Sound & Vision
Just in Time to Take Music to its Future Dimension, the Diva Lady gaga Ushers in the Next Decade.
November 23, 2009, marked a most eventful date in the career of 23-year-old Lady Gaga. That Tuesday marked the release of The Fame Monster, a taut, eight-song reaction to her sudden whirlwind of global pop superstardom over roughly the past two years.
In celebration of said CD's release, the New york City native (born Stefani Germanotta) was at the center of a heavily publicized meet-and-greet promotional event for her growing army of fans at a West Los Angeles Best Buy location. Despite the store's concentrated efforts at discouraging overnight campers, legions of Gaga's self-anointed "little monsters" lit on the busy intersection of Pico and Sawtelle Boulavards the previous evening. By the time the sun had risen, more than 1,000 people had swarmed the corner in vain hopes of securing one of the scant 250 available passes to meet the artist later in the day.
The wide-ranging and colorful panorama of fans included fresh-faced high school students, sulky goth kids, West Hollywood gay boys in style gangs and even a few courageous parents filling in for school-locked children. TV helicopters hovered overhead, while on the ground news crews battled to interview the most flamboyant fans.
When store officials began distributing the passes an hour earlier than scheduled to quell the surging crowd, a brief flurry of excitement at the door quickly gave away to mass disappointment: The passes had disappeared in a flash,even before either of the now two massive lines snaking around the building had moved an inch. Later in the afternoon, gaga would send waiting fans 80 cheese pizzas as a thank you.
The Fame had sold 2 million-pluscopies across the U.S. and the The Fame Monster an impressive 400,000-plus copies since its release. Gaga-mania had officially reached a fever pitch, and her exploding popularity seems far from peaking anytime soon. In 2009, Lady Gaga was the single-most-played artist at Last.FM with more than 18.5 million spins (6 million more than the No. 2 artist, The Killers).
Lady Gaga has emerged at a fully realized "icon 2.0" for the next generation; encapsulating the past 40 years of pop music and culture, she's influenced much by Warhol, Bowie and Mercury as technology-drives celebrity culture and the specter of every disgraced American starlet of the last decade. The fame made her the first artist in the 17-year history of Billboard's Pop Songs chart to score four No. 1 singles from a debut album, thanks to a string of self-penned electro-pop anthems: "Just Dance," "Paparazzi," "Poker Face," and "LoveGame."
With her Haus of Gaga creative team keeping her on the vanguard of fashion and design, Lady Gaga is the first female pop artist to so completely dominate both the musical and contemporary culture landscape at large since the ascension of Madonna.
But where parts of The Fame found Lady Gaga still working toward finding her own inimitable sound (the vocal production often had her pitched-up into a Gwen Stefani soundalike), The Fame Monster reveals an aggressive artistic progression, creating a fascinating psycho-emotional mix of S&M scene with well-endowed lovers ("Monster"), booze-fueled masturbation ("So Happy I Could Die") and sexual insecurities ("Dance in the Dark"). With such esoteric influences as the industrial crunch of '80s dance band Propaganda and the sweeping synth melodies of Depeche Mode, the new songs boast a rich depth that's entirely Lady Gaga's own.
"I'm in a deeper, more compassionate place than where I was when I wrote The Fame, Lady Gaga told L.A. Times pop music critic Ann Powers in a recent interview. "The truth about The Fame is that so much of myself as a woman is hinged on the idea that I can self-empower. I don't care if you love me. i care if you love yourself."
For someone who so famously sang, "We're plastic, but we still have fun" ("Paparazzi"), Lady gaga has proven to be anything but. Tirelessly championing gay rights, the even challenged President Obama during a speech at the 2009 National Equity March in Wahington, D.C., declaring, "We demand change now?"Not many artists have the range to perform for the Queen of England at the annual Royal Variety Performance, as well as a duet with hardcore Miami rapstress Trina (Lady Gaga is featured on "Let Them Hoes Fight," a track on Trina's forthcoming full-length). But for Lady Gaga, it's all a deceleration of personal power.
"When I say to you, 'There is nobody like me, and there was,' that is a statement I want every woman to feel and make about themselves," she declared in the same l.A. Times interview, "I don't make it as a defense. I make it as, 'OK, guys, it's been two years, and I've made a lot of music, and I know my greatness id individual.' And I want every woman to be able to say that."