Okay. I can admit it. I have issue with Lady GaGa. I finally finally sorted it out. I had this ephiany last night while watching Katy Perry on American Idol. Do not misunderstand me..... I like GaGa. At least some of her music is totally hot and fun. "Bad Romance" is a finely crafted pop song right up there with the best. I never, ever get tired of hearing it--the louder, the better.
Being a lifelong fan of shock rockers and performance artists starting with the glory that was 1070's --Cher, Alice Cooper (in his heyday with Eva Marie Snake), Bette Midler (have you heard her Sophie Tucker jokes and seen her spectacles?), and Elton John in his platforms and feathers-- as an adolescent (I was an odd kid and probably grew into an odd adult), falling head over heels for Bowie Bowie Bowie, then Lou Reed.......Iggy Pop...Patti Smith..... .the Sex Pistols... then Madonna... Marilyn Manson.....Green Day with Billie Joe literally showing his ass...... and never forget Laurie Anderson...... GaGa should be right up my alley.
And she is.
But really she isn't.
Why??? Why can't I embrace her? We share the same social cause. Of all the things my bleeding heart bleeds for, it is equality among humanity that is my lifelong dream. I fight, hope, and dream for my gay brothers and sisters. I believe in a lot of things--environmental issues, Health Care for every living human being, local farmers & healthy foods, educational reform, ending poverty, ending AIDS in my lifetime, supply water to the world, preventing abuse to animals, children, women, polar bears and the great gorillas, tigers, and wolves--but nothing, I mean nothing is ANYTHING without basic human rights. Being treated equally regardless of sexual orientation is a god given right. It is the one bumper sticker on my car. It would be my celebrity cause if I were a celebrity. Clearly GaGa in her meat dress believes this, too.
So what's my problem? Well for one she was in a meat dress.
As I watched Katy Perry's absolute joy at frolicing on the Idol stage last night in her pink light up alien costume, and started thinking of her appearance on Sesame Street, I got it. Lady GaGa seldom, if ever, appears to have fun. She takes herself so seriously that I don't think I've ever seen her even smile in her performances. (since first writing this, I did see her give the one joyous performance I've ever seen--on Oprah, while playing the giant high heel piano--I mean, it was for Oprah... )
I started flashing on Billie Joe Armstrong's performances. A man of social cause, when he is performing he is loving every single minute and it shows. The joy pours from his body into the crowds or through the tube, and you are there with him, ready to follow him anywhere, ready to fight a revolution if he has a call to arms... ("one 21 guns lay down your arms...") He is a serious man and a huge rock and roll star and knows that the two can live happily ever after.
Patti Smith, too. When Patti sings "The people have the power..." I know they do and I'm ready to hit the streets to show mine, unified as one with my fellow human beings. Paul McCartney has his famous PETA videos flashing on screen prior to concerts... then he walks on stage and sings "Elenor Rigby" and we love him and his right to his cause all the more. Michael Stipe? Dead serious beliefs, rock star extravaganza. And Bruce Springsteen.
I need my rockers and beloved celebrites to have social causes, to be socially responsible, and Bruce Springsteen is THE MAN. George Clooney? God bless you. Leonardo? I think he can save the planet. So what is the difference?
Back to Katy... there is something so authentic about her. She wears extravagent costumes--she does shocking things. One of the best things I've ever seen was the Merry-Go-Round Dress that she wore on the European MTV Awards a few years ago. Remember when she rode that huge tube of lipstick? I have never had the impression she sits at home thinking, what can I do to shock and convince.... what she does is truly connected to herself... it is a continuous Katy Perry fantasy. You can almost see her thoughts, I love candy. I'm going to dress like candy. .... She doesn't live on a soapbox. Lady GaGa does. That's the difference.
Madonna smiles. All the time. When she performs, she is happy. It shows. Her joy spreads.
Lady GaGa never, ever leaves it at home. And she is treading dangerously close to Bono Territory. Like a few of GaGa's, I really do love almost all of Bono's music, and what I don't love, I appreciate. I also believe in his social causes. I think, like GaGa, he sincerly wants to change the world for the better and probably has the very smarts needed to do it. He is a quiet man. He is a repected man. He meets with Politicans and Religious Leaders.
And he's become, to me, a self-proclaimed Ambassador of Everything Right. And sometimes it's just frankly too much. I appreciate it. I admire it. And sometimes I just wish he'd be a rock star. But the fact is that Bono earned his right to be this ambassador of Everything Right. He delivers song after song that embraces his politics.... think of "Sunday Bloody Sunday." He didn't come out of Ireland preaching...he came out singing... and in time, with his artistry respected and his name equivalent with honesty and integrity, he transcended the throne of Rock God to that of Peacemaker, Speaker for Others.... He did not pop out of a jack-in-the-box in a bloody face wrap demanding to be heard.
Gaga has skipped steps that she honestly needed in order to have a platform of integrity. She is not convincing other's to follow her path, she is turning them away.She is preaching to a choir. And yes, that is important. People need outlets, they need validation.... but I wonder for how long will she be able to hold this reign. Even die-hard fans are starting to tire of the constant barrage of images... not all of them are good... The impact is lessoning when they become diluted and worn and dim from lack of orginality. Every performance can't be a spectacular. Either Gaga is going to have to go into hiding and reveal herself only occasionally or she is going to have now and then tone it down. Her latest performances on SNL were... ah, lame. They offered nothing new.... she herself diluted her own good music. The power of "Born This Way" was reduced to little more than a sideshow with costumes that looked like they were thrown together minutes before the show and the hideous birthing scene........ History is there for a reason. Bono and Madonna, Bowie and Cher have survived the ages... by being human. By revealing thier Passion. And by embracing their Humanity. The Sex Pistols, with their full-on shock sensory died within months....... Take a breath, put on some jeans, and be human Mother Monster. And remember: Madonna did it first. Madonna did it better. Do something of your own.