Tuesday, May 10, 2011

SHE STILL WANTS TO TAKE A RIDE ON A DISCO STICK: Saturday night, HBO aired what may be the only theatrical production with a storyline that makes less sense than the pre-revisions version of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. I am, of course, speaking of Lady Gaga Presents The Monster Ball Tour. Admittedly, I fast forwarded through chunks of the show where she was playing less familiar songs, but as best as I could tell, the story involved Gaga and her oddly dressed companions trekking through the wilderness to attend the "Monster Ball," where after finding assistance from Jesus and his bitchin' guitar solo, Gaga defeats a giant Monster (apparently representing fame and/or the paparazzi) before being ascended to heaven, which is apparently a loud dance club. (Let's leave aside that "loud dance club that never ends" might be among my personal conceptions of hell.)

There was a bunch of fascinating stuff in the show--some enterprising religious studies major is assuredly already hard at work on their senior thesis for next year about religious imagery in the works of Lady Gaga--but it didn't make a lick of sense, and Gaga seemed to keep falling back on the same things to ramp up the audience--shouting "New York," "Monsters!," or delivering long, impassioned, yet rather unconvincing, speeches about how your dreams will come true. I admire Gaga for her utter commitment to her concept and her activism (which seems to authentically come from her convictions), but I prefer my spectacles on this level to have at least a hint of irony, and Gaga don't do irony.


  1. No, she doesn't do irony.

    I found the show fascinating. First off, because it's twenty years post-Blonde Ambition and yet that Madonna tour still provides the template.  And I like her Sam Kininson-esque screaming NEW YOOOOORRRRRK! voice.

    But most of all, as Matt suggests, I admire what she's using her celebrity for. At 24. None of the artists we think of as major activists these days - Bono, Bruce, Sting, etc., - were doing this so early in their careers and, obvs, none of them are women. So, derivative of Madonna as the song may be, it's time to sing along:

    <span>No matter gay, straight or bi
    Lesbian, transgendered life
    I'm on the right track, baby
    <span>I was born to survive</span> 

  2. Bob in SA10:52 AM

    Freak. Show. Now wait, that's not really fair. More like kabuki theater meets a New York bath house from the 80s. From this Texan's perspective, just really twisted and weird. Which may be the whole point of it all.

  3. Michael11:49 AM

    The slightest trace of irony would destroy the persona, that's why she treated Weird Al like flaming poison.

  4. Jim Bell12:55 PM

    I watched a few moments and then concluded, despite having hummed along to some lgg tunes in the past, this shit really isn't for me, she's incomprehensible, and not in a good deep way, and I have no understanding of what is causing her audience to react as if she is a goddess.

    I've officially turned into my grandparents.  I remember being in the crowd in 1985 when Madonna said she wasn't taking shit off and thinking then that I was in the presence of a goddess.  Maybe I should give up pop culture altogether.  Maybe I should give up this blog that gives me such joy.  I guess we've reached it, Jazz is real music and rock n' roll is just so much noise... why does Elvis move around so much, they oughta film him just from the waist up.

  5. Benner1:31 PM

    Bitchin guitar solo? Rock me Sexy Jesus?

  6. Any time a discussion of Lady Gaga comes up, I like to point to this SNL performance, which is just her acoustic at the piano, and really good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gkmjEXarMc&feature=player_detailpage#t=111s

    (The part where she's at the piano.  The whole rings of Saturn thing is very confusing.  If that link doesn't work, same performance: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xapupg_lady-gaga-performs-a-medley-of-her_shortfilms

  7. kenedy jane1:57 PM

    Believe it or not, I saw this one in person in Austin.  I knew very little about her and very few of her songs.  It was an experience.  Very Madonna-esque but the crowd didn't know that because they were so young.  (Did I mention they stood for the ENTIRE concert - when they weren't jumping up and down.)  Yes, I too have become my grandparents.  I do have to say that the show was completely absurd (reminded me of trying to figure out the plot of Rocky Horror the first time I saw it in a very drunken state) but they are performers.  Her dancers are amazing. 

    My absolute favorite part of the show, otherwise known as the only part I really liked, was when she sat down at the piano and just sang.  She was really good.  She played a new song, 'You and I', that was produced by Mutt Lange and it was great. 

    I semi-watched the HBO special while I was doing some paperwork and my favorite part of that was the video of her singing acappella (sp?) with her back-up singers during the credits.

    And her fans are committed!  (Or should be...)  It was worth the price of the ticket to see the fashion show at the arena!

  8. Anonymous3:47 PM

    I can't believe nobody has yet mentioned Mark Kanemura and his Constantine Maroulis-level camera gazing! I spent more time watching Mark than watching Gaga.

  9. Jenn.5:16 PM

    I'm interested to see what happens with Lady Gaga's sophomore album.  Through her previous round of singles---and particularly once the EP came out with Bad Romance on it---I rather thought that she had a strong enough concept, and enough ideas, to keep putting out good material.  Not necessarily material that I want to buy, but strong material.  But I thought that the first two singles from the upcoming album were pretty derivative---Born This Way from Madonna and Judas from Gaga's own earlier stuff---and the album cover feels like she was reaching.  I haven't heard the latest song release, and it is entirely possible that they've held back the more interesting, creative songs, just releasing candy for radio.  But to me, the jury's out on whether the concept is going to have real staying power.

  10. Andrew6:12 PM

    She's a talented musician, her overarching message is one that I support, but there's something about Lady Gaga that just makes me feel old. Her music and artistic persona doesn't speak to me in any way whatsoever and I think that it's really a generational divide. As Matt said, Gaga doesn't do irony and as someone at the end of Gen X I probably don't know how to parse things unless through a filter of irony. Now who do I have to complain to about these kids on my lawn?

  11. I take tap lessons, and there are two teenage boys in my class who just adore Gaga. We frequently wind up talking about her, with the middle-aged and older women coming down very hard on her, and the boys passionately defending her. It's pretty amusing to watch.

  12. Mr. Cosmo9:46 PM

    Shoot.  And here I thought she was riding on a distal stick.  Not sure if it makes more sense now.