Music in the 21st century was accused of being increasingly derivative and irrelevant. Interest in individual performers, in the era of iTunes, was being relegated to the sidelines as teens assembled their own 'mixes' rather than sought to embrace the output of an individual artist. It was said that the era of the great soloist and the great musical concept album was dead. With her first album The Fame in 2008, Lady Gaga changed all of that and silenced the industry's critics. Yes, she is frequently outrageous and provokes controversy for her attire as well as her voice. But underneath all of the glam and glitter, Lady Gaga has proved that she a unique mix of vocal talent, showmanship, and social activism. She has also generated a huge following on Facebook and Twitter. Lady Gaga's fans do not simply download "Poker Face," "Telephone" and "Born this Way" online. They love Gaga, and follow her every word and move. She calls them her 'little monsters' -- her code name for people who are unafraid to be different and weird, as she says she was in high school.
Lady Gaga's meteoric rise to fame illustrates the American dream: if you work hard, regardless of your background, you can still succeed if you have talent and tap into the unmet needs of the listening public. She began as an ordinary 'club kid' named Stefani Germanotta attending the Tisch School of Performing Arts at New York University. She had no particular connections to the recording industry. However, she fused her academic studies of the idea of 'performing' femininity. She adopted and exaggerated the styles of old Hollywood starlets -- and drag queens. Although Lady Gaga was a young woman, she set out to become a drag queen herself -- a larger-than-life figure who was 'Gaga,' not merely the ordinary, suburban teen role she was born into but chafed against. Lady Gaga found confidence creating a new identity, but in doing so, she 'found herself.' "When I wake up in the morning, I feel just like any other insecure 24-year-old girl...Then I say, 'Bitch, you're Lady Gaga, you get up and walk the walk today'" ("Lady Gaga tells all," Rolling Stone, 2010).
Lady Gaga works tirelessly at her efforts: "I write music every day" she says ("Lady Gaga tells all," Rolling Stone, 2010). "When I'm not working, I go crazy" ("The Rise of Lady Gaga," Rolling Stone, 2009). Although it has been said that there are no second acts in American life, before becoming 'Gaga,' Lady Gaga was bottoming out -- she was addicted to drugs and had dropped out of school. Her health was not good -- lupus runs in her family -- and at a relatively young age she lost hope. But through music and performing she reinvented herself. As well as being danceable, her music offers an aggressively postmodern intellectual critique of the role of women modern-day society. Her music "pays blatant homage to ABBA, Queen, Eurodisco and Marilyn Manson. Gaga doesn't care. She wants you to trace her references. 'John Lennon talked about how with every song he wrote, he was thinking of another artist,'" she said, making a less expected connection to a pop deity" (Powers 2009). She is "a monster talent, that is, with a serious brain" that reflects a deconstructionist sensibility (Powers 2009). She uses pastiche and parody, but in an intelligent and ironic fashion.
Gaga wants her music to 'mean something' -- mean something in how it strikes a blow against women's subjugation to men and homophobia. Yet is musical and tuneful enough to be played nearly non-stop on contemporary radio. One of her first hits "Let's Dance" relates a woman going from club to club, getting tipsy on wine, and not caring about seeming like a 'nice girl.' "Poker Face" takes a cool and dismissive attitude towards loving a man. "After he's been hooked, I'll play the one that's on his heart," she sings. The song was also said to reference the singer's bisexuality.
Even when songs like "Paparazzi" speak of obsessive love, irony rather than sincerity is always the dominant mood. "Paparazzi" compares the singer's love to a superficial stalker of a celebrity, rather than celebrates desire. But perhaps…