Saturday, April 3, 2010

I WANTED TO BECOME THE ARTIST I AM TODAY, AND IT TOOK YEARS: Give NYMag's Vanessa Grigoriadis credit for a pretty damn insightful thinkpiece on how NYC native Stefani Germanotta became Lady Gaga. Excerpt below the fold, which should be enough to tantalize even more than my telling you that you'll get to find out what much-beloved role she had in her high school's musical:
At a time when you wouldn’t recognize the faces of the people who make most of the music we listen to (who are those guys in Vampire Weekend, again?), Gaga is visually iconic; in an age of Twitter, the remoteness she has cultivated since her first moment in the spotlight has made her an even bigger star. She completely turns the page on the last decade’s era of bimbodom, taking back the limelight from women who made their careers by admitting that they had nothing to say, like Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson. She also closes a strange era in female pop stardom, with rising talents unable to push through to superstardom (Katy Perry, Rihanna), American Idol contestants (Kelly Clarkson), older stars (Gwen, Fergie), tween stars (Miley and posse), and hugely popular musicians who aren’t pop in their hearts, like Taylor Swift (country crossover) and BeyoncĂ© (urban crossover). She’s riveting in any language, with lyrics that compose their own Esperanto—she’s effortlessly global.

Gaga’s presence also introduces the formerly unthinkable idea that Madonna, another voracious Italian girl, may really, truly, finally be on her way out. Her new look is an appropriation of Madonna’s circa “The Girlie Show” and “Blonde Ambition” (the darkened brows, the platinum-blonde hair, the red lips), and her music-video director, Jonas Ă…kerlund, is a major latter-day collaborator of Madonna’s. But the two are very different: Madonna hasn’t had a sense of humor about herself since the nineties, where Gaga is all fun and play. At her core, she’s a young art-school student, full of optimism and kindness, childlike wonder at the bubble world. Though she may not be bisexual herself—of the many friends of hers interviewed for this article, not one of them recalls her ever having a girlfriend or being sexually interested in any woman offstage—her politics are inclusive, and she wants to promote images of as many sexual combinations as are possible on this Earth. Gaga says she’s a girl who likes boys who look like girls, but she’s also a girl who likes to look like a boy herself—or, rather, a drag queen, a boy pretending to be a girl. There’s little that gives her more pleasure than the persistent rumor that she is a hermaphrodite, an Internet rumor based on scrutinizing a grainy video. That’s not Madonna. Madonna wouldn’t pretend she has a penis.

But that’s the genius of Gaga: her willingness to be a mutant, a cartoon. She’s got an awesome sense of humor, beaming tiny surreal moments across the world for our pleasure every day...

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