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lady gaga piano fire“So don't become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don't know or just don't care
And just complain when you're not there”

Queen “Radio Ga Ga” 

“As artists, we are eternally heartbroken.”

This was Lady Gaga in an interview with Rolling Stone last summer, commenting on the role that heartbreak has played in her motivation to conquer the pop charts, and maintain her reign as queen of them. To say she’s determined is an understatement.

born this way lagy gaga on motorcycle 

Click here to purchase Born This Way at Amazon.com

Gaga is an interesting study in fame. Not because of the over-the-top outfits, the grotesque, voyeuristic and violent music videos, or because of her recent political and social activism. No; she is an interesting study in fame because she reminds you that fame is a dazzling spectacle, where hard work and talent, and perhaps luck, take center stage, while the true directing force behind them all lies in the backdrop. What exactly this force is however, is elusive. For some it may be addiction—an addiction to adoration, or an addiction to work. And for others it may be simply the desire to escape. Whether it’s from feelings of loneliness, feelings of pain, and/or the extreme letdowns of the past that can leave a person shattered in a million pieces, irrecoverable and beyond repair.

Heartbreak, essentially.

lady gaga neon car with dancersIt would be another understatement to say that Lady Gaga is a dazzling spectacle. Combining the grotesque showmanship of Ozzie Ozborne and Alice Cooper, with the musicality of Billy Joel and Freddie Mercury, and the dripping sexuality of Madonna (and perhaps, at times, the androgyny of David Bowie), Gaga is truly a performance enigma. She is enthralling and horrifying; offensive and inspiring; artistic and absurd. Yet, can you blame her? No one’s doing what she’s doing; and no one’s having the kind of success she’s having, either. She is, as she might put it, the most powerful “free bitch” in entertainment.

But the question remains,WHY?

To begin to unravel the mystery of how someone who wears a dress made of meat to an awards show is one of the largest pop icons in the world, you have to look at the genesis of the character—the moment that Lady Gaga began to exist. And, no, not when she emerged on the scene in 2008 with her first chart-rendering hit “Just Dance.” Before that, when the artist formerly known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta forever relinquished her true identity to the glitzy-glamorous femme fatale, Lady Gaga. That’s where the answer lies. So that’s where we’ll begin.

lady gaga dress flesh meat

The story goes that Lady Gaga was born the day that she and her longtime producer/boyfriend, Rob Fusari, came up with the nickname, based on the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga.” He was listening to the song and texted her the title, suggesting that it might be a good stage name. But, in a touch of destiny, his phone auto-corrected “Radio” to “Lady,” so instead of receiving “Radio Ga Ga” she got a text that read “Lady Gaga.” She immediately responded back, “That’s it.” And the rest is history.

But a persona is more than a name; it’s the character that precedes it. Lady Gaga isn’t who she is because of two words; she’s who she is because of an amalgamation of pain—that if you carefully examine her story and her music, you find one constant, one arcing theme, heartbreak. She’s had a lot of it. There were the smaller events of being cutoff by her father after she dropped out of New York University and being dropped by her first label Island/Def Jam three months after they signed her; but these pale in comparison to the heartbreak she experienced in the passionate and turbulent relationship she had with a heavy-metal drummer just before she became famous.

He was the only boyfriend she claims she’s ever truly loved, and after they broke-up, she vowed never to love again, instead, focusing her energy on making him rue the day he ever doubted her. “Paparazzi” “Poker Face” “Bad Romance” “Alejandro” and, most recently, “Judas,” it seems the same ghost is still there, lurking in the backdrop, pulling all the strings and manipulating the head of that self-proclaimed fame monster. 

lady gaga born this way judas single coverClick here to purchase the singles Born This Way and Judas from Amazon.com 

lady gaga ina putple jacket on stage“I wouldn’t have been successful without him,” she admits in the same Rolling Stone interview. And she’s probably right, she wouldn’t have been. But we’re left again to ask the same question as before, WHY?

There is a great short story by the nineteenth century American author Washington Irving (remembered most for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) called “The Mutability of Literature.” In which He, the narrator, is walking through a library at Westminster Abbey when he comes across an old “quarto” [a large book]. After pulling it down from the shelf and opening it, the book begins talking to him about its dissatisfaction over not being opened in 200 years. What follows is a dialogue upon literary immortality, and how very few authors are able to attain it. The English language, Irving states, is a language constantly in flux, and because of this, books are only as good as the era they exist in. The language dies with the people who speak it.

But there’s a catch. At the end of the story, they begin discussing Shakespeare, whom the quarto vaguely remembers as “an author who was making some noise when I left the world.” “I presume he soon sunk into oblivion,” the quarto adds. To which Irving responds, “On the contrary,” explaining that Shakespeare has not only survived, he has flourished. When the quarto, completely baffled, and somewhat angry over the fact that a poet—a half-wit “vagabond deer stealer” nonetheless—will perpetuate the literature of an age, Irving calmly responds, “Yes, a poet. For all writers he has the best chance for immortality. Others may write from the head, but he writes from the heart, and the heart will always understand him.”

When you speak with Lady Gaga’s fans you find that it’s not her music (though she’s sold 15 million albums and 51 million singles worldwide), her penchant for an almost-farcical style, or her dramatic live performances that draws them to her; it’s her genuineness, and the intimacy that comes with it.

“She is more real than other stars on her level,” says a 23-year-old female fan. “She’s unapologetic, she’s not politically correct, unlike other celebrities. I love her in that way.  She is so genuine and transparent. She still finds ways to relate despite her fame.” 

The irony of this sentiment—this realness—is that Lady Gaga is really just a lie. Or at least she claims to be. “Music is a lie,” she said in Rolling Stone. “Art is a lie…I don’t want people to see I’m a human being. I don’t even drink water onstage in front of anybody, because I want them to focus on the fantasy of the music and be transported from where they are to somewhere else. People can’t do that if you’re just on Earth. We need to go to heaven.”

lady gaga hello kitty outfitPerhaps the greater irony is, though, that the lie she has worked so hard to fabricate is really just an exaggerated truth. That beneath all the spectacle and splendor, all the glitter and eye shadow and mascara, is the painful reality that the mask is not a mask, but her barest form on display. That the Lady Gaga we all see is not a persona, but merely Stefani Germanotta, perpetually heartbroken. And that the secret to her realness is that it is like a fractal, setting its pattern on a nanoscopic level, and repeating itself into a macroscopic work of spectrality that permeates society because it has rooted itself in. As Washington Irving wrote, “the unchanging principles of human nature,” ruled by the human heart.

And that’s why Lady Gaga is such an interesting study in fame. She reminds you that fame isn’t about separating yourself from humanity, no. It’s about reveling in every facet of it—the good, the bad and the monstrous.

Make sure to watch the HBO Live Concert Special “Lady Gaga Presents The Monster Ball: At Madison Square Garden,” premiering Saturday, May 7th at 9/8c. Then be ready for the release of her highly anticipated new album, Born This Way, with the smash hits “Born This Way” and “Judas” on it. In stores May 23rd.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 122 - September 7153
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