Since the beginning of her now infamous career, Lady Gaga has done many things right: She’s a capable, if unextraordinary songwriter, and she benefited from above average production that drove you to your feet and demanded your attention. She demanded that attention in other ways as well: Her public persona screams “Hey, look at me” at every turn. And people took notice in a big way: She was able to capture the public’s attention with every one of her over-the-top spectacles to the tune of millions- in both fans and dollars.
However, she’s also done a number of things wrong: She vacuously mimics the creativity of others, from Madonna, Grace Jones (who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her contribution to Gaga’s image), David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona and Freddie Mercury’s flamboyant and batshit insane real persona.
The creative theft extends to her music as well: “Paparazzi” is essentially a mash-up of Gary Numan’s “Cars” and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”, “So Happy I Could Die” is a “Pocket full of Sunshine” ripoff, “Born This Way” is an obvious bite of “Express Yourself”, “Alejandro” owes it’s melody to the Ace of Base, and countless other songs have more than traces of 70’s and 80’s new wave cheese.
In addition, for all the talk of her being “crazy” or “eccentric”, Gaga is really devoid of personality, appearing dry and uninteresting every time she opens her mouth. (If you question that, think about this: While there is non-stop talk of the things she’s done, when’s the last time anyone, anywhere, talked about the things that she’s said?)
Gaga’s persona, from day one, from the music to the publicity stunts, has been the product of an ambitious creative and marketing team. Everything about her image was different before it was cultivated and refined by her management. But that strategy is always doomed to fail: A person can not continuously top one spectacle after another, unless you bring in a magician at some point -and that’s just ridiculous.
Rather than continue to let the persona self-destruct around her, Gaga has made the choice to, well, give up. She no longer steps out in the outrageous outfits she’s made her trademark simply to get milk. She’s stripped herself bare of the drag-style makeup, opting to go nude faced more and more often. Also, when she gets nude (which she still does A LOT), she doesn’t even bother to accessorize the look with a satellite dish orbiting her head.
Some of you might be wondering why I’ve went this far into a review of Lady Gaga’s latest song “Applause” without actually mentioning the song itself. (Some of you may also wonder why I want to cause your retinas to fall out in horror by posting a Gaga nude pic, but that’s a story for another day.)
The answer is simple: It’s just not worth discussing. Lady Gaga has finally managed to do something she’s never done before: Bore us.
“Applause” is super lazy in every way. It’s production is substandard, it’s lyrics uninspired. Gaga’s heart wasn’t exactly in the music before, but now it’s as if she doesn’t even feel like thrilling us, even while telling us how much she wants our adulation. The lyrics, such as they are, are substandard and derivative – and this is a Lady Gaga record we’re talking about. You can barely hear what she’s talking about in many parts, and she doesn’t even bother with a standard rhyme scheme. The whole thing seems lazily slapped together, and it bodes ill for the rest of ARTPOP whenever it comes out, since the lead single is usually the best from the release.
Ultimately, this is probably what Gaga really wants. Maybe she’s figured out that she no longer needs to continue to top herself. Maybe, between the lawsuits, the constant spotlight, and ridiculous stiletto injuries, The Fame Monster that she intentionally created had threatened to consume her, and perhaps she wanted to finally be rid of it, and try being a human being for once.
Lady Gaga might be over, as her marketing house suggests, but Stefani Germanotta certainly isn’t. She’s far too smart and talented to stay gone forever. But the Haus she built is crumbling fast, and we’ll all be witnesses to it’s destruction.