Long Live Lady Gaga and The McQueen

Until last year I thought pop was a com­pletely spent force.  Oh, there were some nice bands around with nice tunes and some nice hair­cuts, but pop as a total art form was pooped.  Along with pop cul­ture.  It was just another Facebook app.

And then along came the New York songwriter-turned-singer that the press loves to dub ‘bizarre’.  2009 was indubit­ably The Year of Gaga, and not just because she had a string of block­buster inter­na­tional hits, but because they were the instantly unmis­tak­able product of a ‘kooky’ young woman who is actu­ally com­pletely in con­trol of her work and vis­ion.  And her own aes­thetic.  Hence per­haps the wishful-thinking sight­ings of a penis.  This chick doesn’t need a dick — she has a real one.

Last night at the Brits (where she per­formed acous­tic ver­sions of ‘Telephone’ and ‘Dance in the Dark’, styled by Miss Haversham salut­ing Marie Antoinette ) she won a rare three gongs.  She deserved much more.  And a much longer set.  (It was rumoured to have been cut down by anxious Brits pro­du­cers because she kept chan­ging her plans.)

Gaga has, almost single-handedly, resur­rec­ted main­stream, High Street pop music — or at least made it seem like it’s alive again.  She’s even made post­mod­ern­ism seem almost… mod­ern again.  That she does it with a look and start­ling pop promos that play so enter­tain­ingly with the deathly, gar­ish icon­o­graphy of fash­ion and con­tem­por­ary celebrity cul­ture is all the more remark­able.  Yes it’s a kind of gal­vanic motion — those promos often look like Helmut Newton zom­bie  flicks — but boy, this is shock­ing fun.  Besides, that’s the nature of the twitching/tweeting human sub­ject in a medi­ated, hyper-consumerist age.

Sorry to go on, but Gaga man­ages to be truly pop, and yet is a true artist.  She churns out crowd-pleasing dance-floor tracks that stomp on the com­pet­i­tion, but there’s also a win­some mel­an­choly and vul­ner­ab­il­ity behind the… Poker Face.

Some hasten to men­tion the ‘M’ word to put Gaga in her place.  But aside from moments of hil­ari­ous bril­liance such as ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Vogue’ I was never much of a Madonna fan, even before she found the Kabala and I’m-not-Gay Ritchie.  Maybe it’s early-onset demen­tia, but I feel dif­fer­ently about Gaga.  Rather than see her as a Madonna knock-off, I see her as a more fully-realised Madonna.  She’s the Madonna Madonna wanted us to take her for (and legions of gays did).

And it’s not as if Gaga doesn’t pay homage.  ‘Dance in the Dark’, which Gaga per­formed at the Brits, is prob­ably my favour­ite track from The Fame.  It’s very 1980s HiNRG — with a talky bridge that is a touch­ing trib­ute to Madge’s Vogue.  It’s actu­ally gayer than Vogue, which is quite some­thing.  You can almost smell the pop­pers.  And I don’t even like poppers.

Gaga, a ded­ic­ated fol­lower of fash­ion, ded­ic­ated her Brits per­form­ance to her friend Alexander McQueen, who died last week.  I don’t like eulo­gies, but I did rate his work.  He was a genu­inely free spirit, a gay bohemian of the kind that almost died out in the 1980s (and which Gaga is clearly inspired by).  That he seems to have taken his own life sug­gests that it wasn’t easy fight­ing his­tory, or fash­ion houses.

I never met Lee, but we did have a flirty fax cor­res­pond­ence in the late 1990s when I was still in my thirties.  His open­ing gam­bit was ‘we met once in DTPM a couple of years ago’.  DTPM was a London gay techno club where all the muscle boys went and took off their shirts and downed masses of drugs, dan­cing the night away, so of course I should have met him at DTPM — and for­got­ten about it.  But I never did because I never went there.  Or any­where, really.

In the course of our thermal-paper cor­res­pond­ence (which I think I still have some­where, now fad­ing away into blank­ness)  he asked me, in a hand­writ­ten scrawl on Givenchy headed note­pa­per, to marry him. I don’t know how ser­i­ous he was, but I declined, point­ing out I wasn’t really the mar­ry­ing kind.  This was true, but it was even truer that he wasn’t really my type.  Which is a sad reflec­tion on me, and per­haps on male homo­sexu­al­ity.  I sus­pect Lee was often told by gay men he wasn’t ‘their type’.

Either way, I could have done much, much worse.  And of course, I did.

23 thoughts on “Long Live Lady Gaga and The McQueen”

  1. I have always been aware of Christina Aqilera, and her great voice, but just saw her in “Burlesque” the lady runs circles around Gaga or any other female vocal­ist in this dec­ade. Amazing. So Gaga just gets the cos­tume prize.
    I ca see wg=here gay people would want some­thing freak­ish to rep­res­ent how off track they’ve gotten.

  2. I have to admit, I’m almost start­ing to like the Gaga. “…act of the vacant, empty performer-to-be-consumed” is the line that made me think twice.
    Regardless, I’ll also admit that she gives me bone — and that, is a rare thing from the female camp for me.

  3. Mark, I’m so out of the loop that for the bet­ter part of the past year I assumed that any­one called ‘Lady GaGa’ must have a penis! She may be the first true female drag queen since Mae West.

    Good God, Mark, you just put in a reply what I was about to write: unlike a cer­tain con­fab­u­la­tion of self-promotion gim­micks, Lady G is actu­ally a clas­sic­ally trained musi­cian who writes her own stuff.

    And to think that she did it all without being on American Idol.

  4. Mark S: Coming from you that’s an incred­ible com­pli­ment! Since I got turned on to Gaga about six months ago, I’ve spent prob­ably far too many drunken even­ings over-analyzing Gaga’s per­sona and the sur­pris­ing com­plex­ity of her music and imagery (if not her lyr­ics) with my boy­friend, who incid­ent­ally is the bi guy who intro­duced me to your site with regards to your awe­some art­icles about male bisexu­al­ity and visibility.

  5. Supermarky: Gaga is clas­sic­ally trained, and unlike Mistress M writes all her own music (and sings live). You may not be able to make out the words, but it sounds like you’re hear­ing the real lan­guage and archi­tec­ture of the song.

  6. I liked that too!

    Have to say I quite liked the simple archi­tec­ture of the main part of the song, melod­ic­ally speak­ing (I’m hear­ing impaired and couldn’t get the words at all): the rising 5th against the fall­ing 3 motive down to the top note of the 5th, the nice for­ward propul­sion of this. And it’ll have to be driven out of my head if I’m not to con­tinue to hear it all day long.

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