Ga-Ga for Gaga?

My husband and I tuned into “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving” after a very full day of stuffing ourselves with good family and even better food. (Just kidding. The family time was definitely better. The turkey was a little dry.)

As we watched and discussed and surprised ourselves with our continued watching, I couldn’t help but think how amazingly, ridiculously talented that Lady is. I started to wonder if she would be as popular as she is if she were a somewhat more normal, mainstream-type pop star. Would she have the same crazy cult following? Would she still be known as “America’s Picasso,” as Tony Bennett most recently crowned her?

Music, I think, does not play as singular a role as it may have in the past. It’s the “art” in the artist that intrigues the fans.

Lady Gaga certainly has no lack of artistic flare. Gaga is eccentric to the extreme, from her name to her ever-changing looks, costumes, wigs, props and personas. She creates a performance of experience — visually, emotionally, musically.

And it’s not always a feel-good type of experience.

Gaga is one of a few elite music mega-minds that has reached a level of fame and notoriety that means she can start writing her own rules — and she does. Some of her views and expressions are very controversial and not very family-friendly. Gaga has frequently said she wants to write about life, however dirty, awful and blindingly real that is.

Ironically, she has said that her goal is to bring people together and create acceptance in a world that is tough to live in, but easy to listen to when it’s to the tune of “Hair” or “Edge of Glory.” She has said that she does things so over-the-top, so as to be more relatable to her fans.

Sound strange?

“I didn’t fit in in high school and I felt like a freak,” she said in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. “So I like to create this atmosphere for my fans where they feel like they have a freak in me to hang out with and they don’t feel alone.”

Few artists have had the opportunity and talent to take the creation of music to the next level and actually change the way we listen to songs. And that is largely because of the performance aspect of that particular song. Can you really hear “Billy Jean” and not think about Michael Jackson moonwalking on stage for the first time? Can you hear “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and not think about The Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show and the beginning of the British invasion?

I wonder if we are easily bought and sold into the entertainment industry, or if there’s really such a thing as true music fans. If I had never seen a picture or performance of Lady Gaga; if I had just happened across one of her songs on the radio once and didn’t have any clue of who she was as a person, I wonder if I’d feel the same way about her talent. No doubt she has killer pipes and amazing songwriting skills, two things that perhaps get seriously overshadowed by her meat dresses or Monster perfume with essence of blood, but I don’t know that I’d be as shocked and disturbingly thrilled with the overall package if she were just another pop girl.

If Elvis had simply stood at a mic and sang and never shook those famous hips, would he be known as the King? Hmm. I mean really, why do artists perform at all? Why don’t they just stick to the title of “recording artists” and sell albums?

I believe it’s probably the songs that initially interest the fans, but it’s the art that keeps the artist alive and popular. And, love her or hate her, Lady Gaga is one that sure isn’t lacking.

Do you like or dislike an artist because of their personas on or off the stage? How much does their ability to perform play into you buying their albums?

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