Artist of the Year: Lady Gaga

I don’t know when I first heard her name, but it wasn’t until I read this article in Slate that I thought to myself, “Hm. Wonder if I should look into that.”

I’m am no pop music aficionado. The last time I listened to Top 40 radio, cassette tapes were the cutting-edge technology, okay? In high school I discovered college radio, punk rock, the B-52s and Depeche Mode. The Pixies are easily my favorite band ever, ranked right up there with Nirvana, Radiohead, Tori Amos, and Green Day. Before her, the music that was turning me on in 2009 included The Decemberists, The Arcade Fire, and M.I.A.

Then — and this is the weirdest story ever — I went to my niece’s first dance recital, and a group of 6-year-olds (I know, I don’t know who picked the music, either) did a routine to this funky song that wormed its way into my brain. And I said to myself, that’s her, and I have to find out more.

An obsession was born.

I YouTube’d her — a lot. I read about her in Rolling Stone and on Wikipedia. I was intrigued by her image, and completely hooked by her hooks. After listening to “Poker Face” and “Love Game” about a thousand times, I got the album from the library and burned it to my iTunes.

And it made me wish I were a 22-year-old club-hopping hottie in New York City. (I can’t even chair dance without looking like I’m seizing.) I was still enjoying The Fame on a nearly daily basis (and my kids were too — sometimes the girls spontaneously break into “Paparazzi” and there is nothing funnier than two little girls singing “pa-pa, pa-pa, paparazzi”… unless it’s watching an almost 3yo shake her bootie to “Poker Face”) when I heard “Bad Romance”.

I checked You Tube to see if there was a video for the single. When I first viewed it, my thought was: “It’s Madonna meets the Borg. Also? Cher.” And I watched it five times in a row. I couldn’t get enough of “I want your love/ and I want your revenge/ I want your love/ I don’t want to be friends”. (And if someone can translate that French bit for me, I will happily kiss you — on the cheek. Hey, I’m married.)

(I want to know how much that mosiac dress weighs, too.)

I downloaded The Fame Monster, and I get chills listening to “Speechless”, “Teeth”, and “Dancing in the Dark.” “Teeth” is by far the freakiest thing I have heard in years — I mean, “take a bite of my bad-girl meat”, and I don’t want to giggle when Gaga sings it. It scares me.

And the power ballad “Speechless”. “Could we fix you if you broke?” Girl wails it. Chills. Pop music doesn’t give me chills.

The Fame was uber pop fun, with some sexual twists; The Fame Monster is many shades darker. Although “Telephone” is an upbeat dance number, and “Alejandro” is a bit of an ABBA shout-out (a spoof all in good fun), here is the other side of Gaga — the flip side of “Boys Boys Boys” is “Monster.”

It’s not just the music, of course, it’s the spectacle. Lady Gaga wears bizarre costumes; she played piano while wearing a gyroscope on SNL; she set fire to a piano on the American Music Awards. “Bad Romance” puts her squarely in the beautiful freak camp: those wonderfully weird costumes, dance moves, video enhancements (super round eyes, alien spines).

And yet, when she talks to Ellen or Barbara Walters (who should have stopped about two facelifts ago), Lady Gaga seems so sweet and down to earth. She took her sunglasses off when she talked to Babs. She shook hands with the Queen of England! (Also, did not set anything on fire or touch herself while performing for Her Majesty.)

Lady Gaga, I’m yours. I don’t have any idea what you’re going to do next, and that’s probably why. I’m going to have to explain a lot of stuff to my girls (for example, if a relationship they are in ever reminds them of “Bad Romance” get the eff out! And the difference between love and sex — which I have to do anyway), but that’s okay. If they want to shake their booties to “Just Dance” when they are young and free, I am going to totally get behind that. Because, Gaga, you make me want to shake my bootie, too. And I’m not generally what you would call a bootie shaker.

Cranky aside: Why in the hell did iTunes censor The Fame Monster? If I had known that Lady Gaga was going to be declaring herself a “free bit” I would have looked elsewhere for the uncensored version of the album. Actually, I probably will. In the meantime, I won’t have to tell my kids why a lovely young lady like Gaga is referring to herself as a female dog.

Here’s another article from Slate, A Defense of Lady Gaga, that probably articulates what I am trying to say much, much better than I am doing here.