On Lady Gaga

One of the fascinating things about the talented Lady Gaga is her complex relationship with pop culture and her meta-critical stance that implicates herself in the very thing she satirizes; this is evidence, for instance in the music video for “Bad Romance.” “Money Honey” is a delightfully ironic song; “keep your money, don’t give it to me!” Gaga sings to a packed stadium filled with fans who had together paid thousands of dollars to see her, a song she wrote partially to earn her living in a career that relies on others giving her their money.

Gaga is upfront about her she does in interviews.  In one such interview, she notably admits that she aims to make music that is “interesting,” but also “commercial.”  Her dual motive is reminiscent of that of the Canadian poet Pauline Johnson.  Johnson wanted to represent the sufferings of First Nations people, but she also wanted to “make a million dollars.”

Gaga is a figure wrought with ironies, many of which are artfully and intelligently self-constructed; she is admirable because she is not afraid to be herself, but her public “self” is a pastiche of plastic pop and fashion conventions and pregiven models artistically transformed into glamour.  Her novelty lies in her new recombination of the old, like so much in our postmodern age.

As a human being, Gaga is also fraught with fascinating tensions between her soft, polite off-stage persona and her loud, outlandish on-stage persona, between her moments of profundity and thriving in superficiality, between her yearning for a higher love and her embracing of bodily hypersexual aesthetics.

It is perhaps for these latter reasons that I find her most interesting, for she is not a seamless monolithic personality; she is a modern individual, a complex human being veiling her complexity in the polished finish of a superficial persona constructed within cultural contexts that give it meaning.


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