Lady Gaga’s glory is far from wan­ing

Su­per­star still has a huge ca­reer

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PEOPLE - FIONA STURGES

LON­DON: It’s a rite that has sus­tained the arts since time im­memo­rial: the deliri­ous hyp­ing of bright new stars as they first emerge, only for them to be flayed alive for dar­ing to reach the top.

As Lady Gaga pre­pares for the re­lease of her third al­bum, “re­verse Warho­lian ex­pe­di­tion” ART­POP, she has, it is said, reached a tip­ping point. If com­men­ta­tors are to be be­lieved – ev­ery­one from academics to bed­room blog­gers – she’s made her money and had her fun. Five years into her ca­reer she’s out of ideas and, to judge by the rel­a­tively poor per­for­mance of last month’s lead-off sin­gle Ap­plause the world is weary of her freaky schtick.

The Gaga back­lash has ar­rived.

It’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble that, since we now have Mi­ley Cyrus and her pre­hen­sile tongue at which to di­rect our moral out­rage, to many on­look­ers Gaga looks the safer op­tion, as dan­ger­ous as a panto dame. Her per­for­mance at Au­gust’s VMA awards was eas­ily eclipsed by Cyrus and “tw­erk­gate”.

How­ever it’s hard to imag­ine that Cyrus’s per­for­mance will be viewed in years to come as a mile­stone in pop’s evo­lu­tion. If the shock was the prize, Mi­ley took home the tro­phy but, as Gaga has pointed out, she’s play­ing the long game now. “For ART­POP,” she said re­cently, “I stood in front of a mir­ror and I took off the wig and I took off the make-up and I un­zipped the out­fit… and I said: ‘Okay, now you need to show them you can be bril­liant with­out that’.”

In her new in­car­na­tion, Gaga ref­er­ences a raft of vis­ual artists from Bot­ti­celli to Warhol and Jeff Koons, who de­signed the cover of her al­bum. Some have sug­gested this points to a lack of orig­i­nal­ity, but pop has al­ways thrived on pil­fer­ing ideas from else­where.

There has been mut­ter­ing, too, about the shal­low­ness of Ap­plause, and how it un­der­lines the singer’s thirst for at­ten­tion. But Gaga’s songs and videos carry a deeper mean­ing, even if that is some­times lost in trans­la­tion. And so it is that Ap­plause is her at­tempt at irony, with the words “If only fame had an IV/ Baby could I/ Bear be­ing away from you/ I found the vein, put it in here” ridi­cul­ing the per­cep­tions of her de­trac­tors.

In the greater scheme of

I took off the wig, I took off the make-up… and I said: Okay, now you need to show them you can be bril­liant with­out it

things, the com­plaints against Gaga are mi­nor. They are also in­evitable con­sid­er­ing her suc­cess thus far, com­ing ninth in Forbes’s rank­ing of high earn­ers last year and sec­ond in their celebrity power-list af­ter Oprah Win­frey.

She is a savvy Twit­ter user with more than 40 mil­lion fol­low­ers who has de­vel­oped a unique com­mu­nion with her “lit­tle mon­sters”, and just last weekend used it to take on the trolls who taunt her about ev­ery­thing from her weight to whether she is, in fact, a her­maph­ro­dite. That she has also been the sub­ject of aca­demic stud­ies on fem­i­nism and fan­dom only bol­sters her cre­den­tials as one whose cul­tural stock has gone be­yond such tri­fling mat­ters as chart po­si­tions.

When I in­ter­viewed Gaga near the start of her ca­reer, what was clear was her in­tel­li­gence and vi­sion. She talked loftily about her plans to sub­vert the no­tion of the pop star and blur the bound­aries be­tween pop­u­lar art forms.

She also told me: “All of my songs have mean­ing, all of my cloth­ing has iconog­ra­phy buried into it. But by the same to­ken, (my work) is just as spe­cial if you look at it in its shal­low­est form. The point is that it’s mem­o­rable. To make com­mer­cial art be taken se­ri­ously is a dif­fi­cult task.”

And yet she has made progress. Gaga has been vo­cif­er­ous in her ad­mi­ra­tion of the work of Leigh Bow­ery, Klaus Nomi and Ma­rina Abramovic, per­for­mance artists rarely in­voked in main­stream cir­cles. So while Gaga’s mu­sic may cleave to the grind­ing R&B and synth-pop sounds favoured by so many chart acts, it’s this that al­lows her the widest pos­si­ble au­di­ence at which to di­rect her more vis­ual and ide­o­log­i­cal brand of sub­ver­sion.

Let’s face it, you’re un­likely to find Katy Perry feign­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal break­downs or singing from within a glow­ing egg sur­rounded by dancers in pig heads and bran­dish­ing guns. And while she too may make a habit of pranc­ing around in her pants, hers is a bruised and un­set­tling aes­thetic that has lit­tle to do with tit­il­la­tion.

Gaga may be baf­fling at times but she’s smart, en­ter­tain­ing and never pre­dictable. Right now, she is the great­est pop star we have. She’s a long way from be­ing fin­ished.

ART­POP is set for re­lease this month. – The In­de­pen­dent


AT­TEN­TION-GRAB­BING: Lady Gaga in Ber­lin to pro­mote her lat­est al­bum, ART­POP.

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