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Smarmy Sam: A Plea to Lady Gaga

I’m post-Gaga.

There, I’ve said it. And this is a pretty big moment given that “Telephone” was my favorite song for about 6 months (“She’s so right! It is to hard to text someone with a drink in your hand-eh!”), right after “Paparazzi” was my favorite song for 6 months. But let’s face it: most of Lady Gaga’s new album, Born This Way, is downright boring. And, as a disappointed fan, Sam is pretty smarmy about it.

I was talking to a friend recently about Lady Gaga’s most recent musical endeavors, and said friend pointed out, “Nothing will ever compare to the way I felt when I watched the music video for ‘Bad Romance’. No matter how weird Lady Gaga gets, she will never be as unexpected as she was during that music video.” And she’s totally right. In the beginning with Lady Gaga, one never knew what to expect: Remember the bizarre tele-drama that was “Paparazzi”? Remember the novelty of the phrase “disco stick”? Remember how people thought she was so weird that she had to be hermaphroditic? Remember how “Bad Romance” was basically an Alexander-McQueen-induced psychotic break? And remember how she broke it all down and turned “Poker Face” into a dramatic piano ballad? She never turned off the Gaga and became Stephanie Whatever-her-name-is (even, to her critics’ derision, at her own sister’s graduation); she was always a pastiche of modern music culture, an amalgamation of high fashion, base sexploitation, and lyrical nothingness disguised by a brilliant dance beat. What was great about Lady Gaga was that you could just claim the haters didn’t understand her, couldn’t grasp that she was criticizing post-modern consumerism by become its most perfect product, offering absolutely no substance behind a shiny spectacle.

And as much as Gaga likes to avoid adding substance to form, the only way that works is if her songs are painfully catchy and weird. And the issue with this whole new album is that only a minority of the songs are catchy and absolutely none are weird, because her attempts at strangeness completely miss the mark. “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)”, for example, is about—you guessed it!—a unicorn that leads a woman on the road to love. And Smarmy Sam just wants to sit The Gaga down and say, “Yes, I know, Gaga, that you think the only thing better than a unicorn is a gay unicorn, but here’s the thing: Ke$ha already released a music video with unicorns, and it featured James Van der Beek, who’s, like, the gayest unicorn. The also shot rainbow ray guns at each other. So let’s call that one a loss and find something else, shall we?”

I’m not even going to talk about the fact that she ate David Letterman’s cue card. Gross.

But Smarmy Sam will be honest with you here: at first, I was really disappointed with the boringness of the album more so than the cheap irony of it. “Edge of Glory” is just so un-Gaga, you know? It’s about a one-night stand, yes, and it makes some peculiar metaphors, sure, but the chorus is weirdly uplifting and decidedly accessible. Same thing goes with “Born This Way” (the song). Suddenly there is meaning behind her music? She now sings on behalf of something she believed in? But when the songs that were intentionally bizarre (“Judas”, the aforementioned “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)”) felt like vapid echoes of her former strangeness, I realized that Lady Gaga had become unable to out-weird herself. Now that her audience expects the unexpected, is constantly waiting for her next bizarre outfit, meaningless song, melodramatic music video, then her weirdness just becomes normal and downright passé. So it isn’t the mainstream, more accessible songs that make this album boring; it’s the ones that try, unsuccessfully, to capture the strangeness and unexpectedness that defined Fame Monster. “Edge of Glory” is a fun pop song, worthy of a place on a summer playlist. “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” was over before it even started.

So I guess what I’m saying is this: In a world where everyone (Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Britney, even J Lo) is trying to become more like Gaga, I think it’s time for the Lady herself to join me in being post-Gaga. Let’s dispense with some of the weirdness, and let the music speak for itself. The more mainstream singles are the ones that seem fresh, and trying to reach a new level of absurdity has fallen short. Lady Gaga made her name on the bizarre, but she is in no way dependent on it; she’s a talented entertainer with a real knack for the catchy. She could be the next Madonna, but, if she gets real now, maybe without the awkward sex phase.

So join Smarmy Sam in being Post-Gaga, Lady Gaga. Being so strange all the time has got to be exhausting. And it’d be cool if you didn’t burn out after two albums.

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  1. Blogger DoktorPeace | 1:02 AM |  

    As a non-fan (and non-hater), I still feel like this post accurately reflects my personal stages of Gaga as well. You've tapped into the pop musical hearts of a generation, Smarm.

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