This hasn’t much to do with lyrics, but bear with me.
Lady Gaga confuses me. Her fans insist that she’s really musically talented, and they’re right.
I mean, good God. She can sing, she’s a first-rate pianist, and she can write her own stuff (all too rare in the pop world).
So why does an artist who can make songs like this…
…insist on making crap like this?
Some of her critics have theorized that her appeal is really all about her image and how weird she can be. Honestly, the image has always felt like a pose to me, at least compared to the effortless weirdness of psychedelic music like this song by Pink Floyd in their early years:
It’s like the difference between Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp in the role of Willy Wonka. Wilder convinced you that, at least through the character’s eyes, all of this was perfectly normal–the weirdness was simply part of the character rather than an affectation of the performer. Johnny Depp’s Wonka, however, conveyed nothing other than “here’s John ny Depp trying to be weird, make of him what you will.” Depp was just trying so very, very hard, and it made the result nothing so much as embarrassing.
The upshot of that tortured analogy is that while Lady Gaga does a lot of weird, she doesn’t do it very well. And I might as well go on to say that I don’t like very many of her hits. I don’t like “Poker Face,” I don’t like “Alejandro,” I hate “Telephone” with a passion…I mostly liked “Bad Romance” just for the BWAAHAAH value, in spite of the fact that it is, let’s face it, basically just “Poker Face” but massively better.
What all these songs have in common is that they’re all intentionally pitched low; she pretends she can’t sing, dumbs down her lyrics, and waits for the cash to roll in, all of which constitutes a huge middle finger to those of us who like to listen to good music. I think “Love Game” represents the zenith of this.
To be embarrassingly honest, I can’t actually bring myself to hate this song. It’s so wonderfully, gloriously stupid that hating it is like hating an unruly puppy–sure, you don’t like what it’s doing, but it’s a puppy, that’s just what it does.
No my real problem with Lady Gaga became clear to me after I listened to the two-disc extended edition of her first album and realized that I liked far more of her songs than I didn’t. As long as I made very sure to hit the skip button upon hearing the first few notes of any of the insufferable mega-hits, I could easily get through the album without having heard any bad music.
What really tipped the scale for me was when I got to one particular song, and let me tell you, it left me…well…
I don’t care who you are, that is just a flat-out good song, one that Elton John would have been proud to write. So why does this song have to languish on the album while we make hits out of things like this?
That was sn excerpt from “Poker Face,” her biggest hit. What is wrong with you people? We’ve been sending Lady Gaga the wrong message, we’ve been telling her that what we really want is stupid, tuneless, and loud. And if her “Born This Way” album is any indication, she took every bit of that advice to heart. Nearly every song on that album was noisy, overproduced, and grating. I liked “You and I” (I omit the superfluous umlaut deliberately), I liked “Edge of Glory,” and after a few listens I can even summon up some affection for the demented “Government Hooker.” I daresay some of the other tracks may eventually wear me down, but on the whole I felt like I had listened to the product of an unusually productive collaboration between a pretentious high-school poet and a particularly enthusiastic stadium of vuvuzelas.
Dance music doesn’t have to be bad. Everything deserves effort, everything deserves scrutiny, and even the most stillborn songs deserve their day in court. If anyone is going to bring truly great dance music to the masses, it will be Lady Gaga. I just wish she would.