It hardly seems necessary to build a defense for the career of Lady Gaga, but when an artist gets so big that she can inhabit the psyche of the culture, there are those who eagerly chose to refute her. Not Laura Warner. She builds not only a cogent appraisal of the "mother monster" but writes a thoughtful fan letter as well.
Yes, that’s right, I said “fabulous.” Music elites, please feel free to write off my endorsement of this record and the artist behind it. But I’m a firm believer that just because something is popular doesn't mean it's rubbish. Her head-turning (well, more like neck-breaking) ensembles alone have caused quite a ruckus. By attending award ceremonies and wearing dresses made of meat, Muppets, or bubbles, she has the masses arguing over whether she is an activist or a loon; an artist or an attention starved phoney. And the controversy does not stop with the outfits. Media outlets, fans and naysayers have labelled her as everything from grotesque to genius due to those elaborate live performances, over-the-top music videos, controversial lyrics and political outspokenness. Love her or loathe her, the icon and her music have a substance we have not seen in a mega star in years.
Lady Gaga quickly, and naturally, ventured out of the writer’s chair and into the spotlight. Her first single “Just Dance” (released under R&B singer Akon’s Kon Live label) became an international hit in 2008. That was followed by "Poker Face," "Love Game" and "Paparazzi," which all appeared on her debut album The Fame (2008). Her second full-length release The Fame Monster (2009) took singles like “Bad Romance,” “Aljandro,” “Speechless” and the Beyonce duet “Telephone” to the charts. In less than two years she became an icon. Gaga’s dance anthems are well deserving of this attention. Her confidence, energy and creativity-filled compositions are both incredibly intricate and captivating; her music acts almost as a mood stabilizer.
Aside from drawing in tweens for her catchy pop anthems and genius marketing, her music provides an outreach for anyone who has ever felt like the underdog. Through public statements and her lyrics she has told millions of teenagers (and adults for that matter) that it’s all right to be an outsider. This is evident in her self-love anthem, the title track from Born This Way: “I’m beautiful in my way / ‘Cause God makes no mistakes / I’m on the right track, baby / I was born this way / Don’t hide yourself in regret / Just love yourself and you’re set / I’m on the right track, baby / I was born this way.”
Gaga insists that her fans are her source of inspiration: hence this album is as much a tribute to the masses as it is anything. Unlike the last two records, Gaga seems more focused on her message rather than her music. She claims her fans give her the energy, drive and inspiration for her art. Thus, her latest release is a collection of, mostly self-penned, compositions about fashion, religion, outsiders and unicorns. All inspired by letters and posts from those “little monsters” everywhere.
As mentioned earlier, there are suspicions that this mega star is just in it for the mega attention. Critics of her clever product placements and absurd productions, make it easy to conclude that this is all just an elaborate façade put on for a media-hungry world. Possibly. But, who cares? If the music is reaching people, making them feel good, then it’s no different from any other feel-good music burning up the charts. If her fans are writing to her, thanking her for giving them the courage to come out to their parents; for helping them through an eating disorder; for getting through being bullied at school for being different (which they have), then Gaga being genuine is good enough.
If I have but one qualm with Gaga it's that she makes me feel like an underachiever.