Lady Gaga gets ahead by mashing up genres
More than a ginch-obsessed amateur stripper currently topping the charts with plasticized club jams, Lady Gaga is modern pop music’s most perfect Frankenstein.
What makes her rapid rise doubly admirable is that there’s no shortage of competition. You don’t have to be a dude named Girl Talk to accept the fact that genre-mashing has become a guaranteed survival mechanism over the past decade. Remember how one-note hair farmers like Ratt, Poison, and Twisted Sister woke up in ’91 to discover the underage hookers, mountains of blow, and stretch limos had magically disappeared overnight? Or the way that cookie-cutter postgrungers Live, Bush, and Creed instantly became irrelevant in the late-’90s electronica tsunami?
Today’s pop stars have wised up. Just when you think you’ve got the Killers pegged as hopelessly foppish new wavers, they suddenly slap on the bolo ties and pledge allegiance to Bruce Springsteen. Realizing that sensitive emo chicks have a finite amount of baby-sitting money, Fall Out Boy pumped up the urban content the second after scoring their first Tiger Beat cover. From the Roots embracing their inner trash-can rockers to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ditching guitars and joining the techno nation, mixing influences is no longer a career-derailing act of sabotage. It’s now a brilliant business decision. Somewhere, Neil Young is cursing himself for making Trans a quarter-century too soon.
Given the disparate influences she’s drawn on for her hit 2008 debut, The Fame, Lady Gaga—who plays a sold-out Commodore on Wednesday (March 18)—seems like something put together by the ADHD–afflicted minds responsible for Robot Chicken.
Start with a Yonkers-born everygirl—known as Joanne Stefani Germanotta to her accountant—raised on Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Bruce Springsteen, all of which remain an all-consuming obsession today. For the inspiration behind her chosen moniker, think the hyper-theatrical legend who proved that even straight boys have it in their hearts to love a butch-looking gay icon: fabled Queen Freddie Mercury and a CFOX classic called “Radio Ga-Ga” taught a young Germanotta that there’s no such thing as taking things too far, whether it be fellating microphones in your Scenesters Gone Wild–inspired videos (hello, “Let’s Dance”), or riding modified-dildo disco sticks during live performances of The Fame’s “LoveGame”.
In Lady Gaga’s world, there’s nothing stopping the glam-spackled bubblegum metal of Def Leppard from being fused with the avant-garde experimentation of the Thin White Duke and the processed-to-shit pop lapped up by whoever it is that keeps the Pussycat Dolls in cat litter. It’s this everyone’s-invited-to-the-party inclusiveness that makes her as palatable to the Coke Machine Glow kids as she is to suburbanites whose idea of cutting edge is Entertainment Tonight.
Lady Gaga’s learned something from hip-hop—namely, that the girls who talk about it the most get no shortage of action. Taking a page from human Ding Dong depository Beth Ditto, she’s also adopted the DIY philosophy that sex sells, even when what you’ve got to offer won’t make the world forget about Britney Spears in the barely legal years. Never mind going the subtle route with cherry ChapStick: Lady Gaga kicks it like Missy Elliott on her latest single, “Poker Face”, where she sings the praises of “bluffin’ with her muffin”. Think Cher mixed with Peaches, if the latter were clued in to the fact that her armpit hair and pubic frizz make her only marginally less repulsive than Ron Jeremy. Or Christina Aguilera, if her catalogue were even half as fantastically filthy as the video for “Dirrty”.
The best—and admittedly most horribly, hilariously wrong—thing about the whole deal is that, as we speak, the 11-year-old living in the condo next door is probably standing in front of her bedroom mirror with a hairbrush, singing along to every word of “Poker Face”, not to mention, thanks to “LoveGame”, wondering how one takes a ride on a disco stick. Which, it might be argued, is better than watching Lady Gaga raunch it up live via YouTube. Not since Madonna back in the pre-cougar years has one skank done so much for the world’s finer manufacturers of top-drawer ginch. Frankenstein never looked, or sounded, so good.