I’ve been rather mum on the topic of Lady Gaga, a pretty demonstrable feat when the majority of my interest appears to reside in the body of work inhabited by divas of all varieties. Maybe I’m just too ashamed to admit that I’m part of this second generation of Gaga enthusiasm, a movement that occurred shortly after the release of “Bad Romance” when the rest of the mildy interested finally got it and were made to suffer the blows of a million I-told-you-sos. But even that’s not being fairly accurate: I was always more than mildy interested. I was there when The Fame was released, I was there to predict songs later released as singles before (rightly) dismissing the rest of the album as filler (because the album, as a whole, is incredibly problematic on whatever narrative grounds Gaga has defended it), I was there to rank a “Just Dance” remix #9 on a year-end list. But even her gradual climb and eventual domination atop the Billboard wasn’t enough to offer respect to someone so determined to be weird for the sake of being weird (it’s probably pointless to note Gaga has said every moment of her life is a performance).
But though “Just Dance” and “LoveGame” were too big to ignore if at any time you had left the house in the past few months, they were still easy to dismiss as the insane warbling of a one-album wonder; I don’t think it’s as easy to dismiss “Bad Romance” and its follow-up leaks “Alejandro” and “Dance in the Dark,” all which are exceptional moments of sonic improvement. The production on Gaga’s numbers are becoming so huge they’re somewhere up in space and her music videos are bringing discussion back into not just the speculation of video as art, but what art is and where it can function. “Bad Romance” isn’t just acclaimed by casual listeners and fans but by critics, who have adopted Lady Gaga as their poster child of pop (PopJustice called the video “basically fucking amazing” based off of a 30 second preview), marveling over that jerky, schizophrenic (“Thriller”-inspired) choreography, gushing over those avant-fashion costumes, and deciphering the muddle that is her lyrics.
This taste for the bizarre, campy, and sometimes tacky and her inability to wear anything with less than two feet of protruding plastic has given hope to a group still mourning the loss of Madonna’s Blonde Ambition. As a persona, Gaga’s may be one of the most inclusive examples of niche marketing: rarely sentimental, focusing on life’s intimate insta-pleasures, she appeals to alternative subcultures while working even the most conservative mainstream dance floors. The Fame Monster, in particular, seems to have struck a nerve, maybe because the world has waited long enough for this Godot, wanting new material as desperately as Gaga wants your bad rah rah romance. The fact that it technically could have been written anytime in the last fifteen years and still inspires so much adulation is the only proof we have that she may be more than just a chapter in the book of pop: there may be only one Lady Gaga, but we may not be willing to stick around as long next time.