Lady Gaga: The Most Wayward Pop Artist of All Time?
Lady Gaga: The Most Wayward Pop Artist of All Time?
Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986. In 2006 she released Just Dance and became a sensation. Lady Gaga has grown to become one of the most well-known music artists around the world. Over the past six years she has reinvented herself countless times and each creation is more outrageous than the last. Her music has evolved with her, progressing from dance music to an electro pop mix with classical elements and cryptic lyrics. Her music and style has taken on a more controversial stance, splitting the public in two. There are those who worship her audacious style, incorporating her life into their own, and there are those who think she is an outcast.
Lady Gaga is a wayward American because she goes completely against the grain of current mainstream music. In an industry that thrives on continuous change and diversification, she manages to push the boundaries further than anyone else, stepping out on her own into a new realm. She has been described as “tailor made for the viral age” (Corona 2011).
Artists today strive to be memorable and draw as many people to their music as possible. Other artists such as Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus both underwent massive style changes in recent years, some claim in response to Lady Gaga’s fame, but neither succeeded as well as the star herself. Rihanna and Katy Perry are some other artists that, since Lady Gaga’s immense fame, have been getting more controversial with changing hair colour and dramatic videos for their music. These attempts show how big Gaga has become and how evident her success is.
Lady Gaga’s sense of style has been something that has played into her wayward image. Just some of her many outfits have included plastic bubbles, armadillo heels, and an ash covered dress (Corona). At the 2010 MTV video music awards, she sported a dress made entirely out of raw meat. Already known for controversial images, the dress was considered a “step too far” for some. Vegetarian societies were offended by the torturing of animals for a dress. Additionally, our consumption practices are such that meat hanging off a body instead of neatly packed in supermarkets does not fit with our reality and is repulsive to most. Gaga wanted to challenge these perceptions of reality.
Gaga is seen frequently wearing creations that look like devil horns and she is seen with an inverted cross on her crotch in Alejandro. This has been a big topic of discussion within the religious community. For a western industrialized culture, America is profoundly religious and many see Gaga’s fashion sense as mocking god.
Music and Fans
“…I like to create this atmosphere for my fans where they feel like they have a freak in me to hang out with…” (Gaga in Corona). Gaga tries to deliberately appeal to those who feel that they don’t fit into society. She creates music that resonates with the wayward people of society. Youth today are drawn more and more to music that “gives the finger to the mainstream” (Hanlon 2008). They want to be part of something different and unique. They want to feel that they are part of something secret. Lady Gaga’s music gives fans a chance to feel that they are part of the in crowd. According to Corona, she creates a subcultural membership where all the little monsters can come together to worship Mother Monster and her art. The wayward in a sense becomes the norm. Fans have claimed that Gaga has created a “safe haven…a loving community,” where “everyone can be who they are.” Fans claim they can “conquer any wall” with her help, and that it was “good to know someone was out there.” They continue by saying, “it’s more than just good music…it’s community.” Many of these fans have been young males and females struggling to “come out of the closet” and Gaga has helped them to do this. However, her support for gay rights has been the agenda of some of the biggest debates about her waywardness. Horn (2010) claims that it is her support for this group that leads to her own sexual identity being targeted.
Gaga sees herself as a rebel, defying the norms of music culture. She has created a whole “underground” of little monsters, with herself as the leader. She sings to them about sex slaves in Bad Romance, of violent relationships in Monster. She glorifies murder in Paparazzi, and talks of betraying Jesus in Judas. These songs are being stamped into the brains of her followers as the new normal but they are wayward ideas. One of the most important things that Hanlon describes as being wayward in music is that not everyone knows who they are. Certainly, this is not the case with Gaga. She has managed to remain appealing to the mainstream culture with dance music that is catchy and on point with today’s culture. She has succeeded in doing what Corona claims all artists today need to do, and that is produce something that is memorable and lasting. However, simultaneously, the reason Gaga has remained such an icon in the world of the little monsters is that they think they know her better. They believe themselves to be the true fans, the people Mother Monster designed her music for. Everyone else may know the songs but they don’t know the meanings behind them and they can’t relate.
Various blog posts have shown people’s interest in Gaga’s waywardness. One young woman wrote on her projectinspired.com blog (“Lady Gaga and Her Satanic Message”) that Gaga was “satanic” and “demonic” and that she should be prayed for. She said that Gaga was not a good role model for young girls because she was brainwashing them. The blog states how Gaga frequently invokes the devil in her music and even in her choice of outfits. Lyrics to Gaga’s songs, especially Judas, have been of particular interest by young religious people who claim that Lady Gaga and her followers are going to hell.
Sarah Rooney, “Lady Gaga’s ‘Judas’ is Evil!” Jan 12, 2012 (original in 2011, taken down because of controversy)
Whether or not you are a fan of Lady Gaga, her unique sense of style is undeniable. She pushes the boundaries further than many artists and continues to produce controversial clothes, videos, and music, making her very wayward.
Suggested readings and videos
Corona, V. P. (2011). Memory, monsters, and Lady Gaga. The Journal of Popular Culture, doi 10.111
Hanlon, K. B. (2008). Alienation Incorporated: ‘F*** The Mainstream Music’ in the mainstream. Current Sociology, 56
Horn, K. (2010). Camping with the stars: Queer Performativity, Pop Intertextuality, and Camp in the Pop Art of Lady Gaga. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, 11
Dear Mother Monster: A Thank You from All Your Fans July 30, 2012
Lady Gaga- Alejandro (short version) official music video June 23 2010
Lady Gaga meat dress, PR Photos www.fabulousbuzz.com 2010
Lady Gaga with Judas and Jesus www.theinspiration.com May 2, 2011
Lady Gaga’s fans www.collapseboard.com 2011