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Alealejandro
June 9, 2010 9:39 PM   Subscribe

"Madonna’s sexuality could be scary because it was intimidating; Gaga’s sexuality is scary because we don’t quite know what it is." Lesley Kinzel of Fatshionista compares and contrasts Lady Gaga's new Alejandro video with Madonna's 1989 video for Express Yourself, making the argument that Gaga's take on female sexuality is less reliant than Madonna's on male perception. Choire Sicha of The Awl disagrees.
posted by Rory Marinich (280 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I may be losing my mind, but I swear I thought we had another Gaga/Alejandro/Madona post on the blue today.
posted by darkstar at 9:43 PM on June 9, 2010


And a previous Fatshionista Gaga beanplate.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:43 PM on June 9, 2010


Honestly, I watch that video wondering if it's supposed to be a statement by Gaga toward her gay fans to stay away from her. All the homoerotic content, coupled with the lyrics... It's difficult to make out a clear meaning in the song, but it seems odd for an artist like Gaga, who has benefitted hugely from the support of the gays (and who seems to support their causes with her charity actions), to make a video which contains a message such as the one I read in it.

But then, Gaga is open to many interpretations. Including some real tinfoil hat theories.
posted by hippybear at 9:44 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Spaghetti's not done yet.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:51 PM on June 9, 2010


hippybear: Gaga's statement is that the song Alejandro is exactly the opposite of what you think. She calls it a "celebration" of gay love, calls gay people courageous, and celebrates how close she can be with her gay friends. The "celebration" quote appeared in this well-known Times profile on her, before it got archived.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:52 PM on June 9, 2010


Wow. It is the music video that would not die.
posted by misha at 9:52 PM on June 9, 2010


Gaga's statement is that the song Alejandro is exactly the opposite of what you think.

Song? or Video? They are not always the same thing...
posted by hippybear at 9:53 PM on June 9, 2010


psssst...it's a music video.

If you're talking about it, it served it's purpose.
posted by Muddler at 9:58 PM on June 9, 2010


Is it time for gaga.metafilter.com yet?
posted by sanko at 9:59 PM on June 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


You know, I've seen Stefani Germanotta. I think she's pretty talented. At the end of the day, though, she's a savvy entertainer; I'm kind of getting tired of the sense that she's some kind of transcendent musical force of nature, or possibly Batman.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:59 PM on June 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


Okay, I'm unveiling my comprehensive Gaga theory here, in public, for the first time. Some credit goes to all our previous beanplating, as well as James Parker's Atlantic article.

The future viability of pop music has never been more in doubt than right now. Media fragmentation has really diversified what people listen to. Top 40 has lots of "pop" artists, but they're not universally listened to, really, and mostly reflect subgenres like R&B (Beyonce), country (Taylor Swift) or alternative (Jason Mraz). Except, perhaps, for Lady Gaga. Gaga, though, is hardly your traditional pop star. Pop music relies on a pretty tried-and-true narrative about largely chaste heterosexual love and loss, a narrative that has allowed other music forms (most notably, rock) to differentiate themselves by opposing.

Lady Gaga opposes it too. Consider the fact that she's a highly sexual artist, with themes abounding through the videos, who's publically endorsed chastity. Consider her opposing pontifications on feminism. Consider her gender ambiguity. Lady Gaga's mode of being a pop star is being exactly what we want her to be. And, by revealing that what we want her to be is self-contradictory, she's blowing wide open the whole idea that there are coherent themes on which pop music can be based.

What makes a post-Gaga pop artist like Ke$ha so fascinating is that she's already chosen a side in this pop culture dichotomy: she's chosen to parade herself as intoxicated and promiscuous. In Ke$ha's case, the form of the music even follows the music - it's all slurred and hyper. Like it or not, Ke$ha sees what's left of pop now that Gaga has destroyed it - small niche markets devoid of the universality they once had.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:00 PM on June 9, 2010 [21 favorites]


Hippybear: Both. The original song is about her platonic love with her gay friends; she's been quoting about how the video is her "pining with love" for her gay friends and how they do not reciprocate. It's all about being in love with gay love.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:02 PM on June 9, 2010


I know she's a real big star and everything, but when I hear "gaga" I still think of the Dominican Republic first. I like that music (and its close relative, rara) a lot more.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:03 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


This Gaga thing will seem like a bad hangover dream in a few years: "What was that all about?"
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 PM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


MetaGaga, a front page saga.
posted by nola at 10:07 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
posted by koeselitz at 10:09 PM on June 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Seriously? These lyrics are about her platonic love with her gay friends? I don't really think that any female singing about how she's refusing the kisses and touches of a male lover is singing about gay men. I mean, I'm gay, and maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I really am not driven to try to kiss and touch females, especially to the point where they're telling me not to do it.

I suspect she's putting a spin on things which are not actually there.
posted by hippybear at 10:10 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree hippybear, some real tinfoil hat theories.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 10:15 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just can't believe no one's come in here yet to affect a total lack knowledge of who Lady Gaga even is, then note in passing that they don't own a TV.
posted by Pants McCracky at 10:17 PM on June 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Evening all, is that a young Constable George Dixon I see?
posted by unliteral at 10:18 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Madonna's Express Yourself? No way -- the video that Alejandro has real parallels with is Total Eclipse of the Heart. Cavorting boys, glowing eyes, a woman ignored, and so on.
posted by grounded at 10:18 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I suspect she's putting a spin on things which are not actually there.

I am a huge Lady Gaga fan, but yeah I agree that I think she does this. She writes pretty straight forward pop songs and then feels some need to try and imbue them all with a deeper meaning. I'm pretty sure I read that she claimed "Pokerface" was about her bisexuality. Which again, if you read the actual lyrics that seems like a stretch.
posted by supercrayon at 10:18 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Gaga's lyrics and music videos don't often have anything to do with each other. I figured the music was just a "day job" vehicle to fund her art (the music videos/fashion).
posted by divabat at 10:19 PM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Looks like Metafilter is Clooney and Gaga is Vera Farmiga and this is the thread where we've shown up at her house unannounced.
posted by Kwine at 10:21 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What excites me about Lady Gaga (well, beyond my last ramblecomment) is that, all other factors aside, she's a 24-year-old woman who has an uncanny grasp of what makes music catchy, and a self-awareness about the aspects of her music that make her pop. Her brand of pop knows it's pop before it's any other genre. And whatever image she has, she picked for herself.

Don't get suckered into thinking Gaga now is the only thing Gaga/Stefani is going to do in music, ever. She's not going to die at 25 (knock on wood). She's at the start of her music career, which only coincidentally happened to make her the biggest pop star on the planet from her first single. So there's no saying there'll be a Gaga a year from now, or two years from now, or whether she'll be remotely recognizable.

But whatever she does, it's going to have immaculate production, and it's going to be catchy as hell. Because she understands production, and she understands hooks. Even Alejandro, which is maybe my least favorite song of hers to date, has something like three or four things sticking in my head at once. She's no ABBA yet, but the members of ABBA had a few years of songwriting on her, so I can forgive that.

I especially like her songs that don't sound as dance-y. Beautiful Dirty Rich is my all-time favorite of hers, because it avoids synth hooks entirely. Speechless, which she produced entirely herself, is her least Gaga song. But it still sounds like her, because it's produced perfectly and it's catchy. I can imagine her incorporating nearly any genre into the mix and having it still sound like Gaga pop.

To me she doesn't represent the destruction of pop. She represents the admission that everything is pop. Everything. When the biggest star on the planet talks weird philosophy and provokes essays like this one, that excites me. Kind of in the same way that Infinite Summer last year and its attempts to make DFW accessible excited me. For me "pop" is defined by content that's so simple you can understand the gist of it (if not appreciate it fully) with a little Internet browsing. So every challenging idea that's had a 100+ favorite MetaFilter comment reducing it to an easily-understood concept has been made pop.

Gaga takes pretty much anything, whether it's kinky homosexuality or deconstructionism or all this really ridiculous fashion, and makes it something that the whole pop universe embraces. I like that, and I want to see where she takes it next, even if the results are sometimes less than perfect. (Alejandro is a sexy incoherent mess.)

Also, this interested me because Madonna's entirely before my time. When I was growing up she was an old woman to me. So I missed everything that Madonna did and I know next to nothing about her. One criticism I've seen of her says she's recycling Madonna and NIN and Marilyn Manson and wonders why people like her. In my case, it's because I know utterly nothing about any of those musicians and so I see everything she does as fresh (in the pop world, anyway). And I don't entirely care who she's borrowing from, so long as she keeps being ambiguous and a little creepy and incredibly catchy. I like that middle schoolers are all seeing Alejandro. I think it'll do them good.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:22 PM on June 9, 2010 [37 favorites]


At the end of the day, though, she's a savvy entertainer; I'm kind of getting tired of the sense that she's some kind of transcendent musical force of nature, or possibly Batman.

Yeah I kinda fell for that bullshit too for a little while, and even halfheartedly tried to convince others of the notion, but in the end she's no Fever Ray, who anyway is basically Jarboe.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:24 PM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Is this Baroness Von Jahjah an aristocrat one would require a subscription to the periodicals to be cogniscant of? As a time-traveller from the Victorian age, I have no knowledge of the membership of today's upper classes, and my completely repressed yet deviant sexuality would (one can only presume) be completely at odds with the aforementioned noble Lady's milieu.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:27 PM on June 9, 2010 [31 favorites]


she's a 24-year-old woman who has an uncanny grasp of what makes music catchy,

No, I'm sorry - I'm someone who gets songs obsessively stuck in my head, I love pop music - and I can't remember one of her songs even seconds after I've heard it. It's not catchy!

I approve of her, I love her style, but her music is boring, generic, easily forgotten, without redeeming value, etc. It's not progressive, radical, offensive, or challenging in the slightest, it's all 4/4, with tempos between about 110 and 130... it's like seeing a lot of black velvet paintings. And it's never surprising - they all sound the same! Even the damn videos aren't surprising after the first couple.

Can we stop with the Gaga stuff? I'm so sick of this. I've posted in some of these Gaga threads with some respect, because at least she actually sings and plays, but I'm now officially really sick of them and, frankly, her music is bland, plastic, disposable crap and I'd be really happy to reduce the Gaga posts to less than one a day.

Rory Marinich: I do hope you're right that we'll see something different from her. But it's very very rare for people to start as pop singers and then actually generate interesting music - so rare I can't even name one exemplar. I believe that what you see is what you get here.

(PS: Madonna is not before my time, and let me tell you she wasn't any more interesting when she was new.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:37 PM on June 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Whoa whoa whoa, don't forget the Fortean Times' expose of Pop's Illuminati Top 10, which Gaga presides over. Not as involved as the Illuminati Puppet article, but it did hit newstands everywhere a little while back.
posted by redsparkler at 10:37 PM on June 9, 2010


l33tpolicywonk: “What makes a post-Gaga pop artist like Ke$ha so fascinating is...”

The lie of pop music is that there is post-this or post-that, and that what existed was necessary because it led to what exists, which will lead to what will exist. But there is really no such thing as this historical continuum that we all seem to believe in nowadays, this continuum where what came before makes what comes next possible. What was possible a thousand years ago is possible today; nothing more, nothing less. Human beings walk on earth, they eat, they love, they make music, they die. I think we've so internalized this notion that history is inescapable and ever-present that we're scared to death that it's taking everything we care about away from us; so much so that we find nostalgia for its own sake pleasant, and remember fondly the most idiotic things from, for example, 'the 80s!' – a time barely two decades past that we see as so distant and far away from us that we can never touch it now, and instead we write and speak longingly of the amazing and unbelievable things that happened then that can never happen again, and what it must have been like to be at that club when that band played, or to use that video game system again, or play with that toy.

Whatever. Humans exist outside of this weird, artificial 'pop' framework. I've been a lot happier since I managed to shake it off a bit. And I don't mind if people enjoy their Gaga; they can like what they want. That's the way the world is. I'll just be over in my corner listening to this, which honestly makes me happier than anything I've heard in a long, long time.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 PM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Like it or not, Ke$ha sees what's left of pop now that Gaga has destroyed it

I am rendered speechless. You see a huge figure striding around, remaking the world, and yet what is actually there is a generic producer of generic music that to my ear at least is basically indistinguishable from other of today's pop music. Certainly, Gaga is a more colourful and dramatic figure, but to act as if she has in the slightest changed pop music is to my mind completely unjustifiable.

I'd be interested to learn, though. Could someone, say, point me to a characteristic piece of recent pre-Gaga pop music, and then something after Gaga that shows me how she destroyed it? You know, a dramatic before-and-after? If she really did destroy pop music, it should be easy to do. You could, for example, easily do this for the Beatles...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:47 PM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


No, I'm sorry - I'm someone who gets songs obsessively stuck in my head, I love pop music - and I can't remember one of her songs even seconds after I've heard it. It's not catchy!

Haha. I have a friend who argues the EXACT same thing. And I thought that too until Bad Romance, after which I went back to all her other music and started loving it. Not something I can argue with you about. Obviously a lot of people are really obsessed with her music, even more so than I am. But catchiness you can't argue. It's all subjective.

I do hope you're right that we'll see something different from her. But it's very very rare for people to start as pop singers and then actually generate interesting music - so rare I can't even name one exemplar.

It's really funny. I've got one friend who really dislikes Gaga (same reason as you: Thinks she's horribly predictable and adds nothing new), and I've got another friend with whom I've been arguing about the Beatles because he seems to think the Beatles were two bands, "pop" and then "hippy", and that they just flipped a switch and one day turned "real" in his book. It's funnier because he defines the Killers as "real" music in this categorization.

So to piss both friends off, I've started telling both that I think Lady Gaga is the Beatles of our generation. The Fame is her Please Please Me. The Beatles were just four boys playing instruments the world thought were too played-out. Their music was thoroughly competent from a songwriting standpoint, but they did nothing interesting musically. They wrote their own songs, which was new-ish for famous pop musicians, just like it's new-ish that Gaga is producing many of her own songs. Like her, they came from a seedy past wherein their competencies were developed.

The argument further goes that Just Dance, which encompasses basically everything that's pop about pop, is Gaga's Love Me Do. Poker Face is her I Saw Her Standing There. BDR is her Twist And Shout (though at this point the theory's just deliberately being irritating and not-well-thought-out). And I guess that makes Bad Romance her I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Obviously the theory can't go any further, because we haven't seen Gaga for 13 albums, we've seen her for 1.5, but I'm always curious how the hipster arguments went over early Beatles. I know they got hated on a lot for not adding anything new. Hell, they got hated on for that when they were releasing Sgt. Pepper — hence Frank Zappa's We're Only In It For The Money cover. But even though they were pop through-and-through, and never strayed from the genre of "predictable catchy songs", their songwriting reflects their coming-of-age and so they produced a pantheon of songs that captured pop from its most bleh to its most radical.

No telling if Gaga will do that. Maybe she'll just be an ABBA and write hook after hook after hook. Or maybe she's just Madonna. But I'm content with liking her music right now for what it is — pure meaningless bubblegum. Because you know I love you / I'll always be true / so pleee-eee-ee-eeease...
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:49 PM on June 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


From here we go sublime...
posted by koeselitz at 10:50 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should have previewed...

I'd be interested to learn, though. Could someone, say, point me to a characteristic piece of recent pre-Gaga pop music, and then something after Gaga that shows me how she destroyed it? You know, a dramatic before-and-after? If she really did destroy pop music, it should be easy to do. You could, for example, easily do this for the Beatles...

Can you really? I don't observe my music year-by-year so much, and I wasn't alive in the sixties, but the sixties music I have, which ranges from pop to rock to psychadelia, doesn't have anything that sounds particularly "here's where the Beatles changed things" to it. No more than, say, Hendrix changed people, or Dylan changed people. Even within those three artists each one changed the other two so much that you can't point to a single one as "most" influential.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:52 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Admins Please Word Filter Lady Gaga To Ron Paul And Vice Versa
posted by Damn That Television at 10:52 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


post-Gaga

My po-po-post-Gaga face, my po-post-Gaga face.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:52 PM on June 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


I have to say I don't actually find Gaga's sexuality that scary. Or even thought about it that much. Maybe I'm desensitized, but seeing an image of a scantly clad woman doesn't seem all that sexual to me anymore. Now of course seeing it in person is different.
Pop music relies on a pretty tried-and-true narrative about largely chaste heterosexual love and loss, a narrative that has allowed other music forms (most notably, rock) to differentiate themselves by opposing.
I don't think people even really listen to the lyrics that much. "Pop" music is really more about the sound. What's interesting about Gaga is that she's so visually weird. That's about it. Her music is fairly straightforward.

In fact, if you listen to Gaga's lyrics rather then Watching her videos they're bog standard. Take Telephone for example. It's just a song about a girl who is annoyed because her boyfriend keeps calling her while she's trying to have fun at the club. It's totally standard, it could have been from anyone.

But the video is off the wall and crazy. Same with Bad Romance and Poker face. Her first single was just a song about having fun in a bar.

If it wasn't for her visual stuff she'd not really be that different from Ke$ha in terms of pop music impact. I do think her music is well made and innovative. But it's not radiohead or anything. She's not really pushing boundaries musically.

But she does push boundaries visually. And that's why she has such a huge impact. Ke$ha's videos are totally standard and boring, just like her songs.
posted by delmoi at 10:55 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's very very rare for people to start as pop singers and then actually generate interesting music - so rare I can't even name one exemplar

Scott Walker.

I think that's the problem here - people are talking as though her records are already Tilt or The Drift, whereas they're not even Scott 4, really.

Oddly, the artist she reminds me of most is Marilyn Manson.
posted by Grangousier at 10:56 PM on June 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Who is this Madonna you refer to?
posted by mwhybark at 10:58 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it's not radiohead or anything. She's not really pushing boundaries musically.

I find this incredibly funny, because I've been playing the Cardiacs album Sing To God (1995) relentlessly, and I've been cycling OK Computer in and out also, and every time Airbag starts playing it strikes me how in some ways Radiohead is to Cardiacs as Coldplay is to Radiohead.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:58 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Rory: is it possibly this phenomenon at work?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:58 PM on June 9, 2010


Sing to God is the greatest album no one has ever heard of.
posted by Grangousier at 11:01 PM on June 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was working on a comment for the Alejandro thread that got deleted. I thought the video was kind of lame. It just looked cheap, as in, low production values. It was far less elaborate then what we're used too from her. Like they were just phoning it in.

The other observations I had was that I thought her dancing was getting better (look at her dancing next to beyonce in Video Phone, there's a big contrast) and that she looked a lot more 'human' and less removed in a way in this video then in some of her previous videos, at least to me. It felt like you could see more of her as a person then as some distant self-constructed simulacrum -- if that makes sense.

The gun bra just looked stupid.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory: is it possibly this phenomenon at work?

It wasn't for me. Actually I approached Gaga ass-backwards. I came across Just Dance right as I was beginning my obsession with avante-garde, and I dismissed her instantly as unworth my time. When I finally got into her it was after a bout of 80s obsessions, like ABBA, Annie Lennox, Journey, all of whom did Gaga's stuff way before Gaga did it. So even when I heard Bad Romance I was picking apart mentally all the things that inspired it.

But I still love Gaga now. And the reason why: This year I became interested in music production. I developed a crush on Max Martin, whose music I liked-then-loathed as a kid. I started listening to a lot of pop and really thinking about it. Not to mention I grew up obsessed with the MIDI sounds of the various games I played, scored songs on MIDI as a kid so I could play them on flute, and generally love beeps and buzzes.

And there's something really pure about the way Gaga's music sounds. Something beautiful. My tongue-in-cheek Beatles comparison hides the fact that I really do enjoy her music how I enjoy early Beatles. There's a simple, deft competence in both of their work that I like.

I don't know enough about how synths work to know how difficult her work is. But it's beautiful. In Poker Face, the underwater sound it opens with (my phrasing) followed by the more blistering sound that feels to me like a whole sheet of displaced sound is pushing forward, coupled with the low "ma ma ma ma"... it's great. And as much as people accuse Gaga of sounding like everything else, I've gone through a lot of pop production, a lot of all-synth music, a lot of dance music, and in my mind her style's utterly distinct.

But I can't really discuss that with any confidence, simply because I don't get production terminology enough to argue that with people who've worked in that field much more than I have.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:08 PM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


[before and after the Beatles]

Can you really?

I believe I can. Let's compare, say, the Crickets' "Something Old, Something New" (who influenced the Beatles) to The Rolling Stones' "Their Satanic Majesty's Request" (which was influenced by the Beatles).

Let's put it another way - can you name another pop song that's even vaguely like "A Day In The Life" before Sgt. Pepper's? A pop song with multiple parts in very different styles, about existential issues as opposed to a love song? Because I can name a dozen like that which came out within five years after that.

I mean, even something we consider fundamental in pop like guitar feedback made one of its first appearances in a pop song as the opening of "I Feel Fine". The whole "Indian influence" that's now so ubiquitous in music made its first big appearance in "Love You Too". etc. etc.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:09 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Spider Robinson, a science fiction writer with a strong interest in music who was born in 1948, compares music before the Beatles to the whine of a propellor plane and music after the Beatles to the roar of a jet engine.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:11 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lupus_yonderboy:

A month before Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released Absolutely Free, which contained Brown Shoes Don't Make It, an 8-minute suite with multiple parts in very different styles, about existential issues as opposed to a love song.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:14 PM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I interpreted the video as a transformation of the character from a sexual heterosexuality to a chaste homosexuality. She seems to characterize maleness as all power-oriented but with the hetero side being against her and the homosexual side her protectors. She's always been gender-ambiguous, so it's easy make the leap from woman hetero not interested in male dominant violence to male homosexual not interested in the sexual aspect personally as she would by necessity of her personality be a "top" (evidenced in several scenes) but attracted by the sense of community, support, and protection offered by male homosexuality. I wrote that and can barely parse it, but watch the video with the idea of chapters of development in mind and paying special attention to the dynamics between the central figure and the men and maybe it will make more sense.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:14 PM on June 9, 2010


lupus_yonderboy: "Could someone, say, point me to a characteristic piece of recent pre-Gaga pop music, and then something after Gaga that shows me how she destroyed it?"

In part, I'm arguing that pop music has been in self-destruct mode for a while, so this progression is pretty subtle. Still, take a look at the Billboard Number 1s from 2007. There's certainly a lot of hip hop there, but I also see plenty of the old pop guard: your Timberlakes, your Fergies, your Avril Lavinges, your Alicia Keys. The poppiest song I can think of from the post-Gaga era, if you will, is Taylor Swift's You Belong with Me, which YouTube places at June 16, 2009. By all accounts, this is a very typical pop song with pretty typical pop music themes. But (and the jokes have kind of distracted from this point), it was a song that was utterly and publically rejected by the only musician who might be more popular in favor of Single Ladies. That it was a debate about song/video quality was, in my view, very revealing: some people listen to country "pop", some people listen to R&B "pop", but very few people listen to both, and both have polarized opinions on which is better. Additionally, the songs have very, very different themes: one's about longing for a guy, the other's about declaring one's independence from a guy. By 2009, Billboard starts to reflect that polarization: other than a blip from a relatively old pop star (Brittany Spears) and an American Idol winner (Kelly Clarkson), it's all differentiated music - again, mostly hip hop.

Who holds down the fort of pop music now? Well, artists associated with Disney, American Idol or the Glee cast. The latter two survive mostly on covers, the former doesn't last in popularity with anyone after 16 or 17. The only possible exception is Justin Bieber - but again, he's a kid's act.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:18 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


And there's something really pure about the way Gaga's music sounds. Something beautiful.

:-( I really wish I could hear this. Is there some particularly musical track of hers that I'm missing?

Here are a couple of beautiful tracks I've heard recently: Supreme Balloon (I just saw Matmos tonight!), Pin Down (by a local artist, Leah Siegel).

I deliberately picked two very different tracks - one's a very electronic cut that's a dramatic homage to Terry Riley - the other one's an acoustic track that purely showcases a singer's voice and strong lyrics.

I could make a clear and focused argument as to why these tracks are beautiful and rare. What about Gaga's music is so beautiful?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:18 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lady Gaga? Is this something I'd have to have a MetaFilter to care about?
posted by andoatnp at 11:19 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Madonna’s sexuality could be scary if you were an idiot; Gaga’s sexuality is scary because you were dumb enough to be scared of Madonna in the first place.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:19 PM on June 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Ok, I tend to beanplate Lady Gaga a lot, and this will be no exception.

As a gay man who, for most of his adult life, has been working through the damage conservative Christian religion has done to him, I'm disheartened to see Gaga embrace the same Catholic tropes Madonna dressed herself up in.

Politically, I can't thank her enough for her courageous advocacy of LBGT rights in her public statements, and I love almost everything she's done so far . . . but, please, lose the quasi-Catholic obsession over chastity and how a gay man's sexual identity might fit into some weird Twilight-esque version of non-sexual sexuality.
posted by treepour at 11:19 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


A quick addendum: I'm not claiming that Lady Gaga is anywhere near as influential as the Beatles, and certainly not musically so. The Beatles, for all intensive purposes, put their mark on every kind of music, not just pop music. I am saying that Gaga has come to popularity at a time when pop is particularly weak and seems, in my view, deliberately trying to destroy it. More power to her.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:20 PM on June 9, 2010


Sing to God is the greatest album no one has ever heard of.

I had not heard of it. But wow, this is some wild stuff. Thanks, guys!
posted by equalpants at 11:22 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gaga’s sexuality is scary because we don’t quite know what it is.

Is there some kind of critic school where people go to learnt o write in this vacuous, faux-naive tone? I suppose it's a bit scary in the sense that it's so frank it challenges the viewer, but 'we don't quite know what it is?' Duh, it's BDSM-lite.

The main difference with Madonna's Sex is that Madonna styled herself as a dominatrix. It's much less PC of Gaga to keep advertising her submissive streak, but anyone who criticizes her for it is going to have to explain how any putative oppressive patriarchy would simultaneously leave her in near-total control of her career and making more money than a Zimbabwean government printing press.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:23 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


l33tpolicywonk: but I don't see it at all.

I'm somewhat familiar with your "before" artists - I listened to about 45 seconds of the Taylor Swift cut - it sounded like any pop music I've heard over the 20 years - I see not the slightest difference before and after - a completely regular, 4/4 song, a regular chord progression, generic production, boring, bland, vile, vapid crap. Grr, sorry, I didn't intend to get grumpy but I left it on too long.

There is nothing about that Taylor Swift song that couldn't have appeared in 1980.

And I assure you that this isn't "off my lawn" shit - I go out to see new bands every week.

Do you really not hear the difference between "Peggy Sue" and "A Day In The Life"?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:24 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


What makes a post-Gaga pop artist like Ke$ha so fascinating is that she's already chosen a side in this pop culture dichotomy: she's chosen to parade herself as intoxicated and promiscuous. In Ke$ha's case, the form of the music even follows the music - it's all slurred and hyper. Like it or not, Ke$ha sees what's left of pop now that Gaga has destroyed it - small niche markets devoid of the universality they once had.

Oh why oh WHY!? Why did you have to tell me about this Ke4ha person!?

I can't stop playing Tik Tok endlessly on repeat.
posted by Netzapper at 11:26 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


If she demolishes pop music in any meaningful way, for me, it is in showing us just how much better the music you make with your friends is than almost any annoying thing being hurled down at you from radio towers . It is like a princess up on the parapet foolishly blowing Gideon's trumpet, and an economy of scale come crashing down.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:27 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Haven't read the whole thread yet but made the following comment earlier today at the dog end of the last Gaga thread, so it seems fair to just toss it in before I get swayed by theory, argument, insight ...

Yeah that video was awful. I suffered the extended intro thinking, okay, reminds me of Madonna by way of Michael Jackson pretense, but give it a chance, maybe the song itself will slap me around a bit. But no. Not even remotely special. I want my eight minutes back.
posted by philip-random at 11:29 PM on June 9, 2010


the video that Alejandro has real parallels with is Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Why are there ninjas?
posted by Chuckles at 11:31 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not my cup of tea but I can admire Lady Gaga's abilities as a pop star. That's about it. Ascribing the sort of depth that's being alluded to by her fans and admirers is something that I have a hard time taking seriously even for a minute.

She's mastered the art of being a pop star (for now) and it seems rather clear that she's simply trying to take it to the next level, not only through things like fashion and art (albeit in a very reductive way), but also by forcing a level of thoughtfulness that just doesn't come across in what she's doing. Not saying her music isn't good, but pretty much everything about Lady Gaga as a "package" is superficial. I hate to say it, but as terrible as Ke$ha's music is, she at least comes across as more genuine.
posted by dhammond at 11:40 PM on June 9, 2010


I am saying that Gaga has come to popularity at a time when pop is particularly weak and seems, in my view, deliberately trying to destroy it.

But I just don't see it. How?! She's making pop music much like anyone else! The fact that she has interviews and talks about sex is hardly destroying pop music.

If she demolishes pop music in any meaningful way, for me, it is in showing us just how much better the music you make with your friends is than almost any annoying thing being hurled down at you from radio towers.

Amen! I have a huge collection of home-made CDs I've bought from musicians at their shows, and almost all of them are "better" than almost all commercial CDs I've bought... more fun, more emotionally vulnerable, more memorable.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:41 PM on June 9, 2010


lupus_yonderboy: “I believe I can.”

You're fighting a losing battle here; at least on this particular point. I agree with you completely that Lady Gaga probably isn't changing the face of pop music. But nobody ever has. It's exactly the same as it's ever been, and it will never change. And trying to argue that a certain person or group of people was influential or important or game-changing or whatever is about as useful as trying to argue that mattresses should be filled with syrupy pancakes. Rory's mentioned Zappa, who preempted the Beatles on dozens of occasions (and he wasn't the only one) so I guess I don't have to. I mean, I love the Beatles, and they mean a lot to me, but that's not because they changed anything.

The question is: is it good? It's funny to me that nobody nowadays seems to want to be bothered with this question. I think we're too worried that it's not a real question, that there's no such thing as objective good when it comes to music. But so what? If you don't at least find it good for yourself, why listen to music in the first place? To keep your edge, to stay in touch, to have your finger on the pulse of the world? What's the point of that?

Also, it's sort of ironically hilarious that people can talk about Lady Gaga in relation to this Kesha person and think that Gaga is the destructive one. Kesha might not be destroying pop music, but she's destroying something, and whatever it is, I start to get a queasy feeling that one of the blood vessels in my brain is gonna rupture every time I hear one of her songs on the radio.
posted by koeselitz at 11:43 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


... oh, and one more comment about the video:

Nazi chic – still too soon? FUCK YES.

posted by koeselitz at 11:44 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like it or not, Ke$ha sees what's left of pop now that Gaga has destroyed it - small niche markets devoid of the universality they once had.

I thought it was Prince that did that. Or maybe it was the Sex Pistols. Or Nirvana. Except what about Michael Jackson, The Pixies, Husker Du, George Clinton, Sonic Youth, Public NME, The Buzzcocks, BOWIE, James Brown, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the guy who did I'm Too Sexy For My Cat ... blah blah blah. Pop's been one big disastrous explosion since at least 1972 (or perhaps 1976). That was the last time there was anything even approaching consensus (critical, commercial, political) as to what was hip, what mattered, why we should care. Not that there hasn't been an ongoing plethora of genius stuff ever since, it's just that it's been coming from those "small niche markets devoid of universality" ... which is a damned good thing I think.
posted by philip-random at 11:48 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, Lupus, my favorite song of hers right now is Dance In The Dark. And if you haven't heard Beautiful, Dirty, Rich, that's still my favorite of hers.

I know Matmos. I used to have Supreme Balloon on my computer, but I don't particularly remember it. I'm sure given a few more listens it would sink in.

The hard part about this is that I haven't given Gaga's music much of a thought before. I love it, but it interests me less than the rest of what makes her Lady Gaga. I mean, Cardiacs I could go on about for ages (and I only just discovered them, via AskMe, a little while ago). Odd Even is a pop-rock song that excites me on so many levels, and I could detail every single one of them. But Gaga's closer to Radiohead for me. I'm not a huge Radiohead fan; even OK Computer happened before I started really listening to and thinking about music, which was in about 2006. So when I listen to OK Computer, I know there are things I really like about it, and things that are uniquely Radiohead there, but at the same time I know more about everything BEFORE Radiohead and everything AFTER Radiohead that I can't completely articulate what I think about them.

So this below might not be exactly how I feel, because I've never tried saying this before and might sound dumb.

At the heart of it is the innocence behind her songwriting. She's utterly lacking in pretension in her music. (Lyrically we can argue pretense versus bland versus artsy, but we'll ignore that.) She follows pop structure, she goes along pretty obvious routes to get places. In terms of interest she has almost nothing, musically; Max Martin has his rock pretenses and his overly-plastic europop leanings (especially in his early Britney Spears work, which is why Lucky is my favorite Britney Spears song), "Tricky" Stewart has got an astonishing bag of tricks which he uses in his pop songs, and produces some of the most beautiful 40s pop out there, but Gaga doesn't have that. In fact, all of her most interesting songs are the ones that sound the least like her main style.

What that means is that her main style requires almost no thought to process. It's got no edge in terms of distortion, no complexity in terms of arrangement, no challenge in terms of notes and chords. So the first thing I think is that her music is devoid of basically everything that's not an outright hook. Every line of music is doing something that's catching me. The first thing I think of, actually, is Michael Jackson's Billy Jean, which has a similar concentration of hooks that drive away every other quality in the music. That's what I think makes Gaga so rooted in pop.

But she's also madly 80s-inspired. What I think I hear in her music is that joy in synths that they had in the 80s. Where the synth was so new and so pure and so beautiful that everybody used it to death, and completely delegated a lot of songs to the realms of "bad 80s pop". Exceptions being people like Kate Bush, who had the forethought to try and figure out how to balance synths with non-synths, much as then became the standard in the nineties and today.

What Gaga has on synthpop from the eighties is hindsight. She grew up with the synth as a cheesy cliche, I'm sure. And I hear that awareness in her music. She doesn't avoid synth, though. It's all she uses. It's just that she knows how the synth affects music.

So she combines a variety of synth sounds that all counteract each other. Most prominently you hear it in the opening to Boys Boys Boys, which is selfaware 80s pastiche down to those overresonant drums. But she gives her voice a slight edge and composes the song in a way that creates a sort of darkness to it (first synesthetic term to come to mind), something that tethers her music and stops it from sounding cheesy. There's a balance there.

Boys Boys Boys has got a similar europop sound to a lot of Max Martin protege music, but Martin always takes his europop very seriously, so bubblegum matches with bubblegum in that way that makes europop very hard to listen to for long periods of time. Gaga doesn't match like that. Longer, more resonant sounds match up with shorter bursts (for a basic example), and when she has five or ten synths playing on top of one another, every one's balancing out the others and keeping the song as a whole propelling forward, bouncing from hook to hook.

Again, unfortunately, I suck at knowing the exact terms. I can recreate it on my own keyboard, but I don't know the terminology for it. But I tend to feel and see music in terms of textures and colors in my mind; the best way I can describe it is that Gaga's very, very good at combining individual sounds in ways that provoke something in me. Taken on their own none of her sounds are particularly brilliant, not in the way that certain lines in Rihanna's Umbrella are, not like the distorted guitar in Single Ladies, but combined they create a very thick, perfectly balanced song. Every line mutates when I've had exactly enough of it, and all the lines are arranged in a way that I can simultaneously enjoy just about all of them when I decide to focus on one or another.

Probably not the most coherent way to phrase it. It's tricky for me. But the gist of it is that she combines an innocent purity in her compositions/synth-focused composition with an astonishing competence with production that lets her maintain a constant level of said joyous braindripping pop. 80s music is too unfocused, modern productions are either too focused on creating individual statements with each song or they're not aiming for as pure a pop sound. Gaga consistently makes music that's untampered pop, follows the same predictable formula, layers in hooks that never manage to irritate me or quite repeat themselves, and I can't think of anybody who shows that same competence in the genre.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:50 PM on June 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


But nobody ever has [changed the face of pop music].

I'm sorry, you are wrong. The Beatles changed the face of pop music dramatically - I made a clear argument above with examples, which is yours to agree with or refute. So have a heck of a lot of other people to a greater or lesser extent, from Jimi to Devo to Kraftwerk. These were all musicians who sounded completely unlike anything you'd ever heard before at the time. I still remember the exact moments I heard both Devo and Hendrix for the first time - and those moments are 30 years gone.

The question is: is it good?

If it isn't clear to you yet, I think that Gaga's music is not particularly good. I listen to music for a vast complex of reasons, emotionality being a lot of it, musical value being another great part.

I don't tend to use "good" when reviewing music because it doesn't say very much. However, I figured that when I use words like "vapid" and "generic" I'm sort of implying "double-plus ungood".

I need to sleep. If you like musical music, please check my radio station! I'll check this tomorrow, if you have recommendations that will change my mind, please please post 'em.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:55 PM on June 9, 2010


Rory: I think we're in agreement that Gaga is very competent. I have no time, however, for musicians who are simply competent - shit, I would even describe myself as having virtues in music beyond only competence. I'll reread your post with greater clarity in the morning.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:58 PM on June 9, 2010


I have to say, Rory, lupus, et al: many of the links you're bringing up for this conversation are first rate
posted by kid ichorous at 12:00 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


lupus_yonderboy: “These were all musicians who sounded completely unlike anything you'd ever heard before at the time. I still remember the exact moments I heard both Devo and Hendrix for the first time - and those moments are 30 years gone.”

Nope. Nothing new under the sun. And even if something's new, it doesn't fucking matter. New means shit.
posted by koeselitz at 12:03 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


*stabs self in eyes, ears and brain repeatedly*
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:07 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fun term of the day: gated reverb.

Fun fact: It was outlawed in Canada in 1991.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:08 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


To put it more clearly, I hope:

The idea that there's this historical continuum of music, where one thing influences the next, building up into this grand edifice of one thing leading to the next, with the Beatles creating their million bands and the Minutemen creating their million bands and this influencing that and that influencing this... is a myth. A legend. More properly, a lie. People have told this lie about the Beatles for decades: how they created all the music of the seventies, how they caused Brian Wilson to run out and (try to) record Smile, et cetera.

The truth is very different. The truth is that the Beatles were these four guys who liked to write and play music. And they sometimes wrote and played very, very good music. And that is all. Brian Wilson, Jeff Lynne, et al may well have been quite gobsmacked by the Beatles' music, and they might have been inspired, but they were just people, too. People who made music. The solid, concrete lines of ineluctable connection that everyone claims are there are not. There's just people making music. And somebody could have made the same awesome music ten thousand years ago, or might ten thousand years hence, if it occurs to them. It really doesn't matter when it happens.

Really, it's more than a little insulting and denigrating to musicians themselves, I think, to indicate that they're just a cog in some mystical bullshit dialectical historical framework like this, anyhow. Isn't it nicer to just understand that the Beatles were really great musicians?
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here's another way to look at it.

When I was twelve, I listened to almost exclusively MIDI music. Didn't occur to me that lots of music existed in other forms. This is because I built RPGs with a MIDI system, and played other RPGs that relied on MIDIs. So I discovered a lot of music as MIDI.

Until last year, I'd never heard U2's With Or Without You unless it was played for me on a synthesizer. Weezer's Buddy Holly was all electronic. No humanity. No emotion. No feeling of reality. It was all synthetic.

When you deal with music generated by a computer, when you have no instruments of any kind, there are only two things that matter. There are notes, and there are textures. Within an instrument texture never varies.

I grew up listening to the music of Nobuo Uematsu. Final Fantasy IV was the first game I can recall loving. Final Fantasy VIII was the first 3D game I played. And Uematsu is a genius at writing hooks. His earliest music only ever had three synths playing at once, because that's all the system handled, and he made sure that every line was something catchy. As he evolved, so too did his ability to maintain various hooks.

Let's call it "abstract emotion". It's emotion that comes from pure sounds rather than from people. ABBA has it in their best songs. The more you can hear the four people in ABBA, the worse the song is; their biggest hits are the ones where all the instruments either are synth or they're utilized in a way that makes them sound like synths. Pure sounds rather than human sounds.

I think that's at the essence of most pop music. It's creating certain feelings in us, tying those feelings into hooks, in a way that the emotion feels abstracted and so applicable to all of us. Music's not pop if it touches you on a deep personal level. The closer it gets to hitting just the surface and no more, the better pop it is.

By that definition, Gaga writes maybe the best pop I've ever heard. Because she's all-synth, she's got that control of textures that a composer like Uematsu had, the same abstraction. She loads her songs with hooks, and then arranges textures that keep you focused.

Poker Face's opening two sounds: cool/detached/mysterious/otherworldly/turquoise, blistering/solid/aggressive/red. They both play the same line of music, but by the end of it the dark/brown/gravelly/echoed voice comes in, and as that fades you get the bluepurple/smooth/round sound that plays the second hook, the one that's got a hint of urgency in the way it rises and beeps at the end; it plays twice, and then the first beat comes in. You're a total of sixteen seconds into the song and you've been given four different textures and two different hooks.

All of this is very abstract, by the way. None of it sounds like real people making music. Just detached noises. But because they have these textures, and because they play the notes they do, they create emotions in us as listeners. Not deep ones, like you get with, say, Stephin Merritt's side project Future Bible Heroes, which uses deliberately deep textures that combine together and wring occasional tears out of me. But that's also why Future Bible Heroes isn't really a pop group, despite Merritt's ability to write nonstop hooks.

All good pop does that with textures. But Gaga's unique in that her hits contain nothing but textures and hooks, with only her voice over the top of it. There are other musicians who do the same thing. Owl City did that for Fireflies. But Fireflies is so light-green-wispy that while it's pure and poppy, it doesn't have staying power. It's not solid. And it's really hard to balance textures. Harder still because most people trying to write pop songs don't know how textures work, and more people who get texture aren't trying to write pop.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:19 AM on June 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


I kind of tried to watch the video but I couldn't get "La Isla Bonita" out of my head - there's something about not-Spanish girls pretending to be Spanish that irks me every time.

I just can't get into her music. I haven't tried very hard, but then - I shouldn't have to if she's so great and all. I tend to be able to recognize music that is popular and/or music that is popular and good but with her it seems just like she's hired a terrific PR firm while she re-does Madonna's career. I'm down with that, but Madonna hired lots of way talented people to help her make at least OK music.

When I hear a really great cover of one of Ms.Germanotta's songs, where I'm struck with how cool and good it is, (oddly, like that whole "Put a Ring on It" thing a while back) then I'll buy it - but from here, well, it really just looks like a successful marketing campaign.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:20 AM on June 10, 2010


Is there any evidence that anyone actually is scared by her sexuality?
posted by creasy boy at 12:31 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Future Bible Heroes:

Lonely Days (One of the most perfect electronic songs I've ever heard.)
Berlin on $10 a Day (Instrumental, so perfect example of how textures interact with each other)
You Steal The Scene (Another one that really evokes things emotionally)

Nobuo Uematsu:

Red Wings (This song astonished me as a child and still does. The way it sounds noble yet somehow doomed/conflicted with itself.)
Ride On (Another aerial song, with the complete opposite tone to it)
Fragments of Memories (Solo piece that demonstrates just how much a single pure synth can provoke without variations)

And because discussion of synthesizers is utterly wasted without a mention of this album:

Calypso from Jean-Michel Jarre's En attendant Cousteau, and one of the happiest and best songs ever.

But none of these people are writing pop songs. I can whistle along to all of them, sing along to all of them, dance to all of them (and, friends, you had better believe I dance to them all), but they're not pop songs. But I feel they're closer to what Gaga's doing than a lot of other pop music that's not rooted in synthesizers. At least, it's that all-synth sound that provokes something in me emotionally.

Lady Gaga is very good at arranging synthesizers in ways that provoke something out of me, and she's very good at arranging hooks. I can't think of a single other musician who's as good at both of those at once. If you can think of an all-synth pop artist who pulls off tighter and catchier arrangements, let me know, because I sincerely want that music on my person at all times.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:35 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's what this video says to me (and admittedly, I'm a pretty shallow thinker compared to you all): The male body is BEAUTIFUL! There has never ever (in my knowledge, anyway) been a pop video that showcases men in quite such a way as this. I'm sidestepping all the avante-is-she-that-gun-looks-stupid arguments in order to say this:

The MTV-esque genre, from its inception, has been pretty much about showcasing female bodies. In motion, stills, scantily clad, respectably clad, not clad at all....presumably most of you MeFites will remember the days when Tawny Kitaen writhing about on the hood of Whitesnake's car was pretty cool! Amirite! Raise your hand!! Well, think about MTV and the music video genre since then.

OK, I gave you a second or two. Now hear this. I love this video. Why? Because it takes that whole sexual objectification "thing" and turns it right on its head. Let's have us some MEN, should we want them! Let's have some scantily clad, idealized, stunningly beautiful MEN!! And let's see what happens, ladies, when the idea catches on and all of a sudden it isn't so "avante-garde" anymore to have a bunch of 18-year-old dancers representing our gender.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 1:27 AM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


...and one of the happiest and best songs ever

I would write a rebuttal, but I fear the emotional uproar such a response would invoke, would make my typing technique so aggressive that it would render my keyboard irreparable broken.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 2:03 AM on June 10, 2010


(Deep in the realm of Lady Gaga's residence/compound)

LG: Assistant 1, is my shit still playing?
Ass1: Check.
LG: Assistant 2, are the project runway rejects still making my clothes?
Ass2: Check.
LG: Assistant 3, are you researching more about Lupus?
Ass3: Check.
LG: Good...good...everything is in place. Oh wait...Assistant 4, are those nerds over at metafilter still talking about me?
Ass4: Check. I made sure to "mention" a website that I have been building for years so that I can post an article about you, so they can link to it, like the ladygagasheep that they are. I have several more left...but we're going to run out in 18 months.
LG: Ok everybody...18 months and this gig is up.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:04 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


She looks like Edith Prickley doing Madonna.

How much credit is GrarGrar getting for the work of her director, her choreographer, and Madonna's directors and choreographers?
posted by pracowity at 2:55 AM on June 10, 2010


i really love this video. i've spent the past thirty minutes typing paragraphs trying to capture exactly why i find it so compelling. but i can't touch it. so i'm going to enjoy it without justifying it. it makes me happy.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:29 AM on June 10, 2010


The comparison to Madonna is apt. When I first heard that song I thought it was a new Madonna song, and then when you see the video it would have been even more confusing if it hadn't been clearly labeled Gaga.
posted by caddis at 4:00 AM on June 10, 2010


Heh, I already this.

When I hear a really great cover of one of Ms.Germanotta's songs

The cover of Telephone by Pomplamoose (on YouTube) is pretty damn awesome.

And Grayson Chance, some 12 year old kid, belted the fuck out of Paparazzi at his school, and then on Ellen. Also on YouTube.

How much credit is GrarGrar getting for the work of her director, her choreographer, and Madonna's directors and choreographers?

Gaga maintains creative control over everything, same as Madge.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:33 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory, I think you are giving her far, far too much credit as a producer. She's got a bunch of Swedish guys with decades of experience making dance hits arranging those synths and putting those beats together for her.
posted by empath at 4:46 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Madonna 2.0.

Really.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:48 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rory, I think you are giving her far, far too much credit as a producer. She's got a bunch of Swedish guys with decades of experience making dance hits arranging those synths and putting those beats together for her.

This I have to agree with. That being said, her songcrafting skills are without doubt; Speechless is entirely hers start to finish.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:51 AM on June 10, 2010


Overthinking a bowl of gaga.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:18 AM on June 10, 2010


I can't stand Lady Gaga. It really is the most pretentious drivel. There's just so little substance to the music - it's all BRAND. Yukkkkk.
posted by Monkeymoo at 5:22 AM on June 10, 2010


Gaga's take on female sexuality is less reliant than Madonna's on male perception

You don't know how much I hope it is. The whole concept of women moulding themselves around what men find attractive bothers me more and more. I especially loathe the whole "straight girls kissing" thing, because it's something they're doing entirely to titillate men rather than for themselves.
posted by orange swan at 5:37 AM on June 10, 2010


Some people are capable of coming into a thread and discussing why they do not like the subject of the thread with some wit, panache, or even the barest hint of the ability to articulate why they do not like X.

Some people just like pooing on things other people like.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out which one Monkeymoo is.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:39 AM on June 10, 2010


because it's something they're doing entirely to titillate men rather than for themselves.

One could argue, however tenuously, that such titillation is ultimately for themselves because it guarantees them a good brisk shag when they get home. I've certainly dated men with whom certain behaviours (on his part or mine) would be solely to get the other party sufficiently incensed to guarantee a particularly fun time when we got home.

I mean I doubt that's the case with most straight girls kissing other girls, but one can hold out hope that for some of them it is a sign of sexual agency and not subservience.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:41 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I admittedly haven't heard more than 2 Lady Gaga songs but it does seem like singer-songwriting, originality, and deeper themes are coming back in pop music. I used to enjoy the genre over the years as a sinful indulgence but checked out several years ago once everything started turning into "American Idol" vocalist blandness and "Checkin' Yo Ass Out At Da Club" ballads. It's a good start.
posted by crapmatic at 5:44 AM on June 10, 2010


I love that record, but you all can't see straight any more.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:44 AM on June 10, 2010


I am still on the fence. When her singles first started getting airplay, I thought they were reasonably catchy, but nothing spectacular. It was, I believe from a previous post here on MeFi that I found some of the videos of her singing - without all the "production" - and I became a fan.

She has talent - if that talent extends to picking the right team and surrounding herself with good people then she is going to be around for quite awhile.

My opinion is that she IS the Madonna for this generation.

Admittedly, I don't think her stuff is new, groundbreaking or dramatically different from anything that comes out of the "Poputron 3000" machine, but she herself is talented and knows how to twist the dials of that machine far better than any recent "pop" artist in memory.
posted by jkaczor at 6:02 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can think of an all-synth pop artist who pulls off tighter and catchier arrangements, let me know, because I sincerely want that music on my person at all times.

Depeche Mode.
posted by Sailormom at 6:07 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm a bit disappointed that the Vigilant Citizen guys didn't stay up all night analyzing this and writing a breathless report on the Illuminati shout outs in the vid.

For instance, near the beginning when the homo-fascists are marching towards the camera, on the left hand side one of them is carrying a scaffolding shaped like a pyramid - and we know what that means, right? And sure enough, the camera cuts to Gaga exposing first one all seeing eye of Horus, then another.

The figure on the right hand side (their left) is carrying a scaffolding shaped like a star of david. I ain't even gonna go there.

All of these dancers have "Moe" bowl cuts. And as we know from old movies, Moe was the dominant stooge. This reflects the reality that the Illuminati are setting up their "army" of homosexual stooges to dominate us culturally and sexually.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:07 AM on June 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Please stop it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:09 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


enough
posted by nathancaswell at 6:10 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love pop music and I've always defended it when people say it's not real music or that it doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. And I've tried to appreciate Lady Gaga on many different levels but I can't do it. I would take Janelle Monae (and do) over Lady Gaga any day of the week, for comparisons sake.

I don't find Gaga's songs catchy at all. Her music isn't interesting enough to support her elaborate, dramatic image. Her image isn't particularly new.

She just seems to me like another product of our superfast society. Her first album came out less than 2 years ago and already people are talking about a "post-Gaga" era. I think she gets far more credit than she actually deserves.

But it's interesting to see, at least to me, that people are changing the definition of pop music so it's Gaga's alone, so that she can be the queen of it. Saying that you can't feel pop music on a deep personal level or that the Beatles were "just" great musicians...I really can't wrap my head around that. Especially if the argument is made in the same breath that Gaga has changed anything.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:23 AM on June 10, 2010


lupus_yonderboy: "Do you really not hear the difference between "Peggy Sue" and "A Day In The Life"?"

Of course I do. I'm not disputing that the Beatles changed - well - just about every kind of music. The point isn't that Taylor Swift sounds any different from pop music of the last 20 years, the point is that the song isn't universally popular. And that's a key ingredient to pop music - it's right in the name.

Think about Michael Jackson. We didn't call him the King of Pop because he invented pop music or because he actually determined what kind of pop music got played and what kind didn't (ABBA, for instance, is a very different kind of pop music that co-existed with him) but because he performed in nearly every era of pop music their was and was popular the world over in a way no one before him ever was. That universality was the key at pop music's inception - Buddy Holly (along with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis and et al) all played black music. Then everybody listened to Motown. I'd argue pop music hit both its artistic and popular apex with Pet Sounds. Then (slightly less) people listened to disco. Then (slightly less) people listened to 80s and 90s pop. Come to the present day and, quite frankly, I see a gap that more often than not is geographic and racial: for the most part in the US, blacks and urban kids listen to hip hop, northern whites listen to alternative and southern whites listen to country.

Enter a figure who makes the kinds of pop songs that really had a home in the early to mid 90s, but utterly defies the convention of creating a public image for people to lash on to by deliberately contradicting herself at every turn? I say that person's trying to destroy what's left of pop music.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:23 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Moe money, Moe problems.
posted by pracowity at 6:26 AM on June 10, 2010


People love music you can dance to. Young people get attached to a certain type of music and vehemently reject all else. Later on, you hear that crap you used to hate when you were a kid, and you can see the appeal. You can DANCE to it, people! Just get out and dance. Sure, half the music is crap, but you're supposed to move your body around. We are humans. It is music. It is dancing. There is nothing better than that. Now eat your beans, dear, with a side of gay nazi sex-nuns.
posted by rikschell at 6:33 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


If Lady Gaga can get people to shake their asses in the club, then she's doing it right.

A Gaga song (I don't remember which one) got my wedding bumping...my mom ran up to me and said 'Who is this?' When I replied that it was Lady Gaga she was a little surprised but said 'I heard that she was just a weirdo, but Ooooh, I love this!'

I'm usually not a huge pop music fan, but occasionally there are songs and artists that break through for me. Lady Gaga wasn't one of those for a while, but when I realized that I was singing the hook to Bad Romance under my breath all day I decided to check out her videos. I don't regret that one bit.
posted by schyler523 at 6:40 AM on June 10, 2010


"Lesley Kinzel of Fatshionista compares and contrasts Lady Gaga's new Alejandro video with Madonna's 1989 video for Express Yourself, making the argument that Gaga's take on female sexuality is less reliant than Madonna's on male perception. Discuss!!"

Linda Richman lives!
posted by stormpooper at 6:40 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory, I think you are giving her far, far too much credit as a producer. She's got a bunch of Swedish guys with decades of experience making dance hits arranging those synths and putting those beats together for her.

But you hear it in the songs she wrote herself. I mean, absolutely credit to the people she works with. In particular I regret that she isn't working with Rob Fusari anymore, because I think his were some of the more interesting arrangements. But part of it's the way she writes the songs, and as best I know she's the only songwriter on those.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:58 AM on June 10, 2010


Madonna & Gaga: 2 Catholic Girls On Shtick.
posted by rdone at 7:01 AM on June 10, 2010


Gaga takes pretty much anything, whether it's kinky homosexuality or deconstructionism or all this really ridiculous fashion, and makes it something that the whole pop universe embraces.

And this is good? Interesting, sure, but no sir I don't like it. The pessimistic reading would be that it's a celebration of the triumph of capitalism over, well, everything. I.e. homosexuality, deconstructionism, fashion, philosophy, whatever, are only valuable insofar as they can be used as an effect in a music video. It's not these things themselves that are getting mainstreamed, but a specific strategy of representation. Homosexuality isn't mainstream; using homosexuality to sell records is. Philosophy isn't mainstream, but acting the "philosopher" to sell records is.

If the sexual consciousness of our culture is entirely mercenary, if it operates using an Overton window, then maybe Lady Gaga will be good for us, but I dunno. I think this capture-by-capitalism is maybe not as liberating as it might seem at first blush.
posted by avianism at 7:08 AM on June 10, 2010


You know, I've seen Stefani Germanotta . I think she's pretty talented. At the end of the day, though, she's a savvy entertainer; I'm kind of getting tired of the sense that she's some kind of transcendent musical force of nature, or possibly Batman.

Midnight. Stormy weather. Scene: Germanotta Pent House.

It's a restless evening in Brooklyn. Thunder cracks the ink-black sky, and rain comes and goes in sheets, but the stubborn heat of summer persists. The kind of heat that makes you feel like you're swimming in your skinny jeans. The kind of sticky-clinging-crazy heat that makes men do sticky-clinging-crazy things.

Stefani looks out the giant plated glass windows. This place used to be a factory floor, before the money and the upper-upper-middle class moved in, and now looks closer to an art studio seen through the eyes of a toddler on mescaline. She sips a white wine spritzer, and sees buildings highlighted in occasional pure-white arcs of electricity. The power is down and then up and then down again, as the city's aging electrical system bucks against the wishes of a million air conditioners and the unwanted advances of mother nature. Another flash, and we can see Stefani's complicated make-up and simple black lingerie, standing next to a Moai statue painted with Kabuki swirls.

"Another drink, madam?"
"No, Alfred... not tonight."

The gin and tonic is raised to purple lips and then gone just as quick, with the glass being handed to the man in waiting. The power comes on for a brief second, millions of motors whining awake, only to be cut off just as soon.

And then a flash in the sky. Not the angular jag of lighting, but a round, man-made light. Her symbol. A circle of red light and a domino mask carved into its center. Emmaculately drawn eyebrows narrow over glittering silver eye-lids.

With an elegant flash of long, athletic legs she is off, jumping through the air and sliding down, down, down into her lair. The Gaga-Cave.

Somewhere pop music has grown complacent, hetero-normative, and stale. Who is it? The Jonas gang... no, more likely the ImBieber now-a-days. The LMFAO Party-Rock gang, and their redoubtable frat-house, date rape anthems? Hard to say, although she considers the possibilities, and picks out the most suitable outfit. On a night like this it could be any of them. The gyroscope... jack of all trades and master of none. Too risky to wear the kermit-tunic, too presumptious to wear the honey-bee. It'll have to be the gyroscope, and she'll just have to improvise in whatever it lacks.

With a snap the Pussy Wagon pulls up.

"You ready, Gaga?" Beyonce asks.
"Oh yeah."

Yes. She is ready.

Red tail lights fade into the night, and the dull thud of euro-beat bass measures time.
posted by codacorolla at 7:12 AM on June 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


I like that middle schoolers are all seeing Alejandro. I think it'll do them good.

Skipping most of this thread to say I totally agree with this. Remember who the audience really is! When I was 14, there was nothing in music videos with this kind of homoerotic content. To the point where things like the brief male touch in U2's "Numb" video were incredibly titillating. And of course Madonna, but even that wasn't as explicitly "for the gays" as Gaga's shtick.
posted by hermitosis at 7:15 AM on June 10, 2010


If we're talking about people doing things "first", then there were a lot of times that The Beatles weren't first.

If we're talking about doing things which were so mammothly popular that it was impossible to ignore or get away from and hugely influential to pop culture, then yes, The Beatles did a lot of things first.

I don't think it's fair to compare Zappa to The Beatles when it comes to pop culture influence. Sure, Zappa may have done things which have had ripple effects. But with The Beatles, most of the time, there were no ripples. There was a full-on imposition of them as an overlay onto youth culture.

In this way, Gaga and The Beatles are very similar. It's just that I don't find what Gaga is doing to be groundbreaking or paradigm shifting. If anything, she's pulling everyone backwards 15 years. (Not that this is a bad thing -- 15-20 years ago, I thought pop music was fun.)
posted by hippybear at 7:16 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember when Genie in a Bottle came out for christina aguilera and she was like "yeah rub me the right way in this song means treat me right show me respect". Like she actually believed that. Now the thing is there is enough in the song to make that belivable, but at the same time there is even more in the song that is pointing pretty much in the exact opposite direction. Like:
"I'm a genie in a bottle baby
Come come, come on in and let me out'"
So like it is a really really slutty song about temporary chastity. I guess.

Pop music is usually about fucking but all muddled and obscured that you can pretend it isn't. Like a hand pressed against the glass surround of a shower stall that drags down through the steam leaving a snail trail of clear glass. What could be going on in there?

The pop provocateur has a similar job, hiding something slightly unacceptable between the jangling of catchyness. It doesn't matter too much what it is. In madona's time her sort of assertive sexuality was unusual. Now it's pretty much par for the course. Lady Gaga has been assertive about unusual sexuality. What does that mean? Pretty much nothing actually. Just bits and pieces from gay and fetish cultures assembled into an incoherent collage. When can pretend that it's pregnant with meaning but really it's just good clean fun and it can be taken as a positive sign about how far we've come as far as what will be pretty much completely acceptable with all the edge of playing the robbers in a game of cops and robbers.
posted by I Foody at 7:31 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Continuity error: in one scene Lady Gaga is drinking a Wine Spritzer, in the next a Gin and Tonic.
posted by codacorolla at 7:33 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


And this is good? Interesting, sure, but no sir I don't like it.

The pop universe isn't the whole universe. The pop universe is that specific part of the universe that's run by capitalism for capitalism. That's the whole point of pop. It's people making products that are lowest-common-denominator on one axis or another so that the whole world will pay money for it.

Lots of us exist way outside the pop sphere for most things. So we can acknowledge the fact that pop's decades behind the cutting edge. Remember when Freaks & Geeks had an episode that dealt with ambiguous genitalia? Yeah, let's see how long it takes for a celebrity to make that a central theme in their songs.

Pop is the market of I-don't-give-a-fuck. It's defined entirely by people who don't care what they're looking at/processing. So the only things that exist in the field are things people don't care about seeing and hearing. This is why teenpop isn't allowed to discuss sophisticated subjects, why pop in general is focused on losing people and missing people and envying people. People as a whole relate more to angsty love than they do with anything else, particularly if it's love that doesn't involve self-analysis.

This is a vicious circle. Teenagers rely on pop to tell them what social norms are, because they figure pop reflects society enough to let them figure things out.

So a figure like Lady Gaga's great in pop because she wrecks a lot of the pop standards. Beyonce talks about independence, which is nice. Taylor Swift talks about being pure and mooning over boys and developing a persecution complex, which is not so nice. JoBros and Bieber and MiCy are all talking the blandest kinds of emotions out there, so they're bad role models. But Gaga? She's a fucked-up personality in the pop universe. Outside of it suddenly we can argue if she holds her own, and she's got stiff competition, but inside it she's a goddamn wrecking ball.

(We're comparing her to Fever Ray?! Who hit #8 on Billboard once? And comparing that to somebody who's had 7 consecutive Top 10 hits? I like Fever Ray, but not the same league of pop.)

So she writes songs explicitly about anal sex, her anthem is "I'm a freak bitch", she makes music videos where she's a monster/deep-throating/making out with butch girls, and because she's such a good songwriter and such a provocative personality, the pop sphere is sticking with her. And among the articles she generates are ones like this, which at the very least get us thinking about topics like gender equality in the media.

It's like when Harry Potter had the villain who represented bureaucracy in government. It's not doing anything new, but it's giving a huge audience a taste of a certain theme they might not get otherwise.

Capitalism's not the only game in town, but it's this game, and Gaga's using it to send us images of kinky girls and guys. I like that 10-year-olds are going to see this video and think this is what a part of our society looks like. Better than growing up with *NSYNC and Blink-182.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:34 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't bring Peggy Sue into this. That song is still ahead of it's time.
posted by JBennett at 7:44 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me "pop" is defined by content that's so simple you can understand the gist of it...with a little Internet browsing.

So what was pop before the internet?

because I know utterly nothing about any of those musicians and so I see everything she does as fresh

Doesn't that just mean your regard for her is rooted in ignorance?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:01 AM on June 10, 2010


From the Fatshionista article: She is indeed so very aggressive that in several shots she assumes traditionally-male positions for intercourse, including being straddled by one of the men, and thrusting against another from behind in a reversal of the standard arrangement.

I found this really, really interesting, and I pulled together some screenshots to illustrate this.
posted by desjardins at 8:12 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


i'm really not getting the beatles comparisons - she doesn't sound as if she's come up with a radical departure from the current pop scene - nor has she really remixed the elements of pop in a way that's all that different

you can find predecessors for the beatles, of course, but to me, their major innovation was that before them, most rock performers did other people's songs, and after, bands were writing their own songs for the most part - it was the revelation that people could express themselves as performers and songwriters and be as good as the professional songwriters who weren't performing - not to mention that bands that did this had a better source of income than bands that didn't

i don't see where lady gaga is coming up with anything that compares to that - that she's got ideas about subverting pop conventions with various theories of art is interesting, but she's hardly the first one to think of things like that

she does fair to good pop songs with interesting arrangements and odd, provocative videos - she's refined the ideas of pop into her own style, but i don't see where she's upended them

another thing the beatles did that wasn't done much before them is that they reinvented their music as they went on and found new kinds of songs and arrangements - she's come into this with some imagination, but i'd wait and see how much she changes her music before i started comparing her to the beatles

right now, what we have here is a decent pop artist who's being hyped to death
posted by pyramid termite at 8:20 AM on June 10, 2010


The pop universe isn't the whole universe. [...] It's defined entirely by people who don't care what they're looking at/processing.

For many of these people, the pop universe is the whole universe. The big question is do we want the market to determine the ethos of those people, or do we want something else (community, government, education, art, parenting, whatever) to have a bigger say. The flipside of championing Lady Gaga's pro-/trans-gressiveness is that it tacitly suggests that market forces are the primary driver of cultural norms and mores. This may or may not be the case, and so that Lady Gaga is progressive might be a good thing — but I do not want it to be the case.

My objections to Lady Gaga are a lot like the objections from the left to Barack Obama: the superficial treatment of progressive issues is nice and everything, but there's not enough attention being paid to the deeper, more painful structural problems.
posted by avianism at 8:22 AM on June 10, 2010


I watch that video wondering if it's supposed to be a statement by Gaga toward her gay fans to stay away from her.

Hippybear: Both. The original song is about her platonic love with her gay friends; she's been quoting about how the video is her "pining with love" for her gay friends and how they do not reciprocate. It's all about being in love with gay love.


Yep.
"Gaga describes the video as 'a celebration of my love and appreciation for the gay community, my admiration of their bravery, their love for one another and their courage in their relationships. In the video I'm pining for the love of my gay friends--but they just don't want me to be with them.'" *
posted by ericb at 8:23 AM on June 10, 2010


Doesn't that just mean your regard for her is rooted in ignorance?

how much time do you spend second-guessing the things you like to ensure that your regard is valid?

i get that many people don't like gaga. i don't get the smug condescension toward those who do. or the inordinate amount of time some people spend dwelling on a subject they clearly don't like. i get it--you're better than us uncultured fools who have the stupidity to find enjoyment in something you don't consider worthy. thanks for your concern for my aesthetic well-being, but i'm just fine dancing my way through my fool-happy existence. so feel free to get back to like those daria dvds or your national review or whatever hip-witty assholery looks like these days.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:36 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


So what was pop before the internet?

The World Wide Web is several months older than I am, so you'd have to let somebody else tell you. But I'd imagine pop was anything you could understand the gist of with a little TV watching, or magazine reading. And because televisions and magazines were so relatively limited in scope, pop was similarly limited.

Doesn't that just mean your regard for her is rooted in ignorance?

Have I ever commented on a thread without your instantly jumping in to tell me I suck, Adam? Guess you can't pick your stalkers.

Koeselitz has been saying again and again in this thread that there is nothing new in music. Every innovation stems from somebody else's innovation at some other time; the only exceptions are and were complete accidents. So it's not like Madonna and NIN and Marilyn were doing anything that hadn't been done before. The "80s pop" sound actually originates in the late 70s, mixes it with the work on synths that had been coming out in the 60s and before to create a certain feeling. Sexuality of the form we're talking existed as early as the Velvet Underground in music, and much much earlier in the poets that inspired Reed and Cale. Angst has been around for as long as teenagers have existed.

I was merely noting that a lot of complaints about Gaga stem from: "Why are people saying she's new? Madonna/Trent/Manson did this twenty years ago!" Then they express bafflement over people getting hyper about things like Gaga grinding against twenty hot guys.

But for a lot of people, Madonna/Trent/Manson isn't a part of recent pop history. I grew up with Madonna wrongly classified as "oldies". Nine Inch Nails was a band referenced in Animorphs, which I always assumed just made them an old band too. And apparently Manson was huge when I was really young, but I never heard him. The first song I can consciously recall listening to is Cher's "Believe" in 1998. At that point pop was dominated by a particular lyric dreck. You were either writing vapid lyrics or you were writing gross-out lyrics. Blink-182, early Green Day... the closest you got to sophistication in the pop sphere was System of a Down.

The "dirty" lyrics of the period were usually female-centric and effected themselves something like, "Aren't I a tease? Isn't a shame that you like me more than I like you?" And the boy band equivalent was the old "My feelings for you are so deep (x20)" rote. To the point where Avril Lavigne seemed revolutionary when she first came out, all because the (prissy) girl didn't get the (suddenly rich) guy in the end. That's a pretty awful place for the pop world to find itself.

I'm not in the pop world so much anymore. Peter Brotzmann and Boredoms are my "chill" music. But I work with young kids, middle school and high school, at my job, so I still get to see a lot of what kids are listening to. The Fray, the Killers, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift... and Lady Gaga. For a year pretty much every young girl who talked to me quoted that "taste of her cherry chap stick" line at me, and the "I hope my boyfriend don't mind it". Obnoxious stuff for a kid to be saying. I mean, I love the song, but young girls running around singing that kind of isn't my thing. But now instead they yell "I want your ugly, I want your disease" and try to make claws with their hands and be freaks.

Maybe that's what kids who listened to NIN did. Or kids who listened to Madonna. (Though I didn't know NIN was ever as popular as Gaga is now; I always thought he was a bit of an outsider.) If they did, that's awesome. But I didn't grow up with kids acting like that. I grew up with kids doing the "Baby bye bye bye" and the "I want it that way", and the "She's so lucky she's a star", and compared to that Gaga is freaking awesome. It's not my dream of kids running around singing Captain Beefheart's Electricity, but it's a start.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:38 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


how much time do you spend second-guessing the things you like to ensure that your regard is valid?

Me? Not much. Clearly, however, some people put a lot of thought into this kind of thing and are willing to spill many bits on the topic.

I am also consistently amused by the frothing comments taking "haters" to task for not enjoying life life. Grar, look how fucking happy I am!
posted by adamdschneider at 8:42 AM on June 10, 2010


The point isn't that Taylor Swift sounds any different from pop music of the last 20 years, the point is that the song isn't universally popular. And that's a key ingredient to pop music - it's right in the name.

Time to clarify definitions for a moment.

POP is a sound, not a reflection of sales and/or popularity. The word for that is COMMERCIAL. By this token, Pink Floyd are COMMERCIAL but not really POP, whereas Big Star are often POP but sadly never really COMMERCIAL.

So what is this POP sound? I would define it as music without direct, definable lineage, or more to the point, music that isn't ABOUT this lineage. That is, it may have a reggae beat or some classic gospel vocal phrasings or guitar licks straight out of the Jimmy Page songbook but these are all merely pieces of a bigger (not necessarily better) thing.

So again, Badfinger's Know One Knows, a happy sad gem of pure pop rock bliss that's so obscure you can't even find an original version of it on Youtube ... POP. Beatles Revolution, just a straight up rock song that happened to sell very well ... COMMERCIAL.
posted by philip-random at 8:50 AM on June 10, 2010


"Gaga describes the video as 'a celebration of my love and appreciation for the gay community, my admiration of their bravery, their love for one another and their courage in their relationships. In the video I'm pining for the love of my gay friends--but they just don't want me to be with them.'"

I guess I just find it confusing, then... that she'd say that is the meaning of the video, but then the words are THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT MEANING. It's like she's decided her videos are simply carriers for imagery, and doesn't really give a shit what the song lyrics she's singing are. Of the videos I've seen from her, Bad Romance may be the only one which doesn't fall into this.

Maybe it's somehow brilliant or a statement about pop culture, or whatever. I find it confusing and disingenuous and it makes me not want to watch her.
posted by hippybear at 8:54 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have I ever commented on a thread without your instantly jumping in to tell me I suck, Adam?

Oh, come on, dude, I thought we kissed and made up in the last thread. I purposely worded my comment in the most neutral way possible to avoid any appearance of "telling you you suck". Your comments are very high profile, both for their articulateness and their length, so don't have a complex about me responding to them. I'm not trying to pick a fight.

I appreciate your response. I didn't get into NIN until With Teeth, but the kids that did were mostly pretty gloomy (ha, pot to kettle). The "make claws with their hands and be freaks" crowd sounds more like the way Marilyn Manson fans were, although there was significant overlap between the two groups.

My favorite bands growing up were bands like Jethro Tull, Rush and Joe Satriani, with a large dollop of metal, current (then) and classic (as in, like 10 years prior), so I've never really been in the pop scene. I'm still curious what kind of understanding someone needs to take away from mass media to be able to get the gist of pop, though. It's an intriguing idea, but my impression of pop music has always been that its chief attribute has been a catchiness and lightness that enabled its fans to enjoy it without reference to anything outside the particular song that happened to be playing.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:00 AM on June 10, 2010


I have to say, she's done a fantastic job of reproducing Ace of Base's sound. The first time I heard this song I thought they had gotten back together. Having said that, she is far too weird for my tastes.
posted by antifuse at 9:00 AM on June 10, 2010


A lot of interesting thoughts on the latest edition of GagaFilter.

The video is interesting, definitely calls back to Madonna in some ways, but seems to be doing its own thing. As for the Catholic imagery, hey, she grew up Catholic, and the imagery is powerful. Hell, walk into your local Spencers Gifts and you can pick up a boxing nun. It's an eternal truth.

One thing that seems to recur is argument over influence and "who got there first." This is an interesting thing. Some people buy it 100%, that it's important that Zappa (who I love) got there "first" or that the Beatles or Beach Boys used multitrack production in a certain way "first." Proving what exactly? that if you get there first you get to shout "FIRST POST!!!!11" and you win? The truth is that each successive generation of musicians get packed down and used by or ignored (aggressively) by the next. Disco was so hated it caused many bands to completely abandon anything that sounded like disco. Even that is influence! koesilitz said: "The idea that there's this historical continuum of music, where one thing influences the next, building up into this grand edifice of one thing leading to the next, with the Beatles creating their million bands and the Minutemen creating their million bands and this influencing that and that influencing this... is a myth. A legend. More properly, a lie. People have told this lie about the Beatles for decades: how they created all the music of the seventies, how they caused Brian Wilson to run out and (try to) record Smile, et cetera."

Why do think there's a grand edifice being built up? The truth is these artists exist and have existed for 60 years in a competitive landscape. If you go to wherever the hell Paul McCartney is and ask him "Did The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds influence you when you made Sgt. Pepper" you will get a "yes." Other Beatles have said as much in interviews. And yes, bands HAVE started after having been influenced by other bands. It's just false to think "these are just people who make music and there's no process happening."

It's true people apply narrative to things after the fact to "make up a story" - but denying that the landscape of popular music evolves as artists influence one another is to miss something important. Maybe it's not "solid, concrete lines of ineluctable connection" - but when musicians DO influence other musicians and modify the body of popular music: The Sex Pistols show that inspired people to form bands. The rivalries between the Beatles and Stones, and Beach Boys and Beatles. Hip hop in particular is a genre that builds itself up as artists respond to, embrace, and reject one anothers' choices.

Not all of "narrative-making" about music history is a bullshit invention.

Back to Gaga, she definitely builds on what Madonna did, but I don't think that lessens what she's doing. Maybe people don't like that she can be thought of as being part of a tradition-- because after all, how can something be a unique special snowflake if it's part of a tradition? But it doesn't lessen Prince to say that he carries on in a similar way to James Brown.

Okay, I got that beanplate outta my system. Next!
posted by artlung at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Gaga describes the video as 'a celebration of my love and appreciation for the gay community, my admiration of their bravery, their love for one another and their courage in their relationships. In the video I'm pining for the love of my gay friends--but they just don't want me to be with them.'"

Yikes. Either she's entirely out of touch with her own considerable powers, or she's full of shit. The video's an unremarkable song all dressed up in powerful albeit stale imagery and choreography, the goal of which is to ummm, sell records? keep Ms Gaga's visage in the spotlight? eventually sell Coke (or whatever) with a little product placement added?

Save the heartfelt justifications for all the concerned parents groups out there. I'm not buying them.
posted by philip-random at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2010


But you hear it in the songs she wrote herself. I mean, absolutely credit to the people she works with. In particular I regret that she isn't working with Rob Fusari anymore, because I think his were some of the more interesting arrangements. But part of it's the way she writes the songs, and as best I know she's the only songwriter on those.

She's not listed as the only songwriter on most of her hit songs. I kinda doubt she wrote the lyrics, even, for some of the songs like Telephone and Just Dance. Just because they don't seem to mesh with the songs she wrote pre-Gaga, and some of the songs which strike me as more obviously hers (in that they seem to be about themes she like to write and talk about, and have quirkier, less generic lyrics), like Paparazzi and Speechless.

The skills you learn as a singer/songwriter aren't really transferable electronic music production, which seriously takes 10 years of dedicated geekery to learn how to make the kinds of sounds that are in her records.

I've no doubt that she has a lot of input, especially now, into the way the songs turn out, but I don't think actual music production is part of what she does.
posted by empath at 9:07 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not to be a dick or anything, but it seems like 1/3 of the discussion in Rory Marinich's thread is by Rory Marinich.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:28 AM on June 10, 2010


One criticism I've seen of her says she's recycling Madonna and NIN and Marilyn Manson and wonders why people like her. In my case, it's because I know utterly nothing about any of those musicians and so I see everything she does as fresh

.......Just how young are you? I'm only 25 and I know full and well who those three are and can clearly see how Gaga could be borrowing from them.
posted by Malice at 9:28 AM on June 10, 2010


Oh, and the video for some reason reminds me of Nazi Germany. Maybe intended, maybe not. In any case, I should say that I really hate music videos that have nothing to do with the song. That's what annoys me about her music. You can make a song ten thousand times more powerful with a good video; anyone can jumble some random shit together and call it 'art'.
posted by Malice at 9:32 AM on June 10, 2010


Not to be a dick or anything, but it seems like 1/3 of the discussion in Rory Marinich's thread is by Rory Marinich.

Yeah, Rory's kinda cruising for a bruising here but in his defense, though I find much to disagree with in his comments, I nevertheless find that they're contributing positively to the overall flow of the discussion. That is, he's expressing himself well, making clear points and not just trying to drag the discussion into a safe little hole.
posted by philip-random at 9:32 AM on June 10, 2010


I really appreciate Rory Marinich's explanations and personal take on Lady Gaga.

I'd heard of Lady Gaga, but hadn't actually encountered her (so to speak) until the Glee episode "Theatricality" -- where I figured out, "ok, so she's a showy performer. Got it." And then I went diving to google because I found myself enamoured with the duet between Lea Michele and Idina Menzel, and I was all, "What is this song? It's great!" -- and then to discover, oh, it's Lady Gaga! (Which should have been obvious because, yeah, it's the Gaga episode. Duh. But I have to google about half the songs I hear on Glee, so it was just habit.)

So then I watched the official Lady Gaga "Poker Face" music video on youtube and was... hmm... disappointed, I guess. Because it was just a pop song music video. It wasn't bad, I didn't hate it, but wow -- I really liked the more acoustic arrangement they did on Glee.

Even though I'm technically in the MTV generation, I'm generally out of the loop in terms of pop-music -- which is ok, I guess. It's what I'm used to. I grew up listening to the "oldies" or broadway shows on my parents' records, and my music-videos consisted of old MGM musicals -- it was a shocking discovery when my classmates hadn't heard of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire or Rogers & Hammerstein. Likewise, they thought I was a total weirdo because I'd never listened to Michael Jackson or New Kids on the Block or yes, even Madonna. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for raising me in a pop-culture void by not having a TV for most of my life, and for never getting cable.)

But dang. I really liked that Poker Face song so much that I actually went on itunes to buy it. But not the Lada Gaga original version. The Idina Menzel/Lea Michele version. And I've listened the heck out of it for the past few days, so much so that it's been stuck in my head all this morning and I've been happily humming it as I go about my work -- and was one of the reasons I popped into this thread because now I'm all "OH YEAH LADY GAGA I FINALLY KNOW ONE OF HER SONGS SO NOW I KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT."

But then I realized, wow, I really don't know much about Gaga. Or pop music. I love how much I've learned in the ensuing discussion. Yay, metafilter!

Sure; I may not enjoy that synthetic sound of the official Lady Gaga music, but I know it's just my personal taste. I may not understand all of the crazy outfits and so forth, but I can appreciate her costumes and performances in terms of the desired dramatic result.

Even so, while Lady Gaga's sound may not the kind of music I prefer, I still seem to like the songs (or at least one) enough to be happy to listen to it if someone else sings it. Then again, if Idina Menzel sings the telephone book, I'd probably think it's the greatest thing ever.

Knowing that, and knowing my habit of "discovering" bands/artists decades after they went through their initial popularity, in 20 years I predict I'll be taking a road trip, listening to some classic-pop radio station, and stumble on a song that I think is great and catchy and tons of fun, only to discover it was a Lady Gaga song, and then decide I need to listen to more of this crazy-fun pop artist.

And then my kids will roll their eyes at me and think I'm lame, because, well, I am. I mean, who still listens to the car radio twenty years from now?

Unless the Lady Gaga Broadway Show comes out earlier.

Then I'm in.

On preview: I didn't realize Rory was the OP, and I can understand those who may think Rory should get his/her own Gaga blog. But I'm serious when I say I've appreciated the conversation, Rory-dominated or not.
posted by paisley sheep at 9:43 AM on June 10, 2010


All of these dancers have "Moe" bowl cuts. And as we know from old movies, Moe was the dominant stooge. This reflects the reality that the Illuminati are setting up their "army" of homosexual stooges to dominate us culturally and sexually.

Were setting up, don't you mean ? -- because Moe haircuts = Beatle haircuts, Larry Fine haircuts = Dylan haircuts and, as this thread so proves....

--we are all Curly: whoop! whoop! whoop! whoop! nyuck! nyuck! nyuck!
posted by y2karl at 9:44 AM on June 10, 2010


The Idina Menzel/Lea Michele version.

It's based on her own acoustic version.
posted by empath at 10:03 AM on June 10, 2010


rewatching it makes me want to put in some guy maddin.

i really like how the dancers move as well. got a big crush on that tough pouty guy but can't find who he is.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:06 AM on June 10, 2010


Not to be a dick or anything, but it seems like 1/3 of the discussion in Rory Marinich's thread is by Rory Marinich.

good for rory, and for us. i'm only too happy to see that taken up to 1/2.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:08 AM on June 10, 2010


This video is kink and fetish and BDSM, all the way, mixed with a HUGE dose of humor and a little borg collective.

The red vinyl nun habit. The vague military boots and uniforms. Her faux-pegging a dude. The gang bang. The aggressive wrestling/takedowns/almost-choking. They're all very familiar. It cracks me up to see people stretching to make this about Madonna or about Catholicism when I could go buy those nun-esque outfits off the rack in the West Village.

The pantsuit dancing and the bad bowl cuts and the gun bra make me laugh every time. It's funny. It's like no-seriously-don't-take-this seriously. Just like her hilariously bad fake accent in the beginning of the song.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The skills you learn as a singer/songwriter aren't really transferable electronic music production, which seriously takes 10 years of dedicated geekery to learn how to make the kinds of sounds that are in her records.

This. I have doubted empath's statements about this in the past, but let's just say that I have been educated through firsthand experience and I totally, totally agree now.

However, a lot of electronic dance tracks do start with a traditionally-written song written on piano or guitar, and then have the melody and some of the chord structure used for the electronic track, with the musical bed being altered to the extreme until it really doesn't resemble the original song at all. And since nobody ever gets to hear the original song, no one is the wiser.

But, having heard GaGa sing and play some of her songs on electronic piano in a schmaltzy and unoriginal torch song style, I would be shocked if she actually wrote the underlying songs, because I have a very hard time imagining a good songwriter gleefully stringing up their own art and flogging it to a bloody death like that without anyone ever hearing the original, pretty version. I imagine (and again, this is pure speculation) that she is present for and has significant input in the songwriting process, but that she is not the driving force behind it nor the originator of the melodies, lyrics, and chord structure.

While I don't have any particular affinity for GaGa's songs over those of any other mainstream pop/dance act (and that's the only genre in which she really competes), her melodies are quite good and her PR is fantastic. And the production is generally very good.

And all y'all criticizing her because it's all 4/4 need to be reminded that 4/4 is the language of electronic dance music, just as much as the accordion is the language of Polka and the guitar is the language of Metal. 128 bpm 4-on-the-floor is the foundation upon which her entire genre is built, and adherence to that basic building block isn't a weakness.
posted by The World Famous at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The pantsuit dancing...

it's totally her toni tenille look!
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:14 AM on June 10, 2010


Saxon Kane: "Not to be a dick or anything, but it seems like 1/3 of the discussion in Rory Marinich's thread is by Rory Marinich."

As far as I know, there's no upper limit on the number of comments possible in the thread.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:17 AM on June 10, 2010


You'd have to be 8 years old to not know she's recycling things have been done to death.

It's almost over. She'll be doing some celebrity reality show soon.
posted by L'OM at 10:19 AM on June 10, 2010


I imagine (and again, this is pure speculation) that she is present for and has significant input in the songwriting process, but that she is not the driving force behind it nor the originator of the melodies, lyrics, and chord structure.

I think Speechless is 100% her, and Paparazzi is maybe 60% her. If Alejandro is hers, she should be embarrassed, because the song is dreadful, and everything good about it was lifted from Ace of Bass.

I think anything focused on fame, disability, monsters, etc is probably her, but the vapid shit about getting drunk at a club is most likely going to be from one of her producers.

She's actually quite a clever songwriter when she is doing her own thing:

compare:

I love this record baby, but I can't see straight anymore.
Keep it cool what's the name of this club?
I can't remember but it's alright, alright.


Completely generic and indistinguishable from any Beyonce whoever pop dance diva.

I can’t believe how you slurred at me
With your half wired broken jaw
You popped my heart seams
On my bubble dreams, bubble dreams


Now that is fantastic writing. I can't imagine that the same person wrote those lyrics. It just makes no sense. The second is much closer in tone to her pre-Gaga work, too.

Sometimes you can see a compromise in a single song:

I wanna Just Dance
But he took me home instead
Uh oh! There was a monster in my bed
We french kissed on a subway train
He tore my clothes right off

He ate my heart then he ate my brain

That boy is a monster


This one has kind of a mix of very Gaga themes (monsters, 'he ate my heart then he ate my brain') and dumb pop music lyrics.

I'll be interested to see what happens as she takes more charge of her music. I have a feeling that the brain dead clubbing, drinking and fucking lyrics are going to start taking a back seat, and I wonder if it'll make her music less popular.
posted by empath at 10:30 AM on June 10, 2010


As far as I know, there's no upper limit on the number of comments possible in the thread.

I think the point is that it's considered generally bad form to moderate and mediate one's own thread. I don't know that he's necessarily done that in this case, but it's common to see people taken to task for being quite so participatory in their own FPPs, especially to defend them when people offer alternate points of view.
posted by hippybear at 10:30 AM on June 10, 2010


Ahh... thanks, empath.

I'll have to check that out when I'm at a place that doesn't block youtube.

See? I told you I didn't know much about her. SO MUCH TO LEARN...
posted by paisley sheep at 10:31 AM on June 10, 2010


Consider her gender ambiguity.

WHAT GENDER AMBIGUITY?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:36 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, speculation.

"I imagine (and again, this is pure speculation) that she is present for and has significant input in the songwriting process, but that she is not the driving force behind it nor the originator of the melodies, lyrics, and chord structure."

She's a woman, after all! So based on nothing, let's assume she's not able to be independently creative! Wooooo!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:42 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


but it's common to see people taken to task for being quite so participatory in their own FPPs, especially to defend them when people offer alternate points of view.

exactly, and what Rory's doing a good job of here is using the discussion as fuel to further explore his own point view. This is good basic conversing in my book.
posted by philip-random at 10:44 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lady GaGa is somehow a mirror and prism.
Get it out people.
Get it all out.
posted by vapidave at 10:46 AM on June 10, 2010


She's a woman, after all! So based on nothing, let's assume she's not able to be independently creative! Wooooo!

My speculation is not based on nothing, and has nothing to do with the fact that she's a woman and everything to do with the way that pop and dance records are often produced, regardless of the gender of the star.
posted by The World Famous at 10:46 AM on June 10, 2010


I don't think that's fair. She can clearly write songs, and I think she writes better songs on her own than the ones she wrote with producers.

I happen to think her pre-GaGa songs and acoustic versions are so different from the album stuff, and so different thematically from what seems to be her primary interests now and before, that I have to believe that the producers were the driving creative force behind most of the songs on her first album.

Especially when you compare Fusari and RedOne's other stuff to the stuff that's on her first album. Just Dance, Pokerface, Paparazzi, etc are clearly producer-driven songs, but they also definitely seem to be a step up from those producers other tracks, so I think she contributed a lot and probably a lot more than other singers they've worked with.
posted by empath at 10:50 AM on June 10, 2010


(FWIW: TheWorldFamous has worked with a famous dance music producer on tracks, so he knows something about how the process works)
posted by empath at 10:52 AM on June 10, 2010


I happen to think her pre-GaGa songs and acoustic versions are so different from the album stuff, and so different thematically from what seems to be her primary interests now and before, that I have to believe that the producers were the driving creative force behind most of the songs on her first album.

This is a good point. You might be right. Her mastery of the songs and facility with playfully altering them like that does betray a familiarity with the material that might indicate authorship. It would make sense that she wrote the source material.
posted by The World Famous at 10:56 AM on June 10, 2010


my impression is that she controls the vision of what she is doing. part of it is picking who she works with, but from the interviews i've seen, she is good about acknowledging the team effort in all she is doing. haus of gaga. who else this popular has a haus, a publicly acknowledged creative team behind their efforts?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:06 AM on June 10, 2010


Think about Michael Jackson.

Whoa there. I love me some Gaga (duh), but mentioning her in the same breath as the absolute incontrovertible genius that was MJ might be pushing it a bit.

Now that is fantastic writing. I can't imagine that the same person wrote those lyrics. It just makes no sense.

Um actually it makes quite a lot of sense when you remember that prior to Gaga blowing up, she wrote songs for Britney Spears amongst others.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:12 AM on June 10, 2010


who else this popular has a haus, a publicly acknowledged creative team behind their efforts?

Um.... Hitler? Wait. Maybe I'm doing this wrong...
posted by hippybear at 11:13 AM on June 10, 2010


Yeah, exactly, I think especially now, her creative output, taken as a whole -- the songs, the videos, the live performances are largely the product of a single creative vision, even if she has a lot of collaborators. To me, I think the point where she really stepped forward as an artist in control of her own image was the MTV VMA's where she performed Paparazzi and had the symbolic death on stage, along with the collection of fashions she wore that night. There had been elements of an artist in hiding in her stuff before that (the paparazzi video -- the Just Dance performance with the 'pop music is never lowbrow' intro on American Idol), but until then I don't think you could say there was a real Lady Gaga aesthetic, because she was still making generic sex-sells videos like Pokerface..) Ever since then, she's been remarkably creative and inventive in the way she presents herself.

Her early stuff was driven more by her collaborators and less by her. Which makes sense. If making pop music was easy, anyone could do it. She'd obviously have to lean heavily on people with experience for her first album and early marketing.
posted by empath at 11:14 AM on June 10, 2010


who else this popular has a haus, a publicly acknowledged creative team behind their efforts?

Madonna, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, etc ad nauseum.
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on June 10, 2010


that prior to Gaga blowing up, she wrote songs for Britney Spears amongst others.

That was always marketing BS. As far as I know, none of those songs were ever recorded.
posted by empath at 11:15 AM on June 10, 2010


Actually I'm wrong, most of them were out-takes or b-sides, and almost all of them were co-written by RedOne, Akon, etc on albums that those guys were already working on. So I don't know how much input she actually had. None of those songs were hit records, in any case.
posted by empath at 11:30 AM on June 10, 2010


dirtynumbangelboy: "Whoa there. I love me some Gaga (duh), but mentioning her in the same breath as the absolute incontrovertible genius that was MJ might be pushing it a bit."

Mentioning two people in the same sentence is not the same as equating them. Again, I never said that Lady Gaga was as influential / important as the Beatles or as MJ. In this case, I mentioned MJ only to refer to the quintessential pop star and illustrate that there's really no one like that in music anymore. That MJ died right around the time I claim pop music died only better serves my point.

Again, my theory or comments upthread make absolutely no judgment of Lady Gaga's merits as a musician but rather assess her as a cultural symbol with a very specific purpose: the destruction of the pop asethetic.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:37 AM on June 10, 2010


I just don't see how GaGa is doing anything to destroy the pop aesthetic. If anything, she's using well-worn tropes to reinforce it and profit from it. The only difference I can see between GaGa and every other successful pop star ever is . . . well . . . nothing. Less clothing, maybe?
posted by The World Famous at 11:41 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory, this all an elaborate piss take, isn't it? I mean come on, Final Fantasy!? Nobody sane can do long analysies of the importance of pop music and be serious, right?

We're all MeFiers here, you can admit it's a joke right? Right? Come on man, you're scaring me!
posted by happyroach at 11:42 AM on June 10, 2010


Not to minimize his contributions, but Rory is 19 years old, I think. A certain lack of perspective comes with the territory :)
posted by empath at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2010


The first song I can consciously recall listening to is Cher's "Believe" in 1998.

Holy fuck. One of us is badly out of touch, but I'm convinced it is not you.

I've heard Gaga songs (how could you avoid it even if you wanted?), but never seen a video. I am willing to bet that comments above about how people think Gaga is revolutionary must be related to the videos, because the music is entirely pedestrian and unremarkable. Note I'm not saying it is bad, it just doesn't have anything particularly noteworthy about it.

Really.

Wow, synths are back en vogue. This is my sho-sho-shocked face.

Maybe Howard Jones and Thomas Dolby can start touring again?

In twenty years we'll know the impact of Gaga vs Beatles, but that's not very satisfying today. But I'm willing to make a prediction. Is there a way I can wager $100 ten years out from now?
posted by discountfortunecookie at 11:53 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we just admit that Giorgio Moroder is the master of the relevant universe and start making Moroder threads instead of GaGa ones? Please?
posted by The World Famous at 11:57 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lady Gaga has seemed like this generation's Madonna all along to me, but mostly because of her aesthetic/marketing control over her own image. I love Madonna, don't get me wrong, but it's not like most of her work is brilliant, inventive, songwriting or musicianship either. She was a dancer originally. There's nothing wrong with that, or Gaga, but I think a lot of people have an impression about Madonna having been something special musically and the comparison somehow denigrating Madonna based on backfilling Madonna's early history from her later iconic status. But she wasn't originally Madonna as we know her now back then. I remember; I was there!

The other comparison that came to my mind--by subject and Madonna emulation--is the new Christina Aguilera video (NSFW). The song is forgettable, even more so than Alejandro (which is not one of Gaga's stronger songs) and the video is desperate. It's got a lot of the same elements, but the word that came to my mind on watching Aguilera is 'pornographic'. Pornographic, because it's all about sexiness that aims itself straight at the male gaze, which is actually reinforced by the lyrics (she's not herself tonight, which allows her to be sexual, aggressive, come on to girls, etc.). To me this is part of what the Kinzel link is getting at about the Alejandro video not being male-gaze-oriented, and I hadn't articulated why I was less uncomfortable with/turned off by Alejandro that I was about Not Myself Tonight.

on preview: Maybe Howard Jones and Thomas Dolby can start touring again?

Dolby was touring a couple of years ago and he has a suite of three EPs coming out this year, but it's going to be totally different to his stuff if all you know is Hyperactive and She Blinded Me With Science. Even back in the day he was less synth-based than you may think based on those songs. /Dolby fan
posted by immlass at 11:58 AM on June 10, 2010


This video is kink and fetish and BDSM, all the way, mixed with a HUGE dose of humor and a little borg collective.

This. It's basically what you'd see in a fetish night, just very very stylised.
posted by divabat at 12:02 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only difference I can see between GaGa and every other successful pop star ever is . . .

She uses Autotune for is artefacts, not because she can't fucking sing?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:03 PM on June 10, 2010


I just can't believe no one's come in here yet to affect a total lack knowledge of who Lady Gaga even is, then note in passing that they don't own a TV.

Is this "Lady Gaga" something I would have to have YouTube unblocked at work to know about?
posted by straight at 12:03 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


80s1HitWondersFilter: Howard Jones is touring. Dolby had a fresh TED Talk go up recently. He's also blogging.
posted by artlung at 12:05 PM on June 10, 2010


She uses Autotune for is artefacts, not because she can't fucking sing?

There are plenty of successful pop stars who can sing without autotune. To the extent that GaGa is one of them, it is nothing new or revolutionary, and it certainly isn't subverting or destroying the pop aesthetic.
posted by The World Famous at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2010


Can we just admit that Giorgio Moroder is the master of the relevant universe...

Yes. Yes we can.
posted by ericb at 12:09 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can we just admit that Giorgio Moroder is the master of the relevant universe...

Maybe, but only if you're talking about his early stuff.
posted by philip-random at 12:21 PM on June 10, 2010


Okay guys, I know there's been a lot of confusion, but here's the deal:
Alejandro is all about getting catcalled by hispanic workers.

She thinks they're hot, but it's just not appropriate. And it wasn't appropriate when they catcalled that other girl, either.
posted by redsparkler at 12:24 PM on June 10, 2010


I'll gladly admit a lack of perspective. As I said: Music for me starts with Cher. Talk about noble beginnings.

Rory, this all an elaborate piss take, isn't it? I mean come on, Final Fantasy!? Nobody sane can do long analysies of the importance of pop music and be serious, right?

Well, of course it's all for fun. But I don't think that necessarily means it's not serious. Writing 3,500 words on the state of Gaga is how I lull myself to sleep at night, but I was trying to seriously examine what I enjoy about Gaga's music versus other pop.

For the record, Nobuo Uematsu cites Elton John as his greatest inspiration. He calls himself inspired by rock, but the rock elements I find him borrowing from are the poppier elements of rock as-is. He's more Crocodile Rock. And certainly he's more pop-inspired than his contemporaries. Koji Kondo's work with Nintendo is best when it's jazzy or mock-orchestral; when he goes for pure pop he falls flat. The Mega Man soundtrack digitally borrows from fusion elements. Uematsu's much poppier.

Now, I think all three of the musicians I mentioned above are more interesting than Gaga by a mile. But none of them write the same brand of pop. (Merritt's more indie singer/songwriter; Uematsu's pop songs are great, but they borrow more from big band than they do from his own synth past.) I loop them all in the same category, though. I'm more likely to play Gaga/FBH or Gaga/Uematsu than I am Gaga/Beyonce or Gaga/Max Martin.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:24 PM on June 10, 2010


Howard Jones is not a one-hit wonder. He had two singles in the top 10, and 7 songs in the top 40 during the heyday of his career, at least in the US. He was much more successful in England. Human's Lib and Dream Into Action are two of the more cohesive pop album statements from the 80s, and worth seeking out if you like that kind of thing.

Thomas Dolby did only have one top ten hit in the US, which is better than he did in his native England. He's widely regarded much more highly as an influential artist than a hitmaker, with a lot of people citing him as influences over the years, and he's collaborated with an impressive list of people which reads like a short Who's Who list from music of many genres.

I'd totally go see a Howard Jones / Thomas Dolby double headlining tour. I'd even travel to do so.
posted by hippybear at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2010


The first song I can consciously recall listening to is Cher's "Believe" in 1998.

Holy Christ that makes me feel old. I first heard that song on the radio coming down off of ecstasy.
posted by empath at 12:38 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm aware that there's more to Howard Jones and Thomas Dolby, sorry if my little 80s1HitWonderFilter joke implied otherwise. Here, I'll set iTunes to play some now.

NP: Europa and the Pirate Twins
posted by artlung at 12:39 PM on June 10, 2010


PS, this is the first song I remember hearing.
posted by empath at 12:40 PM on June 10, 2010


When I was three I wore this single out.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:44 PM on June 10, 2010


I was a year old when this album first was released, and I've had the same vinyl copy basically my entire life. (I have it on CD now, too...)
posted by hippybear at 12:48 PM on June 10, 2010


Rory, you really need to stop posting because you are making me feel old, and not in the tee-hee-remember-that-song-from-five-years-ago-gosh-we're-old way I did back in my 20s.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:50 PM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Consciousness, for me, was accompanied by Kenny Roger's rendition of Lady.
posted by xod at 12:56 PM on June 10, 2010


Thomas Dolby does still play shows. He doesn't have to, though; he basically invented the technology that let early mobile phones play musical ring-tones, so he pretty much just lives off of that money.

As far as the Lady Gaga "does she or doesn't she" argument – and I'm talking about songwriting, not genitalia – she was originally hired by her record label to write songs for other people, most notably Britney Spears, when she was trying to get her foot in the door, but then was able to actually get her foot in the door and record her own music. Interestingly, she originally wrote "Telephone" for Britney Spears (there's a demo floating around online if you want to look for it), but Spears passed on it, so she ended up using it herself. This might explain why that particular song sounds less like what some people consider "typica" Gaga.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:25 PM on June 10, 2010


Rory's comment describes the appeal of good synthpop perfectly.

I've liked Lady Gaga ever since I heard her acoustic songs on YouTube, but I've always had the feeling that she's dumbing her lyrics down. I just hope her career isn't killed by her own hype machine before she has the chance to grow.
posted by Drop Daedalus at 3:42 PM on June 10, 2010


Drop Daedalus: “I've liked Lady Gaga ever since I heard her acoustic songs on YouTube, but I've always had the feeling that she's dumbing her lyrics down. I just hope her career isn't killed by her own hype machine before she has the chance to grow.”

I'm no devotee, and I don't really listen to pop, but it's pretty clear to me that Lady Gaga is smarter than the lyrics she forces herself to write. The fact that she couldn't resist slipping a Hitchcock reference into "Bad Romance" seems pretty telling, and somehow I doubt that most people get it, blatant as it is, although maybe I'm wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 4:05 PM on June 10, 2010


well, i was happy enough resisting interpretation and taking in just the gut impact of it, but having watched it, um, quite a few times (and not being particularly good at decoding, so i know this is going to be off base more than on), i definitely see a path here that, i guess in keeping with some of the stuff she has said about the video, seems to echo how her relationship to gay men has evolved in relationship to her work. earlier in the video, she is watching the gay dancers from a distance, assessing them, seeing them in mechanical terms. perhaps the idea is that she has turned away from the heartbreak of romance toward a kind of chaste, spiritual connection to her work. (she has commented on her celibacy in the past in relation to her career.) but as she gets closer to them, she starts to desire the gay men around her. maybe she tries to rein them in, try to get them to submit to her. but it doesn't work; in the video, men are straddling her, or she's coming at them from behind--but they don't fit together that way. so she struggles with it. in the robe, she is in their midst as the men dance around her, but she does not look at them; she stares straight ahead and tries to (as the director describes the rosary thing) "to take in the holy," to deny herself the desire. at this point the video transitions to the stage, where she is performing these kind of star poses (or as i insist on thinking of it, toni tennille performing on the celebrity cruise ship), and the gay men are doing a kind of runway walk, but they are just accessories for her to work against (i actually like how she dances among them at this point as they pass by her). this then transitions to the very madonna-esque dance routine with her gun bra, and then the bono takeoff (if that is what it is, and it would seem fitting, as i think this was the mode in which bono was simultaneously evolving into and satirizing celebrity)--which kind of represent her own rise to superstardom. and we see this guy (mr gorgeous, whoever he is, all serious looking) looming, perhaps representing the prospect of a relationship with a straight man she is performing for (or it is, or represents, the man or men she has given up), then rapidly intercut with the video's opening scenes of the gay army launching its assault, and the scenes of her pose of chastity. she removes her glasses. now a star, she opens her eyes to these things she has described as her monsters. we see her being thrown from one gay man to another; she is being molded into a gay icon, and in the end she gives herself over to them on their terms, accepting her place as object of a different kind of desire, and she loves her little monsters. As Klein indicates: "Thus at the end of the film, she chooses to be a nun, and the reason her mouth and eyes disappear is because she is withdrawing her senses from the world of evil and going inward towards prayer and contemplation." she does talk some about religion, but i take it as more aiming for an artistic purity than a spiritual one--though i suppose for her they are essentially the same thing.

i'm reminded also of all that jazz in that it is a kind of artistic manifestation of an internal struggle. i'm not sure that it's necessarily autobiographical, not knowing how much the director brought to the table beyond reimagining her vision in terms of his own artistic universe, or if it was all his vision, in how he reads her.

i know there are levels i'm not equipped to see, but i think there's neat stuff to think about and take in.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 4:12 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


also, while i get that people don't like how the lyrics don't necessarily match the video, i do like reconsidering lines like don't bother me and don't call my name more as directed internally by someone unable to let go of another, or somewhat cheesily put, haunted by a memory.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 4:21 PM on June 10, 2010


I actually do think GaGa's lyrics are quite good some of the time. But I just have to add that the fact that people go on and on and on with a magnifying glass to find something brilliant about her lyrics is really, extraordinarily insulting to the lyrics of the many truly brilliant lyricists out there whose brilliance is apparent without having to torture deep meaning into them.

I mean come on, now. It's ok to really, really like an artist and her music without having to convince ourselves that her message is deeper than it really is (or if she even has a message).

(And by the way, Rory Marinich, I think your comments and analysis in this thread have been, for the most part, really insightful and brilliant. They have made me feel old, though.)
posted by The World Famous at 4:44 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


but it's pretty clear to me that Lady Gaga is smarter than the lyrics she forces herself to write. The fact that she couldn't resist slipping a Hitchcock reference into "Bad Romance" seems pretty telling

The Rilke tattoo and name checking Sylvia Plath in Dance in the Dark might be clues too.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:13 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


...it's pretty clear to me that Lady Gaga is smarter than the lyrics she forces herself to write.

The royalty checks ease the pain, though, I'm sure.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:19 PM on June 10, 2010


Or, all the desire to see in Gaga more than just a pop phenomenon that caught fire may be beanplating, and this video may be little more than repurposed homoerotic window dressing and angst because it worked so well for Madonna's career.
posted by darkstar at 8:31 PM on June 10, 2010


Which, of course, doesn't change the fact that the song has a smooth melodic hook and the dancers are teh hawtsness.
posted by darkstar at 8:34 PM on June 10, 2010


Maybe it's an age difference here that puts things in perspective, recognizing that every generation believes they were the first to invent something, passionately argue how it is so and make it important, but seriously the sad bit of being on this side of the age coin is recognizing how naive one was in their 20s and how that cycle of 20 year old thinking never fails.

The shit kicker however will be when those 20 year old passionately arguing how important Gaga is today, will find themselves overcome in the next decade by another group of 20 year olds doing the same for another new and young artist. They’ll liken Gaga as a female musician/artist as we do Madonna, Dale Bozzio, Grace Jones, Joan Baez, Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin (ad nauseum) as they slowly age into understanding how pale she was in comparison to those that proceeded her in timing, talent and tenacity. Enjoying Gaga is different from likening Gaga to those brave souls that actually had to break down doors, redefine stereotypes, justify politic and poetry to suit them as opposed to suiting the self stylized ADHD media generation of today.

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


I’m not even going to touch The Beatles. Suffice to say that if you’re arguing that The Beatles weren’t a major watershed of music for all time, then you just fail.
posted by eatdonuts at 8:54 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


...it's pretty clear to me that Lady Gaga is smarter than the lyrics she forces herself to write.

Exactly. This is the long game. Once power is consolidated against the right, the torture, the domestic surveillance -- wait. What thread is this?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:18 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely this...
posted by fleetmouse at 9:43 PM on June 10, 2010


The fact that she couldn't resist slipping a Hitchcock reference into "Bad Romance" seems pretty telling, and somehow I doubt that most people get it, blatant as it is, although maybe I'm wrong.

Most people won't, but young and enthusiastic listeners will look up the names she's dropping. She's probably made Hitchcock, Kubrick, Plath, and Rilke some new fans already.
posted by Drop Daedalus at 10:29 PM on June 10, 2010


The first song I can consciously recall listening to is Cher's "Believe" in 1998.

Holy Christ that makes me feel old. I first heard that song on the radio coming down off of ecstasy.


That that makes me feel old. I remember when Cher hadn't had plastic surgery or Chastity. If only I had been young enough to be in on the ecstasy fad.

*grinds mandrake root while humming a pentatonic tune*
posted by pracowity at 11:12 PM on June 10, 2010


eatdonuts: “I’m not even going to touch The Beatles. Suffice to say that if you’re arguing that The Beatles weren’t a major watershed of music for all time, then you just fail.”

The Beatles – a major watershed of music for all time?

I have a feeling that John "don't believe in Beatles" Lennon and Ringo "just four guys from Liverpool" Starr would disagree vehemently with you on this point.

As they kept insisting throughout their career, the Beatles were emphatically not a major watershed of music for all time. They were four deeply intuitive and intelligent musicians who made the lives of many human beings happier through their songs. That's all – four guys. W A Mozart was not a watershed of music for all time, a genius-child destined to rule the continent through music. He was a brilliant composer whose grasp of harmony was immediate and perfect. That's all – just a human being, admittedly brilliant and of great worth to us all, but a human being; he suffered greatly in life and in death because people didn't understand the distinction. Bach? Just a human being, not a watershed. Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder, the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Derrick May and rest of the Belleville 3, Nirvana – all of them human beings, none of them watersheds; none of them set out to "change history" or "shift the course of music" or "invent new styles of pop" or anything like that. They just wanted to make great music. And they did.

It may seem like an odd point I'm making, but I think it's damned important. I believe that all of us, whether we're aware of it or not, feel keenly the heartache caused by our rigorously structured and systematic view of history and time; it hems us in, it locks us in place, and it makes us slaves to fashion and the times, ever in fear of losing our edge. Nobody would ever dream of singing songs now the way Elvis did; not after the Beatles. Why? The point is that nothing changed when the Beatles happened. They made beautiful music for all of us to enjoy. That doesn't mean people can't make music like Buddy Holly, or Chuck Berry, or Elvis, or Hank Williams, or Jimmie Rodgers anymore. And it doesn't mean that everyone thereafter is required to make music that sounds like the Beatles. Sure, people will be inspired by their work – and there will be people like Jeff Lynne. But Jeff Lynne and ELO weren't just Beatles cover artists; and one human being hearing music and liking it isn't a historical paradigm. So what does "musical watershed" even mean? I don't believe in it. And I think believing in it cuts us off from the past and makes us feel as though we'll never get to touch those things we love again.

I've heard the longing in people's voices when they talk about those days at Woodstock, or that Sex Pistols show at Manchester Free Trade Hall, or that October night in 1995 when Jeff Mills stepped behind the decks at the Liquid Room in Tokyo, or any of these particular 'moments' – as though they're forever gone, erased by the stuff between then and now, all the watersheds that mean we can never go back. But Faulkner was right. "The past isn't dead; it's not even past!" And if I wanted to start a bluegrass band that sounded just like the Monroe Brothers, or cut some records that sounded just like Elvis, or try to make a punk record just like the Slits, I could do it tomorrow; and if the music was good, it would mean just as much. All of these moments that we think are gone live on, and they can even be recreated over and over again.

Because, at the end of the day, we're not modern Western post-Christian Euro-American postmodern late capitalist children of our era. We're just human beings. All that weight of history on our backs is breaking us, I think. I know it's breaking me.
posted by koeselitz at 12:33 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, I gotta say, I think you're reading too much into terms like "watershed". It doesn't have to mean anything more than that the Beatles (or whoever) made music that was widely liked, that a bunch of other musicians incorporated their sound, that still other musicians consciously moved away from their sound, etc.

I don't agree that knowing history makes us all feel locked in place. I don't feel cut off from the Beatles in the slightest. (Hell, they're sitting on my shelf five feet away right now! I can listen to them any time I want!) Yeah, I wish I'd been around for certain past events, but that doesn't mean I don't think anything interesting is happening now. You can enjoy exploring the past without feeling weighed down or constrained by it. You can recognize that past events are influencing our current course without feeling that they're determining our current course.

Sure, there doesn't have to be a dialectic--you don't have to react to the Beatles if you don't want to. You can play any style of music you want, regardless of the current fashion; nothing's stopping you. But it can also be fun to explore what others have done historically; to mix and match different ideas from various musicians/eras; to try and come up with something new. (Probably not truly "new" historically, of course, but new to you.)

Finally, you can disbelieve in "watersheds" all you want, but that won't make them go away. Those things happened; they were considered big deals at the time, and people reacted to them in big ways. I mean, there's no real need to study history if you don't want to, but if you do study history, you can't avoid the fact that some things made a bigger splash than others. You don't have to call them "watersheds", but you're gonna have to come up with some term for them.
posted by equalpants at 2:52 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


BTW, in that Weezer thread last month, weren't you lamenting the destructive influence of Pinkerton on our generation, to the point of saying "it makes people worse as human beings"? Doesn't that make it some kind of minor watershed or something?

(I don't mean this as a gotcha; I'm just puzzled by an apparent contradiction. How does "W A Mozart was not a watershed of music for all time" fit together with "brilliant and of great worth to us all"? Isn't the former just another way of saying the latter?)
posted by equalpants at 3:15 AM on June 11, 2010


Enjoying Gaga is different from likening Gaga to those brave souls that actually had to break down doors, redefine stereotypes, justify politic and poetry to suit them as opposed to suiting the self stylized ADHD media generation of today.

Sorry, this is just get-off-my-lawn-ism.
posted by empath at 5:18 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "All that weight of history on our backs is breaking us, I think. I know it's breaking me."

It sounds like your view of music history: "IT IS ONLY MUSIC, THEY'RE JUST PEOPLE, THERE ARE NO WATERSHEDS, HISTORY IS A MYTH" is really important to you. What I'm hearing is that it's really important for you to disagree with the application of narrative or relative importance to music history.

There is a history of music. In that history some artists loom larger than others. Some events and music have influenced others, and that influence rippled to other musicians. It's strange to me to hear you reject that this is so.

I can hear you saying that fetishizing music history is dangerous. Ok. But that's not what I see happening here, people are discussing relative merit and historical arc. It's not personal.

I wonder how you would react to this little exchange from Diner.
posted by artlung at 6:10 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pants McCracky: "I just can't believe no one's come in here yet to affect a total lack knowledge of who Lady Gaga even is, then note in passing that they don't own a TV."

I don't own a TV, but I adore Lady Gaga. She transcends technology as well as gender.
posted by QIbHom at 7:43 AM on June 11, 2010


My grandmother, 93 and something of a style maven herself, was not moved.
posted by Scram at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2010


Why would one need a TV to know about Gaga? Anyway, haven't the internets replaced television yet?
posted by caddis at 7:51 AM on June 11, 2010


> My grandmother, 93 and something of a style maven herself, was not moved.

From Grandma's entry: "I think she doesn't come across with reaching the public emotionally. She's just -- there. "

That's pretty much my reaction to Gaga as well.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:53 AM on June 11, 2010


And if I wanted to start a bluegrass band that sounded just like the Monroe Brothers, or cut some records that sounded just like Elvis, or try to make a punk record just like the Slits, I could do it tomorrow; and if the music was good, it would mean just as much. All of these moments that we think are gone live on, and they can even be recreated over and over again.

Koeselitz, I usually agree with your position around here, but this statement just feels all kinds of wrong. So much so that I could respond with volumes but I'll choose just one angle. That is, for a modern band to do a Beatles or an Elvis or a Slits or a Led Zep (or even a Lady Gaga) requires simply diving into their particular sound, learning all the tricks, mastering them, then doing it. Voila! It's that easy. It has been done. It gets done all time. It's called imitation.

But none of these great artists are/were imitators. They may have started that way but over time they all, by design, by fluke, by drug-induced insight, by sheer bloody-minded obstinacy invented something fresh that, in its small (or perhaps big) way, changed the culture.

Take Led Zep (who I've been obsessing on a bit lately). Yeah, they're generally just filed in the Classic Rock section these days, but seriously, listen to their music, go deep into their sources. Seriously. Until they came around, there were any number of bands playing rock and roll and folk and blues and trippy eastern textures and funk and pop ....... (the list is endless). Some were even trying to mix them all together. But none succeeded, made it sound natural, made it look easy, OWNED it.

But then Zeppelin came around and they did. And all it took was one listen (under the right circumstances) and the listener could own it, too. This is how a culture changes. This is exactly why a record, a song, an artist that matters is always more than the sum of its parts, because context matters, and when you're talking context, history is always one of the big ones.
posted by philip-random at 8:51 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


koeselitz, I really like the main idea you've got, that it's ridiculous to think these "watershed" artists erase the good music that came before them. And I think it's dumb that, for instance, a composer today would be looked down upon for writing baroque music, as if it's no longer possible to come up with a great melody and compose a mind-blowing organ fugue around it.

On the other hand, I think you're not quite acknowledging the ways that music is very dependent upon context. How we hear music depends very much upon what we've heard before. It's impossible to hear Black Sabbath as the shocking heavy-metal noise they seemed to be when their records were first released. I remember when Nirvana sounded almost like undifferentiated noise to me, now the notes and chords of their songs seem so plain to me that they might as well be played on acoustic instruments.

Beethoven is still great, but his harmonies and structural innovations can never be surprising and revelatory in the way they were to his contemporaries. Sometimes he'll take a chord and just hammer it as if to say, "Oh yeah! Check this out! You've never heard this chord progression before! Pow!" But that harmonic progression is commonplace now.
posted by straight at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Beatles - Were just a band.
Led Zepplin - Just a band.
The Beach Boys - Just a band.
The Sex Pistols - Just a band.
The Clash - Just a band.
Crass - Just a band.
Minor Threat - Just a band.
The Cure - Just a band.
The Smiths - Just a band.
Nirvana - Just a band.
The Pixies - Just a band.
Oasis - Just a band.
Radiohead - Just a band.
Bloc Party - Just a band.
The Arctic Monkeys - Just a band.
Lady GaGa - JUST A BAND.
posted by The World Famous at 9:25 AM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


This Just In: Lady Gaga Flips Bird at Mets-Padres Game.
posted by marxchivist at 10:04 AM on June 11, 2010


The shit kicker however will be when those 20 year old passionately arguing how important Gaga is today, will find themselves overcome in the next decade by another group of 20 year olds doing the same for another new and young artist. They’ll liken Gaga as a female musician/artist as we do Madonna, Dale Bozzio, Grace Jones, Joan Baez, Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin (ad nauseum) as they slowly age into understanding how pale she was in comparison to those that proceeded her in timing, talent and tenacity. Enjoying Gaga is different from likening Gaga to those brave souls that actually had to break down doors, redefine stereotypes, justify politic and poetry to suit them as opposed to suiting the self stylized ADHD media generation of today.

I'm not 20, so maybe I'm not even old enough to quality getting denounced by you, but I think perhaps what this 20 year old is arguing is that nothing is important in any way other than "subjective", that everybody has different ideas of what matters and what doesn't, and that discussions of which bands are more/less culturally relevant is pretty fucking stupid. That's not to say some bands weren't bigger than others, or more memorable; it's just to say that it doesn't matter whether they were or not.

I only listen to Grace Jones of those people on your list. She didn't do much for me. But if we're talking women musician/artists, there are vastly better people (in my subjective opinion) than the ones on your list. Kate Bush. Patti Smith. Every member of the Raincoats. Does the fact that I like/appreciate how fucking awesome Kate Bush is invalidate your theory that we exist within our decade and no further? The fact that a teenager today has access to more thorough archives of music than any teenager's ever had, that doesn't help them develop a sense of perspective?
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:31 AM on June 11, 2010


Why don't you listen to Madonna? While not everything she does is the best, a few of her albums are truly brilliant.
posted by The World Famous at 10:51 AM on June 11, 2010


Not to speak for Rory Marinich, but I don't listen to Madonna because she was constantly playing, being talked about, whatever during my childhood and adolescence, so most (if not all) of her best stuff is just not interesting to me as more than nostalgia. I had The Immaculate Collection before I even understood the pun.

(sorry for the snitty comment above, by the way)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:05 AM on June 11, 2010


that everybody has different ideas of what matters and what doesn't, and that discussions of which bands are more/less culturally relevant is pretty fucking stupid. That's not to say some bands weren't bigger than others, or more memorable; it's just to say that it doesn't matter whether they were or not.

Just because everybody has "different ideas of what matters and what doesn't" doesn't mean that everybody's ideas are equally relevant, certainly not in any quantifiable way. Otherwise, let's just open the floodgates and give neo-fascist guy's opinions about Martin Luther King equal weight to say, Nelson Mandela's.

That would be just dumb, no?

So why should it be any different when discussing music? This isn't to deny your passion for whatever you're into. Man, when I was 19, I would've quickly rated Styx and Kansas in my top ten bands, and often argued my passion deep into the night, usually against somebody arguing for Devo or the Sex Pistols or the Talking Heads. And guess what, thirty some years later, not only do I bow to the more profound cultural relevance of those bands, I also like them WAY FUCKING MORE than Styx or Kansas.

Call it all subjective but man, I'm glad that I got over my initial subjectivity, actually paid attention to various consensus agreements (multiplicities of shared subjectivity?), explored them and, in many cases, came to see their value. But not always. I still think Elvis Costello's way over-rated by the "critical establishment". I still think the Yes of 1970-75 are criminally under-rated. And no, not just because Yes's music "sends me", but because I see and feel and hear its impact in all manner of ways, percolating in and out of all the weird nooks and crannies of the ongoing, ever evolving, cross-pollinating, self-cannibalizing dynamic we call culture.

Deny it all you want. But be careful, it might just eat you.
posted by philip-random at 11:10 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's always going to be hubris to tell the current generation that their music is less important, less groundbreaking than they think it is.

First: You have no clue how the music of the current generation (which is always in a whole bunch of fragments across genres, audiences, and geography anyway) will be regarded in 10, 20, 40 years, so you're probably be wrong.

Second: Even if you're right, you won't know that for 10, 20, 40 years.

Third: It's rude and does not make you any friends.

I think I'll go watch High Fidelity now.
posted by artlung at 11:13 AM on June 11, 2010


I don't listen to Madonna because she was constantly playing, being talked about, whatever during my childhood and adolescence, so most (if not all) of her best stuff is just not interesting to me as more than nostalgia.

I was thinking more of Ray of Light and Confessions On A Dance Floor (and Music, to some extent) than the "nostalgia" Madonna material. Some dumb lyrics notwithstanding, COADF is an absolutely brilliant dance album.
posted by The World Famous at 11:22 AM on June 11, 2010


Third: It's rude and does not make you any friends.

Some of my best friends are people who told me I was wrong, even if they had to be rude about it.
posted by philip-random at 11:49 AM on June 11, 2010


The 4 Madonna albums which transcend: Like A Prayer, I'm Breathless, Ray Of Light, Confessions On A Dance Floor. All of them manage to become more than what they should be. Like A Prayer and Ray Of Light, in particular, are definitive works. The first is largely about the lessons learned from her relationship with Sean Penn; the second is largely about the lessons she learned as she got into mysticism.
posted by hippybear at 12:05 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath: "Sorry, this is just get-off-my-lawn-ism."

TFB. Cry me a river, this doesn't negate what I perceive to be the truth of it. I'm trying to read through this thread with an open mind, I like the passion, but most of the arguments I'm reading are houses of cards. There's no way I'm going to concede that Gaga is as important to the cultural world in the music sphere as the Stones, the Beatles, Dylan, Madonna, Janis, etc. This is what reading down this discussion has shaped up to be and this is what I'm stating my opinion about.

Suffice to say I do believe one has to put things in historical context at some point to really get it, really see the big picture, and of course the big picture is always evolving. I absolutely admit it is not finite. Art is a natural reflection of human history. The cultural pendulum swings back and forth but still moves incessantly on. If you're just dismissing my opinion because I'm looking at stuff with a little bit of age behind me and context, then you smack of clear wet-behind-the-ears-ism and punctuate my point exactly. Fyi, some of cited artists predate me in case you were assuming I lived through them, which also punctuates my argument. NKOTB & the Spice girls were the freaking hottest thing ever, they both outsold the Beatles with an opening album so clearly they had to be quality right? Momentary popularity doesn't really indicate quality.

The world is vastly different from 40 years ago and puts Gaga in context on how lucky she is to be right now, and how different she might have been in another age. My mother wasn't able or expected to go to college, women's lib was still young, brave and battled for. Not arguing Gaga's genius or lack thereof, it's simply nothing to now suit up a leather bikini as it was in the 60s, 70s & 80, mostly because you had Grace, Debra, Patti, Madonna before you taking those hits over and *over* again. Rock & Pop are still new and you can't argue there wasn't a certain advantage to being a pioneer of it. Those that were first and let's say less weighty are still sifted out by judgement. No one thinks Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show simply great because they were there... and hell Shel Silverstein wrote that song.

Gaga is a tempest in a teapot, is she or isn't she? What's her sexuality, what does she really mean by "Beautiful Dirty Rich"? It's fun fodder gossip with little real importance. With all that is happening out there, real solid cultural movements of significant weight like say, gay marriage, who really cares if people are gossiping if Gaga has a dick? It is bait and distraction, I applaud it for what it is, but I'm not going to delude myself that it's more than it is. That is indeed the hook. Pop has its place, and sadly now most artists have a severely limited shelf life before being tossed out after a bad year. Does it mean that justifies Gaga as the goddess of pop destruction? No, that's a convenient inferring and I like it but the cycle still churns on. She's had 2 years? There will be someone else in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years... if not quicker. If Gaga is lucky to last, then we can reasses, but in 20 years poor Gaga will have to go through what Madonna is now, people calling her too old to be crotch thrusting no matter how hot she is (and I think Madonna is still damn hot).

Joan Baez was harassed by the government for singing peace songs as part of a cultural dissention this nation never before had seen. Madonna sang about having a baby out of wedlock and was seized upon by the Vatican as a target for excommunication. Grace Jones screamed her way into legitimizing female anger and raw artistic passion. This seems trivial now but think of all the zealot nuts that came out and actively threatened these women. You honestly think the doors that these woman had to break through just naturally following their vision is in any way similar to Gaga seeking fame by capitalizing on the pop drama? She dazzles, she glams, she definitely is media savvy and I appreciate that but she does not transform culture in any real way. Gaga is derivative, not the opposite. Don't get me wrong, I believe that sometimes music should be appreciated because it's fun and I enjoy of the Terry Gilliam-esque vision, but let's have a little bit of appreciation for the fact that artist before not only had to justify their existence but their depth of talent against a not-so-accepting backdrop. Rock & Pop are really relatively young and I don't deny that in 100 years it IS plausible another band will outdo even the Beatles… but if you tell me it's Gaga, I simply have to laugh at you.

Let's be absolutely honest, no cultural door had to be dropkicked for any one of Gaga's videos / songs, and as it stands now, no one will ever be reviewing Gaga lyrics as contemporary poetry, or seize upon the sheer genius of her musical inventiveness. Although I applaud her post-modernist sensibilities in capitalizing on the general sense of a dying dystopia and blowing the MF out, but I think I'm making this assessment more than she is. I am reaching to read too much into it. It's pretty, it's catchy, I can dance to it, I give it a 64.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2guQYivZ6w&feature=related

>I believe that all of us, whether we're aware of it or not, feel keenly the heartache caused by our rigorously structured and systematic view of history and time; it hems us in, it locks us in place, and it makes us slaves to fashion and the times, ever in fear of losing our edge.<>

I'm gobsmacked. You may bask in your attempted ignorance and justify it however you like, but this just seems like a ridiculous statement to me. I am constantly reminded and keenly aware that with everything I learn, the more possibilities I have to artistically draw from… and the less I actually know.


I like/appreciate how fucking awesome Kate Bush is invalidate your theory that we exist within our decade and no further?

No, I have a 14 year old who swears that the Jonas Brothers are quite simply the best band of her whole generation 4EVA but still loves DEVO and thinks they're pretty awesome. I cited 20 years old because it seems like the median age for high school to college grad-ish. It's that same age I and my friends also thought we invented everything, or everything with worth. A head full of steam to argument my point without caring about context. I absolutely never said you exist in your own decade, indeed I said that accruing those decades gives one a little bit of perspective that previously one didn't posess. It's all piss and vinegar at the beginning and rightly so but it's still just piss and vinegar. Now I care about context and enjoy the revision of the steam when it suits me. Don't take it too personal. To be honest, *you personally* don't matter (yet or ever) in the swinging cultural boot-step so you can't really invalidate historical movements or my capitalizing on them. It's a flaw for you and me but a necessary device. Don't get offended, I don't matter much in the generalizations either. We want to believe in the beautiful unique snowflake but it isn't always so.

Third: It's rude and does not make you any friends.

It's rude for me to substantiate my argument but perfectly ok others? Let's not be friends.

posted by eatdonuts at 1:25 PM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: More blah-blah about Gaga's dada.
posted by chairface at 1:26 PM on June 11, 2010


NKOTB & the Spice girls were the freaking hottest thing ever

Nobody thought NKOTB or Spice Girls were artists, sorry.
posted by empath at 1:58 PM on June 11, 2010


Rock & Pop are really relatively young and I don't deny that in 100 years it IS plausible another band will outdo even the Beatles… but if you tell me it's Gaga, I simply have to laugh at you.

I will come back to this thread in 10 years just to laugh at the short-sightedness of this comment.
posted by empath at 2:01 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


tl;dr:

Point is... this is freaking awesome, but it don't make it important.

;)
posted by eatdonuts at 2:01 PM on June 11, 2010


I will come back to this thread in 10 years just to laugh at the short-sightedness of this comment.

Good luck with that. I look forward to Gaga reaching a level on par with the Beatles in terms of influence and cultural importance.
posted by eatdonuts at 2:03 PM on June 11, 2010


Point is... this is freaking awesome , but it don't make it important.

I think I could make a pretty solid argument for the importance of Fatboy Slim's overall body of work.
posted by empath at 2:10 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> think I could make a pretty solid argument for the importance of Fatboy Slim's overall body of work.

Which is, imho, miles above Gaga, even in all its fratboy stoner conceit.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:11 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, you may say that Fatboy Slim's influence only extended to 'electronic dance music', but world wide, I'd say that more people making music today are more directly actively influenced by Fatboy Slim than by anything Paul McCartney did:

How many Eleanor Rigby pastiches do you hear on the radio, vs how many songs do you hear that sound like this?

Gaga is still a kid, but I think you'll find that a generation of young kids just discovering music are going to look to her as a touchstone of what 'pop music' is, in the same way that kids of my generation looked to Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince.
posted by empath at 2:16 PM on June 11, 2010


I think I could make a pretty solid argument for the importance of Fatboy Slim's overall body of work.


Maybe you should have empath instead of trying to convince me that Gaga is monumental in the cultural development of music. I might be more open to that argument considering his work also. However, considering your stance on the former, I'm weary about what you'd put forth in the latter. You're just ready to argue anything, eh?
posted by eatdonuts at 2:18 PM on June 11, 2010


Honestly, you seem so out of touch with pop music that I have no idea where to start.
posted by empath at 2:39 PM on June 11, 2010


Honestly, you seem so out of touch with pop music that I have no idea where to start.

I'm kinda digging what's been happening with MGMT's Kids of late. But I guess that's all so f***ing 2008.
posted by philip-random at 2:53 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many Eleanor Rigby pastiches do you hear on the radio, vs how many songs do you hear that sound like this?

Interestingly enough, the Fatboy Slim song you linked is using strings that sound like the ones on Eleanor Rigby or Tomorrow Never Knows. And the drums sound an awful lot like Ringo.

And here's a telling quote from Fatboy Slim, explaining why Abbey Road is his desert island album: "I’d say “Abbey Road” by the Beatles because I think it’s one of the greatest pop records of all time and by the greatest songwriters who at that point were obviously then splitting up, and at the same time they had so many songs still left in them."
posted by The World Famous at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joan Baez was harassed by the government for singing peace songs as part of a cultural dissention this nation never before had seen. Madonna sang about having a baby out of wedlock and was seized upon by the Vatican as a target for excommunication. Grace Jones screamed her way into legitimizing female anger and raw artistic passion.

Platinum beanplating aside, as much as I have grown to admire Joan Baez for her political stands, I fail to see what that has to with her stature as a musical artist. She had a beautiful voice when she was young but she had a very mannered style of singing then, which has not aged all that well. And, as for her later career as a singer-songwriter, the less said, the better, in my opinion. Her biggest song was celebrity kiss-and-tell, with the accent on celebrity. And of all the things I can see lauding Madonna for, a song about a baby out of wedlock, well, it wasn't like she got an abortion, and it could be well argued that was a stance that had more to do with marketing than morals. And Grace Jones was a former model with a middling disco career. And don't even get me going about Stevie Woo Woo Nicks. All these people are celebrities but beyond that, it gets murky.

Madonna reminds me of those big name artists with an army of minions arranging her songs and staging her multimedia live shows with dancers--people have to get clearances for the images used, choreographers have to train the dancers and back up singers and the wardrobe department is the size of a small company. Her career seemed to be about her zooming her way up the hot producer food chain in the beginning, which raises all sorts of questions about her musical genius--whether was Madonna's breakout her doing or Nile Rodgers is a hair that can be split and resplit, for instance, but what she turned into was something between a brand and a corporation. I suppose Lady Gaga would not be possible without Madonna but beyond that I have no opinion.

I can see the arguments made here from both sides but the examples leave me cold.

But sign me up for the camp that thinks the Beatles are among the immortals. But then the next person will go on about how Arthur what'shisname of Love was the greatest artist of the 60s. And the one after that will get all cosmic about Karen Carpenter.

I do know this, though. The grade school age children of my younger friends adore the Beatles. As they adore Lady Gaga and Madonna, just as their parents adored both Beatles and Madonna. Which says a lot to me. And I have to say that after hearing a couple of nine year old girls sing me a medley of Lady Gag's hits that there is definitely something there musically. Whether that is her doing or her contractor's doing, I know not but, man, those were some hook laden songs.

But it's like that cellphone ad where the Model T topples into the microscope into the Bell X-1 into the Saturn 5 ad technological obsolescenceum, you can't step into the same popular cultural river twice. Especially when it stopped being a river a long time ago. The future just seems to be smaller and smaller niche demographics with their own soundtracks splitting smaller and smaller hairs. So, Lady Gaga is the last pop icon ? Mehbe.

But seeing her name and Miss Joan Ten Pounds of Sincerity in a Five Pound Bag Baez in the same thread ? To quote Ibn Hazm once more: Truly that is a miracle of wonder surpassing the tongues of the eloquent, and far beyond the most cunning speech to describe: the mind reels before it, and the intellect stands abashed.
posted by y2karl at 3:08 PM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tomorrow Never Knows.

I've long been of the opinion that this was the most important song they did.
posted by empath at 3:18 PM on June 11, 2010


I've long been of the opinion that this was the most important song they did.

Then, as now, the touch of a brilliant producer marked the difference between a good song an an iconic work.
posted by The World Famous at 3:30 PM on June 11, 2010


I remain fond of Fatboy Slim's work with The Housemartins.
posted by hippybear at 4:05 PM on June 11, 2010


Honestly, you seem so out of touch with pop music that I have no idea where to start.

So be it. It’s clear we’ve reached an impasse. I'm going to avoid the excellent Fatboy derail explored by others (that certainly could be explored), avoid pointing out the irony of citing Madonna’s production value or Joan Baez as a popular icon, and say that I look forward being proved wrong by historical perspective confirming Gaga reaching a level on par with the Beatles in terms of influence and cultural importance. At this juncture, I'm unconvinced and computer says no.
posted by eatdonuts at 4:55 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every line of music is doing something that's catching me. The first thing I think of, actually, is Michael Jackson's Billy Jean, which has a similar concentration of hooks that drive away every other quality in the music. That's what I think makes Gaga so rooted in pop.

I have heard so little of the music referenced that I have little to contribute but this was my assessment at hearing her songs sung by 9 year olds and from that homeopathic dosage of Gaga I would have to wholeheartedly agree. She is like a hook factory. I don't know if Gaga is for the ages but she sounds good sung by children. As do the Beatles.

I would argue, however, that the bassline is what makes Billy Jean. The rest is frosting. But that's just one halfbaked crackpot's opinion. Or just one more, if you prefer.
posted by y2karl at 5:10 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My preschooler sings Black Sabbath songs all the time and they soud great and quite catchy. Therefore, I predict that, like Black Sabbath, Lady GaGa will have a continuing presence throughout the next several decades, but that Ronnie James Dio will replace her as the singer of the group in short order and that she will go on to have a lucrative solo career propelled by controversial and half-true rumors about her persona and alleged evil acts.
posted by The World Famous at 5:23 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for getoffmylawnism, well, from another view point it's life'sjusttooshortism. You live long enough and so much happens that you just can't keep up anymore. People collect records the same way people collect books--there is a point of no return where one has more than one could read, look at or listen to even if one spent every waking minute at it. And people always end up crowded at some point, by whippersnappers espousing a contrarian position because, as La Rochefoucauld put it, they find the best places in the right set already taken, and they do not want back seats. At some point, everyone, well, every guy, to be sure, wants to be the tape mixer, the download playlister, the person who wows the room with the elephantine breadth of their musical knowledge, the man with the hand on the turntable, flipping the tunes for everyone else. To paraohrase Rimbaud, The Rock Crtic makes himself a seer by a long, immense, and rational dissoluteness of all the senses. All the forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, to only keep their quintessences. Inexpressible torture where he needs all the faith, all the superhuman strength, where be becomes, above all others, th egreat patient, the great criminal, the great accursed, - and the supreme Savant! - For he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone else! He reaches the unknown, and when, terrified, he ends up by losing the meaning of his visions, at least he has seen them! Let him die of his bound through the unheard-of and countless things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where the other has succumbed!

We start out as savants and end as spent salmon just swum back from the sea, rotting in the streams where we hatched. You reach the point where you can't keep up. And it just doesn't matter anymore. So, either you then chase the kids off the lawn or you corner them and talk about Lady Gaga. Or play them Lawrence Welk rvideos until they cry.

So, regarding pop music: what is the short answer for who is great and for the ages ?

Whoever I was listening to when I was in high school. That is the universal truth.
posted by y2karl at 6:18 PM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


As for getoffmylawnism, well, from another view point it's life'sjusttooshortism.

That's precisely what getoffmylawnism is.

You don't care about anything new, that's fine, but don't pretend its because its not as good as what you do care about.
posted by empath at 8:10 PM on June 11, 2010


That's precisely what getoffmylawnism is.

You don't care about anything new, that's fine, but don't pretend its because its not as good as what you do care about.


True ... and yet (and this is something that the gravitas of added decades is good for), one's bullshit detection does improve with each unique (yet strangely familiar) pop cycle that one experiences. So yeah, 50 year old me can take one look at Lady Gaga and say, Madonna-in-Marilyn-Manson-drag, the image ain't doing it for me, but I didn't get Bowie out of the box either, so I'll at least give it a listen, and I do ... and so far, it just sounds like manufactured something or other, far less odious than the likes of Britney and blah-blah-blah, but it still ain't cutting through, too much sheen, not enough grit and genuine soul ... So I stop trying and put on some old Prince instead, because I KNOW that's good.

But I could be wrong. I've been wrong before. I will be wrong again. This is another thing that the gravitas of added decades gives one. Humility.
posted by philip-random at 8:35 PM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, regarding pop music: what is the short answer for who is great and for the ages ?

Whoever I was listening to when I was in high school. That is the universal truth.


I don't know. For the most part I now hate most of the bands I listened to in high school. No truth is universal.
posted by caddis at 8:40 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> So, regarding pop music: what is the short answer for who is great and for the ages ?

Tchaikovsky's big symphony numbers. So damn catchy and timeless.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 PM on June 11, 2010


You don't care about anything new, that's fine, but don't pretend its because its not as good as what you do care about.

Not true--it's more like I care less about popular music, period, consuming it or talking about it or making the be all and end for all time. You get to a point sometimes when not listening to music becomes important. Maybe if I could be forever young and possessed of an unlimited set of brain cells but, nah, even with that, what I get out of music changed as I got older. It just gets more complex and layered and overlayered with everything you live through. Being the expert in the latest thing becomes less important when you live through enough latest things and run out of things in which you alone are the expert.

I do know what you are talking about, though--when I was doing various music shows in the 70s for KRAB FM, which was one of the few independent community stations in the country, before NPR and PRI and not affiliated with Pacifica. The station management and, consequently, the music shows were dominated by people who were still fighting over bop vs swing. In the record library, any record not recorded before World War II was categorized as Urban Blues. Dr. Buzzard's Savannah Band, for example, was Urban Blues.

I went through hell getting a reggae show and the only thing that shoehorned me in was that the ethnomusicological wing of the music producers who were playing popular music from the Far East, Near East and Africa--what later became the category of world music--Garfias's kids were already playing it and they had social capital enough to get away with it. I got to do a funk show later on when I got enough social capital there, that people trusted my judgment on things they knew even if they hated what I played when they knew it not. They also hated all the New Music shows--electronic music and new music sent them up a wall, but the fact that people were playing records that sold in the hundreds max, stuff by people who made Anthony Braxton, in comparison seem as universally popular as the Beatles, counted for something. And from that experience, I know people who are proud that they don't know the names of the Beatles and can hate on them because they never listened to anything recorded after World War II. And then I know people who hate the Beatles because their parents grew up liking them. What both have in common is a set point: the Beatles suck. Then there are people who like the Beatles but hate everything Beatle not associated with Yoko Ono. And vice versa. Nobody wants to like what everyone likes, I guess.

As for here, I am interested in what people are saying and find myself agreeing with everyone at one point or another. And I have little interest in hating on other people's likes. What they get out of their favorites may be a mystery to me but that they are getting something out of their favorites is an obvious fact. I get tired of the rancor and and the need to put things down because they are old. Or new. That is what LifeIsTooShortIsm means to me. Not that I don't trash other people's likes from time to time, just to be honest.

I still know people who hate swing and find it an abomination. And I know people who are proud of the fact that they hate the Beatles as they are that they were the first kids on their block to buy Laurie Anderson or that they have every Anthony Braxton record. I just bite my tongue a lot. It's not that I don't care about what's new, it's just that I care less about the whole thing and especially care less about the all ego involved. I know what I like, new or old, and am content with liking it without needing to trash what is new or old. For some people, I am the moldiest of moldy figs but that's just because they have no idea what a moldy fig is--I know people who consider me total sellout for saying nice things about anything recorded after 1933.

Tomorrow Never Knows.

I've long been of the opinion that this was the most important song they did.


And I've long been of the opinion that In My Life was the most important song they did. But I heard the Beatles when I did and you heard them when you did. And that is a matter of context and perspective. One need not negate the other in my opinion. Life is just too short.

Lady Gaga ? I think people read too much into her pro and con but, man, she has something going on. But as I know next to nothing about her, I am of no fixed opinion regarding her. And I don't hate her. Underexposure can be so kind. I just find her interesting in many regards. I don't know how much time I want to spend on her but there is something there.
posted by y2karl at 10:51 PM on June 11, 2010


Picture yourself on a goat with some liver.

I have it on good information that that was Lennon's original line, rewritten at the last minute in the studio.

Which, for no good reason, reminds me of one of my favorite Paul McCartney lines: "wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door". That puzzled the hell out of me when I first heard it as a 9 year old. But I liked it.

Underexposure can be so kind.

So true. You know, she's virtually unknown here in Japan, far as I can tell. Well, anyway, I never see her picture or hear her music on the giant TV screens that I pass, or in the stores I go into, or on the radio...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:54 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some dumb lyrics notwithstanding, COADF is an absolutely brilliant dance album.

Dear God, you are fucking joking right? Hung Up was the only decent song on that album, the rest was filler.

The 4 Madonna albums which transcend: Like A Prayer, I'm Breathless, Ray Of Light, Confessions On A Dance Floor.

The first three, yes. And RoL, in spades--there is nothing on that album that is not worth listening to repeatedly.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:49 AM on June 12, 2010


yes, you have convinced me that I have bad taste in music.
posted by The World Famous at 8:34 AM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, she's virtually unknown here in Japan, far as I can tell.

Gaga in Japan
posted by empath at 9:02 AM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


But I could be wrong. I've been wrong before. I will be wrong again. This is another thing that the gravitas of added decades gives one. Humility.

Hey! I will be, I have been and no doubt am way wronger than you. And as for humility, I am way more humble than you.
posted by y2karl at 2:49 PM on June 12, 2010


Okay, I will just say my last word on this topic. Pop music now is as good as pop music has ever been and as good as it will ever be. There are no such things as golden ages.
posted by empath at 3:12 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And as for humility, I am way more humble than you.

Fuck you. I'm way more humble.

And empath's wrong. Good as pop may be now (and I hope haven't suggested anywhere that it isn't), the golden ages are real. They just haven't happened yet.
posted by philip-random at 4:48 PM on June 12, 2010


flapjax writes: You know, she's virtually unknown here in Japan, far as I can tell.

empath links: Gaga in Japan

Yeah, well, you gotta understand, empath... I don't even OWN a TV.* I also am not a regular reader of Vogue Japan...

But seriously, a couple of appearances as dancing gaijin doll on these ubiquitous and ridiculous local-style variety shows (she's no doubt been seen sucking down noodles or getting hit on the head with an oversize rubber hammer on some other one somewhere) don't really add up to major stardom here, believe it or not. I said virtually unknown, not completely and totally unknown. Relative to many of her Japanese counterparts, home-grown singers like Amuro Namie (and many others whose names I certainly cannot be bothered to remember), Lady Gaga is but a blip on the pop radar in Japan. Domestic product far outsells any imported pop music, and receives much, much more TV and radio airtime. Take a look at this Wiki list of top-selling singles in Japan, 1968-2006: not a single non-Japanese act in the bunch. Scroll down to the international act singles and see how the numbers compare. Note the dramatic decline in terms of decades as well: the last year on that list to even cough up enough sales to make the grade was, um, "Venus" by Shocking Blue. A reissue. In 1997. Heh heh! That's just the way it is here, has been for a long time, and Lady Gaga hasn't changed anything in that regard. As a foreign act, she is still at the periphery of the pop consciousness on this tiny island.

*as per the meme
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:48 PM on June 12, 2010


Rock & Pop are really relatively young and I don't deny that in 100 years it IS plausible another band will outdo even the Beatles… but if you tell me it's Gaga, I simply have to laugh at you.

I will come back to this thread in 10 years just to laugh at the short-sightedness of this comment.
posted by empath at 2:01 PM on June 11


No, you won't. But if you did, the chagrin would be on the other foot, so to speak.

Alternatively, if you have the ability to identify generationally important, genre defining talent this quickly, then you should be making millions as a talent scout and producer laughing at us from your giant yacht.

Alternatively alternatively, if you think people are going to be referring to "Poker Face" 25 years from now as some sort of musical icon of the ages, you are not even wrong.

You can just say you like her music without painting yourself into such a laughable and inescapable corner.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 9:13 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath: On re-reading your previous comments in the thread, I think I may have misunderstood what you were getting at.

If you are saying it is short-sighted to not believe that Gaga will be as revered as the Beatles, I stand by my post.

If you are saying it is short-sighted that noone in 100 years will surpass the Beatles, then I retract my comment in full and agree with you.

I think I read that line and mis-attributed some comments from way upstream to you.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 9:20 PM on June 12, 2010


flapjax: I wasn't disputing that she's 'not big in japan', just that your post made me curious about japanese tv appearances.

discount: Lady Gaga is 24 years old. She's done an album and a half. Anybody who says they know what she's capable of is kidding themselves. You're doing the equivalent of judging the Beatles on Please, Please Me, Love Me Do and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. And I'd happily put Paparazzi, Pokerface and Speechless up against those accomplished, but hardly ground breaking ditties.

Do I know for sure that she's going to be a hugely important and influential music artist? No. But nobody knows for sure that she won't be.
posted by empath at 8:36 AM on June 13, 2010


She's done an album and a half. Anybody who says they know what she's capable of is kidding themselves.

Yes. Thank you. This right here.

I've been saying since she first splashed on the scene, let me see what she does when she's done with this whole Fame/Monster thing she's got going right now. Let me see if she can find a way to sustain herself beyond the initial flurry of excitement about her, continue to fascinate so many, and continue to find a statement which people find worth listening to. So many artists in my lifetime were hailed as the Next New Big Number One Band Of All Time, and they simply fizzled. Classic case-in-point? Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
posted by hippybear at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2010


Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga.
posted by ovvl at 9:17 PM on June 13, 2010


I've been saying since she first splashed on the scene, let me see what she does when she's done with this whole Fame/Monster thing she's got going right now. Let me see if she can find a way to sustain herself beyond the initial flurry of excitement about her, continue to fascinate so many, and continue to find a statement which people find worth listening to. So many artists in my lifetime were hailed as the Next New Big Number One Band Of All Time, and they simply fizzled. Classic case-in-point? Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

i didn't enjoy Frankie Goes to Hollywood any less for wondering what their future work was going to be like; that they fizzled takes away no appreciation i had of them. so, let me see...to what purpose? to retroactively think she's all right after she proves herself to you as worthy? i think if Fame/Monster is the only thing she ever does, she's already damn amazing. she's captured the popular imagination; people who like her really like her. why is that any less an accomplishment if she never releases anything else?

i hope she continues do to great stuff. i hope her success to this point allows her the opportunity to take risks, even if they don't all work. but whatever happens i'm not going to revise down the delight i've enjoyed the past few months, nor would i put my present appreciation into some kind of long-term escrow that rather seems like placing one's bets after the race has run so that one does not risk appearing a loser.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:15 PM on June 13, 2010


whatever happens i'm not going to revise down the delight i've enjoyed the past few months, nor would i put my present appreciation into some kind of long-term escrow that rather seems like placing one's bets after the race has run so that one does not risk appearing a loser.

Dude, FGTH is one of my favorite bands, so this isn't about hedging my bets. It's about not being a victim to the bandwagon effect, and for myself, having a healthy dose of cynicism about any declarations of influence before any influence has been shown.

I don't like her music. You do. I'm not trying to diminish your enjoyment of her, but don't dismiss my dislike of her. Perhaps someday she will do something to make me reassess my opinion, but currently she does not appeal to me. I'm glad you enjoy her. Fabulous. With my comment, I'm just trying to give a tiny bit of context to people who are a bit over-the-top in their praise of her, because I've watched it happen over and over.
posted by hippybear at 9:46 AM on June 14, 2010


because I've watched it happen over and over.

the crux of the so-called "get-off-my-lawn" position. This is what you young'uns need to grok: the fact that somebody with a few decades on you might just smell the rotting flesh long before you do, and we're just trying to save you some nasty, stomach turning future embarrassments. On the other hand, sometimes a fresh new living thing must sneak into the game via the secret entrance that connects to the abattoir, so by all means call us on our bullshit ... and ummm, we can argue about it, on the internet.

And Frankie Goes To Hollywood's first four singles (Relax, Two Tribes, Welcome to the Pleasure Dome and The Power Of Love) are more than any culture should expect from any artist. They did their bit straight out of the bag. They changed the world, and you could dance to it.
posted by philip-random at 11:02 AM on June 14, 2010


I'm not trying to diminish your enjoyment of her, but don't dismiss my dislike of her.

in part i'm trying to understand the active dislike. i can't identify with the need to talk about disliking a certain brand of music or artist, considering that talking about it is engaging with it, and there's too much stuff to enjoy and too little time to lounge in that negative space. the popular culture is fractured enough that it is quite easy to avoid stuff you don't want to hear or see (notwithstanding that metafilter is populated by many users who are mysteriously forced to engage in topics they despise and who are somehow contractually obligated to inform us every time this happens, though i'm guessing they don't do this at parties); it's not like the old days when you had like two radio stations in town and were forced to endure the mainstream fads, or not listen at all.

it is in this sense that i don't get the argument from the point of whether lady gaga will be an enduring influence and how her legitimacy is tied to that; it is impossible to predict, and it is rather pointless in the here and now to consider how we'll reflect on our current appreciation ten years down the line. being over-the-top with praise would have practical significant consequences in many contexts, but dance pop doesn't seem one of them. it doesn't really hurt anything that it happens over and over.

to me this angle comes across as kind of a variation on how some people really like an artist but reflexively give up their appreciation when the artist becomes popular or mainstream.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:04 PM on June 14, 2010


in part i'm trying to understand the active dislike.

I suspect that it is correlated with the practically weekly front page posts about GaGa. Just a hunch.
posted by The World Famous at 12:59 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Lady Gaga drawing inspiration from Madonna's vast catalog isn't anything new, but this video mash-up highlights how much better Madonna did... well, everything." *
posted by ericb at 2:21 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect that it is correlated with the practically weekly front page posts about GaGa. Just a hunch.

So that gang of thugs forcing you to click [more inside], are they armed with guns or baseball bats?

I ask merely for information.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:23 PM on June 14, 2010


So that gang of thugs forcing you to click [more inside], are they armed with guns or baseball bats?

It was worse than that. They were exactly like the dancing gang members from the Beat It video, but they kept insisting that what they were doing was totally original and groundbreaking. And they had Diet Coke cans in their hair.
posted by The World Famous at 2:47 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just gonna go ahead and quote myself...
I am a little monster, and happy to be such.

Others are not little monsters, and are happy to be such.

Perhaps, and I know this is a ridiculous request, the latter could stay the fuck out of Gaga threads, and the former could shut the fuck up about the latter?

I'm pretty certain that's what Gaga would want, anyway. Her whole point is being who you are and happy about it and not fucking with someone else's happiness.

Back to your separate corners.*
And accordingly shall now shut the fuck up about you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:55 PM on June 14, 2010


Perhaps, and I know this is a ridiculous request, the latter could stay the fuck out of Gaga threads

You seem to be arguing that Gaga Metafilter FPPs ought ought to read like Gaga fansite FPPs. Personally, I can't see that working around here where many have learned to be skeptical of enthusiasm. Not a good thing. Just a thing.
posted by philip-random at 4:11 PM on June 14, 2010


There is a difference between attempting to engage in good faith, and the usual suspects crawling out of the woodwork every time to yell to all and sundry how much they hate Gaga. We know. It's old. It's tiresome. It's no different than the people who threadshit all over Apple threads.

We know you don't like her. That's fine, we're sick of hearing it. Nobody forces you to read these threads, so whining and bitching that there are too many rings just a little false.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:16 PM on June 14, 2010


Who, specifically, are you referring to, dirtynumbangelboy? I'm not seeing a whole lot of hate for Lady GaGa in this thread. Nor am I seeing any bad faith discussion. I'm seeing some annoyance at what some perceive as excessive adulation. And I see a pretty courteous and articulate discussion that has gone to some fairly cerebral territory (as far as electro-pop goes, anyway). I'm not seeing much, if any, threadshitting.

If what you're looking for is an all-praise-all-the-time Lady GaGa internet experience, well, nobody forces you to read these threads, either.

And I suspect that Lady GaGa would be pleased as punch that she can provoke the sort of discussion that people have had here about the nature of fame, musical influence, longevity, and the evolution of pop music. It's one thing to make music and videos that get people talking. It's a much more impressive accomplishment to get them talking intelligently about issues with substance.
posted by The World Famous at 4:41 PM on June 14, 2010


I'm seeing some annoyance at what some perceive as excessive adulation.

and that is pretty much exactly what I am talking about here. You guys have made your point, and guess what? We still like her. Continuing to harp on it serves what purpose, precisely? The only possible end goal you could have in mind is for us to say "Oh jeez, you're right! Gaga is terrible and I shouldn't like her, so now I don't anymore."

Which really boils down to ruining the pleasure someone else takes in something that you don't.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:05 PM on June 14, 2010


The only possible end goal you could have in mind is for us to say "Oh jeez, you're right! Gaga is terrible and I shouldn't like her, so now I don't anymore."

I don't understand this. How is it that the only possible goal of saying "GaGa's ok but the weekly worship thread on Metafilter is getting tiresome" is to convince you that GaGa is terrible? Can you explain the logic that you used in order to arrive at your conclusion as to what can be the only possible goal?

Also, I take it from your reference to "you" that you think that I am one of the "usual suspects" to which you refer. Is that correct? Because my only goal in mentioning that, yes, we know that people like Lady GaGa, and yes, hearing about on the front page is old and tiresome, is that maybe the next person tempted to post on the front page about Lady GaGa will first look at the ladygaga tag and notice that there have already been 20 posts with that tag and think for a moment that maybe that's enough for a while.

Then again, there are 132 with the "beatles" tag, so maybe more GaGa is in order.
posted by The World Famous at 5:18 PM on June 14, 2010


And you are the arbiter of 'enough' because...?

How many people are forcing you to read the threads? Or are you bitching about the .0001 seconds of your life you lose by clicking 'down' a little more to look at the next post?

Like I said: we enjoy Gaga. You don't. That's fine. I'm not sure why you think it's okay to set yourself--or indeed any of the other people who bitch about Gaga--up as the gatekeepers for what we enjoy.

So how about you stop trying to do that? You have made your point. Move on. The motivations of you lot who are all "eww, more Gaga, I don't like it and I'll tell you why yet again" are suspect, to say the least.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:22 PM on June 14, 2010


And you are the arbiter of 'enough' because...?

I am the arbiter of my own opinion. And I even threw a few "maybes" in there, for good measure.

How many people are forcing you to read the threads?

Nobody is forcing me to read the threads. I enjoy reading about and discussing pop music.

Or are you bitching about the .0001 seconds of your life you lose by clicking 'down' a little more to look at the next post?

I'm not bitching about anything.

Like I said: we enjoy Gaga. You don't.

Then you said wrong. I do enjoy GaGa.

You have made your point. Move on.

If the "point" to which you're referring is that some people here get predictably annoyed when there's a new GaGa thread every week, then yes, I have made that point. I haven't really spent much time on it, and I think I've discussed the actual subject matter of the post more than anything else here. Does that constitute "moving on?" Or do I not get to enter the gate?

The motivations of you lot who are all "eww, more Gaga, I don't like it and I'll tell you why yet again" are suspect, to say the least.

What does that even mean? To borrow a meme, if you don't like being told that your favorite band sucks, don't post about your favorite band every week. For whatever it's worth, I don't even think Lady GaGa sucks. You, on the other hand, have expressly attacked my opinion about music that you apparently don't like. What makes you think it's okay to set yourself up as the gatekeeper for what I enjoy?
posted by The World Famous at 5:43 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, if you want a room, there's a fairly cheap motel right over there. Altough I must admit the color scheme is a bit drab.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:56 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I'll just pop in again and say that my Gaga=Beatles comparison was tongue-in-cheek, and that for all I hope she turns out to be brilliant I'm pretty sure she's the only person who knows for certain how ambitious her musical aims are.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:06 PM on June 15, 2010


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