Follow Up: Lady GaGa further confuses the shit out of me

Grammys (Grammies?) There are only 2 reasons to play live at the Grammys.

1. You suck, but are incredibly popular. You will wear sequins, there will be lights and tons of backup dancers and no one will notice that you’re not singing. Not even close really.
2. You are talented, but probably under appreciated by the marketplace. You are probably relegated to singing a bunch of covers by someone who just died, next to a giant projection of their head. The kids aren’t really sure who you are, but the parents all know as they bought your album on CD, because your song was in that movie, and it doesn’t sound like rap music.
(3. You are Beyonce.)

Lady Gaga at the Grammys the other night, managed to do something outside the bounds of both conventions here, but at the same time was doing both of them at the same time. It was confusing and the only thing that wasn’t a the least bit surprising about the performance was the fact that it was, in fact, totally confusing.

Let’s look at the play by play here. First, there’s an….announcer? In a tuxedo? Doing some cross between a circus big top introduction and the beginning to the Dr. Suess book about Lady Gaga. Then Gaga appears herself. She looks appropriately preposterous, but is notably incongruous with the post-apocalyptic industrial landscape going on around her. It’s kind of a steampunk Thriller vibe, and she’s all sea green and sparkles. Pantsless and wearing what appears to be a version of Nightwing’s mask from the Batman comics, she proceeds to….sing?

And as stated before, she actually can sing, she just CHOOSES not to. But sing she does, a soulful rendition of her smash hit “Poker Face” which, as a song, is not soulful, not even a little. After a few bars of that, we’re snapped out of our bewildered “did that voice just come from that sparkly thing?” thinking , back to vintage Gaga and we’re whisked off to her bizzarro world of Muffin Bluffin, strobed-out mummy parties (or whatever the hell is going on) and she plays the hits. Gaga’s droll, monotonous hum issues forth and there is much dancing and merriment around her (which is confusing given the nature of the work conditions in the Fame Factory, I suppose you just can’t repress the masses when they need to dance. See also: Footloose). We’re left wondering for a while why in God’s name did someone decide it was a good idea to bring back the high waisted, vagina covering, hip showing 80s swimsuit onesie look. It makes me think of the more maternal aspects of the female reproductive system. Then I start worrying about whether or not she’s going to fall – anyway. Before long we’re hurled mercilessly into the chorus of the song, which is so flooded with backing track it makes Katrina seem like a quiet encroachment. It seems like someone was trying to tell her she’s in the wrong place by turning up the actual song so she could remember. This is all delightfully accompanied by some of the most uninspired choreography I have ever seen, even for an award show, but I can’t really complain I mean what do you expect out of the working class egyptian undead? Then suddenly the song is over but -

And that’s a big BUT dear reader, for our sprightly little songster hath returned as the backup dancers force Gags from the spotlight. Our satyr in a penguin suit proceeds to narrate what’s happening….sort of. It’s something about pop music and the G-ma’am being too much and ruining his business? I thought he was in the business of introducing Lady Gaga? Anyway, Gaga is taken up the stairs despite her strong protestations. The lady DEFINITELY doth protest too much and producers who are playing along at home can strike “Acting Crossover Sensation” from their list of How To Make Money At This Years Grammys (Home Edition). Gags is dropped into a vat of fire (who keeps fire in a vat?) and emerges, predictably triumphant and unpredictably covered in ash at a mutant piano opposite an also ashen Elton John (research, can you look up if Sir John was also dumped at one point in his career into a vat of fire? Maybe this is a serial thing..) They sing. Sir Elton John is wearing some kind of futurist advanced gay gyroscope on his ear that probably shoots lasers if you fuck with him. They sing. Everyone except social conservative men and their cowed wives goes home happy.

Now, I’ve spent far too much time in post-game, because I know you could have gotten just as much enjoyment out of that without my wry voice whispering snarky comments in your ear. Let’s get down to what’s actually going on here.

1. A Narrative frame
2. Dancing, singing, speaking in an imagined landscape
3. A live audience

waaaaaaaaaaaaaaait a second. is this theater? is this avant-garde theater? AT THE GRAMMYS? Gaga what are you doing to me? Is the tuxedoed man representative of the major label attitude in the 21st century? Is Elton John some kind of god figure in Gaga’s messianic quest to change the very landscape of socio-sexual and mass culture politics? IS THIS SYMBOLIST THEATER!?

Or maybe it’s not. In fact, it’s probably not. In point of fact, nowhere and at no time, did anyone even remotely consider this. But someday dear reader, someday we might MIGHT be able to get there. As for right now, I believe that this is just another image, just another 10 second clip to be shown when she’s reached maturity and legitimacy. This is the beginning of the middle section of her televised documentary retrospective. Becoming the Madonna of our generation, we will all look back and say “Oh remember when she played with that old gay guy our parents liked?” She seeks fame. No that’s not right, she doesn’t seek fame, she seeks the ineffable thing above that. The thing that bends culture around her persona, instead of the opposite:


She doesn’t want to change the world, she wants the world to change; to turn it’s insatiable eye for entertainment on her, permanently. Her outlandish behavior (with no hallmarks of actual destructive behavior) and her carefully protected talent, all point to one thing. A meticulously planned infamy. In 2 years, when she’s run out of stunts to pull, the drugs will take hold and she’ll go away to rehab (supposedly). Then she’ll come back, a reformed party girl, with still a little bit of starlet in her. She will sing soulful love songs, and be embraced by the masses. She will win universal appeal when she marries a man. She’ll do a country album and not like Madonna. She will be the biggest thing since the Beatles. And she probably knows all of this.

Hats off to you Lady. You’ve done it.

*Grammies sounds like a cookie made from Grandmothers. Like Soylent Green, but with false teeth and pictures of children, not in a creepy way. SCREENPLAY!

One Response to “Follow Up: Lady GaGa further confuses the shit out of me”

  1. Lena says:

    Oh yes. I kind of just tuned into Lady Gaga’s existence about a week ago when I saw the “Bad Romance” video on New Zealand’s cracked out version of MTV. Luckily, New Zealand is just about as behind on American pop culture as I am, so I didn’t feel too bad. Now, reading your take on Ms. Lady, I feel even less bad– she’s given me a bad case of the WTFs. I think I kind of love her in the way that I used to love my thesis project.

    …But where were the spiders?

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