If you weren't already aware, Lady GaGa is less Britney Spears than Elton John. Here's a video of Stefani Germanotta (that's the Lady before her reinvention) performing original works at an NYU talent show. Anyone who watches Gossip Girl will find the clip relevant to this week's episode, but what is perhaps most noteworthy is that for those who doubt the overproduced sounds of "Poker Face", it's an interesting sort of musical revelation. Yeah, the girl can sing. She can also play. But unlike dozens of other female singer/songwriters, she shot the ambitions of her project away from Lilith Fair and towards glam rock.
While her music, including the recently leaked tracks on next week's Fame Monster release, veers mostly towards the radio friendly, she is lyrically** and performatively on par with a solid tradition of musical chameleons. While i was initially dubious of GaGa (and i think my past writing reflects this), and still think that as catchy as her songs are, they aren't up to snuff with the incredible amount of thought and artistry put into her image (the look and the sound just don't fully match up, too bright and effervescent, if i didn't know better i'd say a song like "Summerboy" was sung by a Pixie Lott or Candy-era Mandy Moore type), i've become a definite GaGa fan in the last few months. Maybe it was the VMA martyrdom, maybe it was the 10-minute Paparazzi video, I don't know, but once we got past the abysmal overplaying of what is perhaps her worst song ("Just Dance") i embraced GaGa as a serious pop performance artist. She's got staying power. She's a storyteller, a visual artist, and damn ambitious.
That said, I'm surprised she's as successful as she is with such diverse audiences. Is it because the image and the sound don't fully sync? That the music remain accessible while the persona is off-putting? I'm not sure. All I know is, it never seemed to fully pay off for Grace Jones or Roisin Murphy.
** I recognize that generally her lyrics are absurd. That's the beauty of them. Their hypersexualized postmodern nonsense saves the song from becoming just another pop puff piece on relationships and moves it towards that which recognizes and operates within its own absurdity. "Disco stick", "stunnin with my love glue gunnin'", etc. are perhaps the female post-Warhol and Madonna response to sci-fi reminiscent cut up lyrics of earlier glam artists like Bowie, T-Rex, and (at times) Queen. GaGa essentially reclaims and appropriates the sexual stance of homo/bisexual androgynous past performers and remixes it for the electronic era. If you can't imagine Lady GaGa pouring over "Killer Queen", "Moonage Daydream", or proclaiming "tell you who you are if you nail me to my car", you're listening but probably not hearing.