I consume a lot of popular culture. I enjoy watching television. I read Harry Potter. I go to movies a lot and I listen to pop music. I also consume a lot of subculture but I enjoy keeping up with the latest in the mainstream. For a while I worked in offices and I found my experiences there more tolerable if I could chat with coworkers about American Idol when I needed a break. It also keeps me from taking myself too seriously. Plus, I have a subscription to Bitch so I'm consuming and then deconstructing.
There is a lot about pop music that is disappointing today. Much of what I hear on the radio is over-produced hip-pop that has been autotuned and has pilfered all the good music that has come before it. For example, singer Jason Derulo's use of a Imogene Heap song in his hit "Whatcha Say" is criminal to me. The best part of his song is her haunting harmonies and lyrics. There is very little that is original to me in popular music. I make a giant exception though, for my lady, Lady Gaga.
I originally heard "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga probably a year ago and I was mostly unimpressed. It did stand out among the landscape of other music being played on the radio; she has a distinct sound, yet it's difficult to tell how good her vocals are on the radio. Everyone can be made to sound like a decent enough singer to get a pop hit. It was some time before I really began to seek out more information on Gaga. In fact, the song "Love Game" and her inspirational lyrics about 'disco sticks' really made me sit up and take notice, if for nothing else but to satisfy my desire to read up on the various lives of celebrities (yeah, I'll admit it: I read People Magazine). But to my surprise, it seemed that Lady Gaga had some real depth to her. While still a rather young artist, she has been performing in NYC's underground music scene for years and has been anything but an overnight success.
There is so much to love about her. She is openly bisexual and a huge supporter of gay rights as well as women's rights. I was disappointed to hear she denied calling herself a feminist in an interview, stating that 'she loves men' (because apparently those things are mutually exclusive). However, I think that was said shortly after all the rumors about her gender identity surfaced, so I forgave her (frankly, it's no one's business what her gender is). Her persona is something that fascinates me to no end. Mostly because I feel like it's not a persona that someone constructed for her, but rather one that is a part of who she is as a real person, who is also a performer. She has said she does not consider herself a celebrity and sings about the perils of fame in her song "Paparazzi". Her performance at the VMA's this September showed her bleeding to death on stage while she sang. She is not afraid to be ugly, even gruesome, in a public space. And her live vocals were strong, haunting and so memorable.
Her latest album entitled The Fame Monster was just released and I am stunned by her latest video for "Bad Romance" - I can't even describe how creeptastic and surreal the costumes and message is. She clearly has a lot going on that she needs to express. And she can articulate what she is expressing. In an interview with MTV Veejay Sway, Gaga responded to his questions thoughtfully, even though it was painfully obvious he was not really that interested in her in-depth explanations of what each song was about. He laughed a number of times when she would discuss something very serious like her fears addiction to sex, bad relationships and alcoholism. Yet, she did not waiver. Gaga spoke her mind and her emotions so intelligently, not just for a pop star, but as a human being. She even mentioned Sylvia Plath in this interview on MTV. I wanted to kiss her!
Lady Gaga mentions a lot that she didn't fit in when she was in high school and she openly calls herself a freak. I hear this a lot from celebrities who want to invoke the "geek-chic" trend that is occuring in popular culture right now. However, I really believe that Ms. Gaga was and is a freak in the best possible sense. She is making really fascinating performance art through her videos and she is singing about though-provoking concepts that are usually missing from pop culture altogether. I cannot say enough good things about this woman. In fact, I'm working on a poem about her and I hope I have a decent draft to read at the TypewriterGirls show on December 4th. She deserves some poetry.
Here is her latest video that's disgusting and fantastic.