I’d like to start this by saying that I actually do like Lady Gaga. While she doesn’t necessarily deserve to call herself one of the best songwriters in the industry–“I’m up in the club and I’m sippin’ that bub and you’re not gonna reach my telephone” doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table–she possesses an exceptional vocal talent. “Bad Romance” is nothing short of a triumph of pop music. In an environment where pop singers are typically seen as force-fed puppets, Lady Gaga has made concerted efforts to assert her own sense of style. This is good, because it’s made her a compelling figure whose attention to detail makes her stand out, but you have to wonder if it’s also given her an overwhelming sense of self-importance.
I speak, of course, of new song “Born This Way,” in which Lady Gaga professes support for a full gamut of oppressed peoples. If you have been on the internet at all recently, you know that the song contains the line “You’re black, white, beige, chola descent / You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient.” This is pretty obviously offensive! “You’re Orient” may be minor compared to the crasser racial sins of Robyn, Nicki Minaj, and Gwen Stefani, but it’s still evidence of a striking ignorance. Italians are historically on a different level on the scale of whiteness used in America, but that’s obviously not a concern here. What we have is someone who will never experience being black/mixed-race/Latin@/Lebanese/Asian trying to speak for those who are.
There’s also the issue of “The Great Gay Pander-Off.” Though Lady Gaga may not have also had a song called “Ur So Gay,” it remains debatable as to how genuine she is. While she has spoken out extensively about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, it’s easy to be skeptical as to whether or not she’s just doing to further her image. Lady Gaga is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, but she also loves making herself out to be a champion of the outcast, generating a false sense of subversion from listening to music that’s realistically not very challenging.
In spite of the self-congratulatory tone, at least Lady Gaga stays consistent with her message, misguided as she may be. I don’t think I need to say anything about Katy Perry going from “Ur So Gay” to “Firework,” or Ke$ha claiming that “We R Who We R” was inspired by gay suicides, but also singing things like, “I don’t want to date a dude with a vag.” Considering that music is ultimately a product associated with a personal brand, that particular move of Katy Perry’s is akin to American Apparel trying to go classy–consumers will never forget the metallic gold booty shorts. Lady Gaga has built her own image, but it’s not as carefully-crafted as it appears if its foundation is sheer mindless egoism.