March 28: 1,767 years ago today De Pascha Computus commemorated the Nativity, birth of a man – son of God – who brought mankind from the darkness of sin; today, we commemorate the birth of a woman – deity of Pop – who brought a generation from the dark ages of social oblivion. On this day, ancient Romans celebrated the production of the Sun and the Moon; today, we celebrate the personification of The Fame and The Monster. In the midst of a generation described as Godless, artificial, celebrity-obsessed, and lost, emerges a renaissance artist who gave you freedom in the music – found your Jesus, and your Kubrick. Happy Birthday Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga inaugurates the Thinkpieces column because she is the first true renaissance artist of our generation; beyond music, she is the iconography of an era: completely. Gaga is the product of every great artist, ideal, movement, fashion, and fad before her; she is the pulse generating contemporary culture’s aesthetic and identity; and at 24, she has propelled herself to the top of Pop’s pantheon as the matriarchal monarch against which all those who come after her will be gauged – future notwithstanding she has become the barometer against which her own predecessors assess themselves: beg to differ? Mhmm Honey B – thought not.
What Gaga has done in 18 months is incomprehensible – to truly think about it would tear any human mind to pieces. Four number one singles from a debut album, six number one singles from six single releases, over 10 million albums sold, and over one billion YouTube views worldwide; numbers don’t lie, but men and women do – at Gaga’s feet. Diddy says “Pick a car which one I ain’t been in, pick an actress which one I ain’t swim in;” Gaga’s track record says, “pick a fiend which one I ain’t fixin” – she delivers more hits than Frank Lucas; whether she’s writing for Britney, PCD, or NKOTB, sidekicking Wale, Beyonce, or Trina, sharing samples with Kanye, Common, and Cudi, or she is feeding the dead industry back to life and diversifying her bonds like WuTang Clan: this free b*tch ain’t nothin’ to f*ck with. The only thing more diverse than her portfolio is her persona – she is a cultural phenomenon because she is a panoramic projection of everything “now.”
More than any other generation, we have access to innumerable volumes of information and influences; we are the entitled products of everything that came before us, and though we may ignore it, Gaga embraces it. Gaga epitomizes originality as the art of concealing one’s sources – in plain view. She creates music using Beatles methodology of subtle time signature and key changes veiled under a superficially simple sonic surface, beats that range from Bowie and Mercury Glam Rock riffs, to Darkchild and RedOne club-bangers, to Minogue and Madonna disco diamonds-in-the-rough. Her videos are brilliant melanges of visuals themes touching in on the Stonewall Riots and Michael Jackson’s “Bad” a la “LoveGame,” to the faulting of Princess Diana’s death on the “killers behind the cameras” in the “Paparazzi” video by subtly inserting the sound of stabbing knives below the snap of camera lenses as the voyeurs film Gaga’s own demise. “Bad Romance” calls upon Alexander McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis fashion platform to set the stage for a masterful video paralleling the music industry with Russian human trafficking – the method of payment and purchase: “Beats by Dre” laptops. Her live shows are touted as only described in relation to the magnanimity of Madonna’s Confessions and Sticky & Sweet, and U2’s 360 Tours. She admittedly is what she wears – rather doesn’t wear – and even then is reflective of a grand cacophony of Pop past, present, and future. It’s her Ranier Maria Rilke tattoo branding the iconic German poet’s devotion to the literary catharses, and the Chola “Little Monsters” gang tat directly below. It’s her clothes designed by everyone from Jim Henson to Giorgio Armani, and inspired by everything from strippers to Queen Elizabeth I. It’s her famed “Pop Music Will Never Be Low Brow” video glasses – designed by her in-Haus NASA engineers, capable of syncing up to any Apple computer to play movies, tv shows, etc. Just as The Living Dress resurrected art from the vapid facade of artifice, she is a living cultural convergence.
Past the paparazzi flashes, beyond the bubble dresses, and beneath the bloody lingerie lies the true essence of Lady Gaga: “an artist through and through.” However, artists have much in common with their comrades in cultural renascence: scientists; both describe their work as experiments – part of a series of efforts designed to explore a common concern or to establish a viewpoint. Gaga is that rare hybrid of both an astute artisan and a masterfully mad scientist. She has pervaded every aspect of the public arena by publicizing and personifying hidden-in-plain-view taboos in order to establish a general perspective – her life’s work is to make the clandestine commonplace, because the status quo is skewed. As much a revolutionary as she is a renaissance artist, Lady Gaga treats culture as her canvas, and the social landscape as her science lab. Yet even as she acts as a perpetual fusion of such overarching dichotomies, she does so from behind the veil of the familiar face of a twenty-something New York doll; and thus is why she is the paramount regenerator of a lost generation – even in spite of the blind hatred,
“In the wake of that shock overdose came Lady Gaga. She gave us the spectacle of degradation. She showed us videos of herself vomiting. She chained herself to a pole by her hair. She wore a dress made of bubbles. Now she’s been stripped in prison and committed mass homicide. The images no longer even make sense; the more incomprehensible they are, the more they feed into viewers’ hunger for the grotesque.
cynics can’t help but to bow and equate her with greatness
Past eras have been defined by their art. Greece had Sophocles and Plato. The Renaissance had da Vinci and Michelangelo. Will the 21st century be remembered as the Age of Gaga?”
“There is no competition too, it feels good to wake up, look in the mirror and the only competition’s you; and even that one ain’t seein’ me…” Gaga’s reflection must have a hard time being she.