' ' Cinema Romantico: A Year End Digression: An Enthusiastical Ode To My Current Heroine

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year End Digression: An Enthusiastical Ode To My Current Heroine

Oh, boy. I'm not sure I should do this but I feel as if I have no choice. It's time to admit it to the whole world. I want everyone to know.

I have got it bad for Lady Gaga. Woah, woah, woah!! Don't misconstrue! I've got it bad for her musically. Okay? Musically. I am so infatuated with Lady Gaga's music that my Christmas Letter this year to friends & family centered entirely around her and her performance of her song "Paparazzi" on Saturday Night Live this fall which was without question the greatest song/performance I have seen in ages. (My Christmas Letters, obviously, do not subscribe to the typical sort of bippity bop yuletide correspondence.) That song saved me in ways I will not delve into on this blog. But it did. Believe me. I cherish it whole heartedly.

I'm reasonably certain a dude is not "supposed" to like Lady Gaga so much. I do not care. I bite my thumb at society's conventions. As I have repeatedly stated, good music is good music. Game over.

And yet...I do not like Lady Gaga's debut album "The Fame". I think "Just Dance" is complete crap. I'm sorry, but I do. I think "LoveGame" and "Poker Face" are a potpourri of nothin' special. (No, I don't care whether or not the lyrics are subversive because music is mainly about, you know, the music and the music on these tracks just doesn't inspire me. It's all too calculated, too constricted. Dance music is like wine. Gotta swirl it around the glass to get out those ethers, man. "The Fame" doesn't swirl, it doesn't even let the bottle breathe.)

Except, of course, for "Paparazzi", which I'm wild about - the chorus in particular. The chorus of "Paparazzi" is so good I would willingly sacrifice a goat to the music gods, if that's what they wanted, to pay tribute to it.

That said, the album version of "Paparazzi" does not hold a grapefruit twist scented candle to the aforementioned version Lady Gaga performed on Saturday Night Live which was when my love for her burgeoned. The SNL version is done with a real backing band which lends it so much more, shall we say, gravitas. It is thicker, fuller, richer. It is effing beautiful. Rock and roll, as I said in my Christmas Letter, in its truest, purest, finest form. It is everything I want in a song. Every....thing. I cannot express it enough.

And now I can see it was the marble paved bridge to her follow up EP, which I only recently purchased, "The Fame Monster". O holy night, what a revelation this EP is. "The Fame" was a mission statement. "The Fame Monster" is a manifesto. It's an artist saying, Okay, I got myself into the limelight with the first one. People know me. I've got "The Fame". Now it's time to make the music I want to make. Get outta my way!!!

This is no play for the charts. This is not the work of someone merely trying to maintain relevance until her next full length album. These are not the sounds of someone who seeks only stardom. "The Fame Monster" is Lady Gaga firing her guns across the water to announce her intentions. This is a eurodancetrash blitz, the work of a potential visionary. This seems to be a classic case of an artist trying to find her footing on album one and then finding the unbelievable hell out of it on album two.

Yeah, yeah, the influences are both plentiful and obvious. Well, duh. What do you think rock and roll is? It's Kurt Cobain trying to rip off The Pixies. It's John Lennon trying to sound like Chuck Berry. It's The Stones copying The Beatles' every move. It's Springsteen borrowing every sound he'd ever heard for four minutes and thirty seconds on "Born to Run". It's A Tribe Called Quest getting crucial assistance from Lou Reed in order to ask if they may or may not be able to kick it. "The Fame Monster" is an amalgamation of the sounds and styles Lady Gaga adores and it all adds up to something that is entirely, distinctly, and beautifully her own.

The heavily-Abba influenced "Alejandro" is the closest Her Gaganess has come thus far to planting her flag in Kylie country, so long as Kylie chose to paint herself up in black mascara ("don't wanna kiss - don't wanna touch - just want my cigarette...hush" - THOSE are lyrics, boys and girls!). "Speechless" is a modern day Benatar power ballad as if it were sung in a grimy piano bar by Beth Hart at her most nicotine ravaged. Being who I am I never considered a song using the words "Dance in the Dark" could be as stupendous as another song by a certain someone with those words in the title but, damn, Lady Gaga did it. Sweet mercy, she did, and she did it while also including a pronounced homage to Madonna's "Vogue" in the middle. It soars in a way just about all American dance music doesn't (i.e. it swirls the bejeezus outta the wine). "Monster" is like getting a Bacardi Mojito IV drip from a nurse in drag.

And "Bad Romance"? O.M.F.G. "Bad Romance" is a gothic, pile driving opera of musical magnificence. It churns, it throbs, it lays waste to the surrounding woodlands. It punches you in the face with the best intentions and leaves you with a gaping wound of ecstasy. Lookie here, hombre, I don't give a two dollar fiddle about voices that are always on pitch or note perfect. If you want that kinda crap go listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I want a voice with some personality. I want shrieks and sneers and agitated warbling tucked right up against the border of a breakdown. I want the way Lady Gaga breathes fire on "Bad Romance".

(Unfortunately, the last three tracks on the EP pale in comparison, a fact which might speak more to the astonishing sustained remarkability of the initial quintet than anything else. Or to the presence of Beyonce. One man's opinion, of course, but Ms. Knowles is not worthy of the same recording studio as Our Lady Of Perpetual Gaga.)

I really could not care less about Lady Gaga's assorted costumes and wigs and personas and novel brassieres and her intellectual and/or pseudo intellectual musings and her Roman Empire-sized videos and the coolest Keytar since Rick Wakeman (or, at the very least, Planet BOOM!!!) or whether certain ridiculous rumors are true. Not that I begrudge her for any of these things. Not in the slightest. God bless her for all of it. She can do whatever she wants and she knows what she's doing. She's got everyone talking. The volume on her savvy speaker clearly goes to eleven. But grandiloquent music is all I crave and it's grandiloquent music which Lady Gaga provides to my lucky, lucky ears. It's why right here, right now, she is my heroine.

Forget Time Magazine and Ben Bernanke. Chairman of the Federal Reserve? Ooooooh...like that's some cool job. Nope. Stuff a sock in it, Bernanke. Cinema Romantico hereby names Lady Gaga as 2009 Person of the Year. Now, everyone, sing it with me!

Rah rah!
ah ah ah ah!
Roma roma ma ma!
Ga ga
ooh la la!


Rah rah!
ah ah ah ah!
Roma roma ma ma!
Ga ga
ooh la la!


(Postscript: It should be noted that through a most fortuitous series of events in just the last 24 hours I have landed a precious ticket at face value to Ms. Gaga's sold out live spectacle next weekend at the Rosemont Theater. Glory, glory hallelujah. I mean, really, scoring a Lady Gaga ticket the exact same day my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers annihilate Arizona in the Holiday Bowl to such a degree I actually had my victory scotch while the game was still in progress? As my friend Dave so eloquently put it, my 2010 didn't start on January 1. It started on December 30, 2009.)


Wretched Genius said...

Lady Gaga the person is a trainwreck, but Lady Gaga the songwriter/performer is surprisingly talented. I actually really like The Fame. I have The Fame Monster, I just haven't given it a good listen yet.

You might enjoy this article.

And when you're all done, be sure to check this out.

Nick Prigge said...

That last link was absolutely awesome. I didn't know that existed. Thank you, Brad.

Red said...

I can't believe I haven't seen this post before! Absolutely LOVE Gaga. Agreed that The Fame was a little "meh", but The Fame Monster is an amazingly good CD.

I've done karaoke to Bad Romance so many times by now, pretty much anybody who has ever had a drink with me knows that I can spit out that song like nobody's business.

I do believe we will get along together at AM just fine, Nick. :)