Lady Gaga (or Stefani Germanotta, as we may have to get more used to calling her soon), has struck an interesting and often exciting presence on the pop scene since she emerged in 2008.
Well, actually it was 2009, four months after her album ‘The Fame’ was released, that ‘Just Dance’ became the earworm everyone was hearing that summer. At the beginning, there wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish her from a slew of other fame-hungry popstars besides a way with a catchy tune, but that quickly changed with songs and videos like ‘Paparazzi’ and ‘Bad Romance’.
It became obvious that there was more to Gaga than just the tunes – she had a dark, skewed take on the pop world, and there was a slightly sinister sexuality at work. This followed into The Fame Monster, an ep that was tacked onto the debut album, and which expressly dealt with the darker side of fame.
Her second album ‘Born This Way’ continued to lift her into the echelons of pop, even if for some her marriage of electropop and metal raised eyebrows. She was known as much for her controversial and outlandish persona by now as her music – who could forget the ‘meat dress’ of the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards or the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” speech she gave in Portland in the same year?
However, she’s attracted criticism from some corners for her seeming willingness to offer her fans “a ‘transgressive’ experience without being required to think”. That quote from The Guardian’s Kitty Empire speaks to a strange dichotomy in Gaga – monstrously successful in a short space of time, and yet trying to appear as a transgressive, counter-cultural figurehead.
In a talk she gave last week at the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence, it appears that “Stefani, Gaga, hybrid person” has caught up with this dichotomy, and is willing to discuss it. In the sincere speech, she talked about the fact that a “couple years ago” she was unhappy enough that she wanted to leave music.
Explaining why, she said: “OK, well, I really don’t like selling these fragrances, perfumes. I don’t like wasting my time spending days just shaking people’s hands and smiling, taking selfies. It feels shallow to my existence. I have a lot more to offer than my image.”
She also explains the tension between being her true, authentic self and the persona presented by the engine that “makes money” from her and causes her to feel “overworked”, and she says of that true self: “That person has balls. That person has integrity. That person has an opinion. That person just doesn’t say yes.”
It’ll be interesting to see how this shapes future career choices. Gaga is currently starring in American Horror Story: Hotel, and has been attracting positive notes from fans, critics and colleagues alike.
If we’re going to see this authentic self translate into her musical career, will we see a stripped-down Gaga, or will we see the wild, globe-straddling colossus unleashed in an entirely different way?