive – The Transformation Issue (No. 72, Fall Preview 2011) is a good ‘un, at the very least. The lie of Gaga is what makes her brilliant. Most other popstars get broken down by the media in their personal lives (Britney Spears and Michael Jackson are particularly notable examples), but to to know Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta would be to kill Lady Gaga – and as far as I’m concerned she’s a fantastic fictional creation that I don’t want to be too spoiled by knowing the person beneath – all I need to know is that Stefani is a clever actress (practically every move she makes seems to be Brechtian gest) and a creative talented musician who works hard, and seems to like art and peace and love and equality and sex. I don’t want to know how much Gaga is the main one putting in creative ideas, or how much is the Haus of Gaga or even a record company – the spectacle itself is brilliant regardless of who’s pulling the strings. She’s a meta-celebrity, a chameleon (ala Bob Dylan: see “I’m Not There“) and a monster; to achieve The Fame was a project she performed impeccably, and once in that position she evolved the project steadily into something much bigger – where every move is subversive deconstruction. There was something of Roland Barthes about her Fame project:

“Will I really write a Novel? I’ll answer this and only this. I’ll proceed as if I were going to write one I’ll install myself within this as if: this lecture course could have been called “As if”” (Roland Barthes, 1979)… “It was a propitiatory ritual, a deliberate exercise in simulation. Simulating a reality to make it appear. He was well aware, of course, that what he desired was ‘fantasized and probably impossible’, but he would act as if it was possible, and might even learn something about writing in the process.” (frieze magazine, 2011)

Tattoo on her arm; from Rainer Maria Rilke’s very awesome collection of Letters to a Young Poet. Read them here –   ‘In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?’

Behind the piano, she’s like a pop Diamanda Galas. Her one-off/TV performances seem of a generally more consistent high quality than her Monster Ball shows (which makes sense as one-off appearances normally aren’t 2 hours of exertion for her, and she doesn’t have to cater so much to a bunch of little pop-kids in the audience). Anyway, here’s a selection of some of what I think are the best of her live recorded performances.

***Paparazzi [MTV 2009]*** – 100% perfect, both as performance art and a music performance: – this is genuinely one of my favourite performances of anything, by anyone, ever. “I imagine that my pop career could be quite long and people will wonder for a very long time what my demise will look like, so why don’t we show them?”
***Brown Eyes [Jonathon Ross 2010]*** – – in particular, 3:35 – 5:20 are vocally perfect.
***Poker Face [acoustic) [Japan 2009]*** – Kawaii Gaga. Awkward language-barrier post-performance interview too.
***Telephone (piano/vocal version) and Dance in the Dark [Brits 2010]*** – just tranformin’ my big Beyonce-dance-pop hit into some nice ballads, and then playing with my new instrument, y’know.
***Edge of Glory (acoustic/piano) [Howard Stern 2011]*** – – brilliant piano/vocal rendition of the song.
***Born This Way (acoustic) [Columbus OH, 2011]*** – song made more powerful than usual in this format.
***It’s Been Very Hard [with Yoko Ono 2010]*** – – Gaga proves herself a better improvising musician than Yoko

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