April 22, 2010

Going absolutely gaga for Gaga

If you have been watching much of the old YouTube lately, you might have heard that a record has been broken recently in YouTube plays. No, it’s not “Charlie the Unicorn.” Nor is it “Charlie Bit My Finger” or “The Nom-Nom Cat” (which, if you haven’t seen, I don’t recommend you do if you have anything relatively important to be doing).

It turns out that it is the one and only Lady Gaga who now holds the record, with over a billion plays on one channel. Not only that, but she also has the most viewed single video, “Bad Romance,” at around 184,787,592 views as of Monday.

You have to hand it to her for picking such an appropriate name: people have gone absolutely gaga over this woman. But why? What is it that keeps people coming back? Isn’t she just another disposable soon-to-be-washed-up-and-in-rehab pop star?

The answer is most likely no. First of all, Gaga’s career is off to an incredible start. Her debut album went diamond (10 million copies sold) in February, less than two years after its release in August of 2008. It normally takes several years for an artist to accomplish such a feat. It was also nominated for six Grammy awards and even won “Best International Album” at the 2010 BRIT Awards.

Secondly, Lady Gaga is not stupid. If you watch any interview with her, you might even learn something. She is able to think on her feet and gain the respect of her audiences on and off the stage.

On an Australian radio show, in response to suspicions of her being transsexual, Gaga responded, “My beautiful vagina is very offended. I’m not offended; my vagina is offended…I sold four million records in six months; I’m not embarrassed about anything. I think this is society’s reaction to a strong woman.”

The intention of the allegation was clearly to humiliate her, but instead, what the whole situation did was humiliate, along with the perpetrators of the rumor, the entertainment industry as a whole.

Thirdly, her reasons for doing music are clearly bigger than the music itself and in many ways that makes her stronger then the typical pop star. She carries herself not just as a musician and performer, but also as a cultural icon, and manages to do so while still maintaining the image of an outsider.

On the Ellen Degeneres show, she humbly stated, “The whole point of what I do…[is] I want to create a space for my fans where they can feel free and they can celebrate, because I didn’t fit in in high school and I felt like a freak.”

In many ways, Lady Gaga is so aware of her influence and position in society as an entertainer, that she is able to manipulate the system from within. Sophomore Allison Levine believes that this might be the case.

“I think she’s profiting from the system as she parodies it, which may be a way of screwing over the system; making it do your bidding while you expose how shallow it is,” she said.

Is her success really the duping of millions and millions of people? Or do we obsess over her because we know that she is so good at duping us? Sure, her entire persona could be a complete lie, but perhaps the fact that that bothers people is the problem. After all, it does not change the fact that she is creating that space for her fans.

Nobody cares if a performer is dishonest as long as they do their job well. Perhaps even expecting honest answers from a famous entertainer is downright naiveté.

In this society, the whole world is a stage for an entertainer. There is not a drop of reality in their lives. Intimate interviews off stage are just illusions of honesty.

Perhaps it is because Lady Gaga was aware of this fact long before she joined the industry that she is able to handle the prying questions and her own inauthenticity. Indeed, she is creating an entire world for her fans and that world can only be maintained with a certain degree of pretense. What else should be expected from her? In her own words, “I’m just a rock star.”

Sam Brownson
Sam Brownson ’12 majored in philosophy and minored in anthropology and sociology. This is his second year copy editing for TKS; he is also currently a post-baccalaureate fellow in music and theater and will be composing the music for two productions as part of Knox’s Repertory Theatre Term. A self-described grammar Nazi, Sam worked as a TKS reporter and as a writer and editor for his high school newspaper before joining the TKS editorial staff. He also manages social media for Brownson Properties in Holland, Mich.

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