All of a sudden, it’s hard to be Lady Gaga.
Since bursting onto the music scene in 2008, the artist born Stefani Germanotta has achieved that rare alchemy of massive commercial success combined with highbrow fascination (albeit grudging fascination.) Standing almost alone amidst an imploding music industry, she has sold over 55 million albums in the past three years and racked up 340 million views on the avant-garde themed video for her song “Bad Romance.” Considerations of the meaning of Gaga littered the landscape, and her eclectic stew of references had many a university cultural studies department working overtime.
And what brought her to the top of this zeitgeist pyramid were her unrivaled skills in the post-modern art of pastiche. She patched together bits of Madonna, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Laurie Anderson with performance art, ’70s avant-garde, Wiemar Berlin—the list goes on and endlessly on. To her fans, such vigorous borrowing is an art form in itself; juxtaposing various found objets was a commentary about the transient nature of artistic reality. The more she took, the more celebrated she became.
Until Sunday, when the train finally hit a wall. If her songs in the past have seemed sprinkled with fairy dust from previous artists, her new single “Born This Way” has been drenched in a Seaworld-sized orca tankful of Madonna; to be precise – about 10 thousand gallons of Madonna’s 1989 hit “Express Yourself,” to which the new Gaga outing bears an almost note-to-note resemblance. And in case anyone missed the point, Gaga debuted the song at last weekend’s Grammy Awards in an outfit that could only be described as a Madonna Halloween costume, complete with head-topping ponytail.
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