Lady GaGa is probably the most polarising force in pop music today. No other diva is loved and hated with so much passion. Up until recently, I was one of the few pop aficionados to set up camp in the lonely middle ground between the fanatics and the haters. That changed when I saw the video to "Paparazzi". I've always been a fan of Lady GaGa's music (I ranked "The Fame" as the 12th best album of 2008 in my end of year countdown and in retrospect, it really should have been top 3) but this was the first time that everything clicked for me - the music, her avant garde image and the artsy styling. I was originally going to write a simple post about the amazing "Paparazzi" video but I'm more interested in why the woman generates such a negative reaction from people. Here are some of the reasons I've come up with:
1) Her Music
This is pretty self-explanatory. No one has to justify their musical taste. However, many GaGa haters rant about her stealing ideas from other artists and lament that she was simply lucky to hook up with a hot producer. Ironically, these remarks often come from fans of Britney and Madonna.
My response: Personally, I think it's hard to disrespect Lady GaGa as an artist. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she writes all her own music and can actually sing live unlike the aforementioned divas. I'm not suggesting for a minute that she reinvented the wheel (electro dance pop is hardly a new genre) but at the moment she's simply doing it better than anyone else.
2) Her Authenticity & Image
This has always been my biggest problem with Lady GaGa. As much as I love her music, I always felt that she was trying way too hard. A common cry from maniacal haters is that she's too manufactured and pretentious. I also think some of her eccentricities are a little forced - like walking around London without pants in the middle of winter and that incredibly lame saga with her teacup. However, as a hardcore trash addict, I have a ridiculously high tolerance for publicity whoring. Most of my idols would throw their grandmother in front of a truck for a photo opportunity, so I find it hard to get worked up about Lady GaGa flashing her knickers.
My response: I honestly believe if Lady GaGa were a charisma free robot from Sweden the very same people who diss her would be singing her praises. I think we should be celebrating the fact that the biggest pop star in the world right now has a face like a slapped arsehole and dresses like a blind tranny. Lady GaGa brings something different to the music scene with her leotard fetish and crazy costumes. She's following in a long line of fabulous outcasts like Grace Jones and Amanda Lear. While those women carried off "crazy chic" (for want of a better description) effortlessly, does it really matter if Lady GaGa's outrageousness is all part of an elaborate marketing plan? The woman has always been completely upfront about her desire for fame and fortune at all costs. I find it hard to judge someone for displaying that rarest of qualities in a pop star - honesty.
3) Her Success
Lady GaGa's biggest crime is upsetting the pop pecking order. In the space of 3 months she's equalled Britney's tally of #1 hits on the Billboard charts and brought dance music to the American mainstream - something Madonna hasn't managed in over a decade.
My response: I firmly believe this is the real reason why most people hate her. If Lady GaGa was just another flop diva like Annie, Robyn or Roisin Murphy - she would be the darling of blogland. The great irony is that the haters loudly lament the absence of pop music from the upper reaches of the charts and yet, when a pop act actually manages to push aside the indie bands and rappers, they still complain. I'm not even going to guess what the future holds for Lady GaGa. Sometimes I think we're witnessing the birth of a new pop icon and other times I think she could be the pop equivalent of Alanis Morissette by having one hugely successful and influential album that overshadows the rest of her increasingly irrelevant career. But even if that is the case, I still think "The Fame" will join "Fever", "Confessions", "State Of Mind", "Neon Nights" and "Lost & Found" (shut up!) as one of the greatest dance-pop albums of this decade.
Now I've got that off my chest, I want to write a little something about "Paparazzi". Sorry that this is turning into such a long winded post! It's just that this happens to be one of the best videos I've seen in a very long time. "Paparazzi" takes me back to glory days of the late 80s/early 90s when video clips were considered an artform - not just a cheap and cheerful way to promote music on youtube. So what makes the video so good? Everything. The styling is incredible, the storyline (remember those?) is fabulous and Jonas Akerlund's direction oozes class. It's pretty much perfect from beginning to end. Here are some of the highlights:
- No one really needs to see Lady GaGa making out in bed for 30 seconds but do you blame her? If I were in her place, I'd be sitting on Alexander's face for hours!
- I love it when the poor bitch is thrown off the balcony. The scene where she's falling against the hypnotic background reminds me of Lars Von Trier's Zentropa. The effect is positively iconic.
- Perhaps the best thing about the clip is the strong vein of black humour that runs through it. The newspaper headline "Lady GaGa hits rock bottom" makes me laugh every time and the wheelchair scene is a trippy cross between Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and Xanadu. In other words, it's completely fucking perfect!
- Lady GaGa's dance routine on crutches redefines fierce.
- The Minnie mouse styling in the grand finale is positively creepy. It's like a shoot from Italian Vogue edited by a Japanese Anime director with an arse fetish. I think I like it.
The greatest thing about the clip is that it's so quintessentially GaGa. This is the first time she has really come into her own. Kylie wouldn't have the balls to pulls this off and Madonna doesn't have the sense of humour. "Paparazzi" showcases an amazing pop star at full flight. Bend over and take it like a man - this is a triumph!