Derivative Lady Gaga – UPDATED

Lady Gaga, reclining on a slant board in her underwear and a shawl, casts off a wire-mesh face mask that has begun to bore her. As the closing strains of the Alejandro playback fade out, she addresses her nameless flunkies and bodyguards

Darlings! Why aren’t you looking at me? I am in my underwear again. Doesn’t that stimulate you and shock you? Are you not provoked? Be provoked, damn you! I am a f*****g genius, am I not? Give me that Groucho nose and glasses, I can’t stand my face. Listen to that song, Alejandro! What lyrics! (Singing)

Alejandro, Alejandro
Ale-ale-jandro, Ale-ale-jandro
Alejandro, Alejandro
Ale-ale-jandro, Ale-ale-jandro

Dont bother me,
Dont bother me, Alejandro
Dont call my name,
Dont call my name, Bye Fernando
I’m not you’re babe,
I’m not you’re babe, Alejandro

Did you see how I did that? How I played with two Hispanic names to demonstrate the racism of white Americans who cannot tell one Mexican from another? Am I not daring? No, It does not sound stupid and repetitious! That’s intentional! I am drilling this into the guilty subconscious mind of all the world!

How dare you suggest it sounds like the B side of an Ace-of-Base reject? I’m a f*****g genius and I’m telling you it’s supposed to be derivative! I’m making a point about vacuous Euro-trash techno-blurb and how it delivers compelling social commentary with all the heft of soap bubbles! (Throws off Groucho nose.) The aviator cap, quickly! The one with the thick goggles! Shove it on my head! Cover me! (Casts aside shawl).

For the video, I’m thinking military steps with occasional pelvic thrusts! What do you think, darlings? Genius? Janet Jackson? What is a Rhythm Nation? Oh, but those dancers wore hats with visors! My dancers will be all male, really buff, and wearing leather shorts, and I will wear a bra that looks dangerous, in order to demonstrate my sexual power! (Flings off aviator cap; lays two steel wool soap pads on her eyes.)

Bleached blonde hair and black leather! How too-too! Madonna? Conical bras? Are you saying my ideas are derivative of Madonna’s? I’ll give you derivative! All that poseur ever did was wear some rosary beads around her neck and pretend to kiss St. Martin de Porres in front of a burning cross! She was wearing a black slip! You couldn’t see anything! I’m going to channel Evita! I’m going to wriggle my back for the camera!

Derivative my ass! I’ll be dancing in underwear that is derived from last week’s laundry, with a red cross at my crotch! (shoves steel wool pads into her bra and grabs a lampshade.) This my new hat! I am a f*****g genius! Then I’m going to simulate sex in my underwear! Because I don’t want Alejandro to bother me, don’t you understand? I’m with Roberto, then. Or Fernando, I can’t remember. Can you hear the drums Fernando?

You can’t possibly say that’s derivative! What if I put bongo drums on my breasts, and Alejandro plays them while singing Babalu? Derivative like Ricky Ricardo? What about if I am wearing, you know, those flouncy sleeves, while he plays me?

What do you mean, Cuban? Cuban, Mexican, what’s the difference? This is art, you dumbass, and I am a f*****g genius! You’re fired. DuctTape your iPad to my forehead and get out!

(Ponders furiously) Okay, I need to figure this out before I head to the Mets game in my underwear and leather jacket. Maybe I’ll wear a bicycle tire around my neck, too, or will that seem desperate?

I know! What this video needs to be profound and completely un-derivative is for me to dress up in a red leather nun’s habit and I’ll swallow a rosary, too, how do you like them apples, eh? That’s daring for ya! That’s edgy like Madonna never thought of bein’ edgy! That’s real art! And I’ll put on sunglasses, like Bono!

Get that red licorice over there–not the shoelace kind, the twizzler kind–shove them up my nostrils and staple half a lemon to my neck, like an adam’s apple! That’s beautiful! Where was I, oh, yeah, art! If people can’t handle art that’s edgy and creative and totally new, then they’re losers who don’t understand my heightened intellect!

Besides, when a song has nothing to say and rips off Ace of Base, the only way to redeem my artistic integrity is to sell it is with sex, ta-tas and enough religion to make the Christianists feel uncomfortable, even though they’re too stupid to know that it doesn’t mean anything. Deep down I am a quiet, reserved, highly religious woman who feels just a little confused. Sophisticated Catholics will find me amusing! Cramped Catholics will find my heretical! I’m fine with all of that, as long as they do not find me boring!

What? You found…the video…bor-bor-boring? But how can that be? I threw every offensive idea I could find into that. You’re supposed to find it erotic and thrilling and fascinating! You didn’t? B-boring? Bring me a bucket!

No, I’m not going to be sick, I want to wear it!

Pity me. Have sympathy of me. Buy my music and my merchandise. Do not pay any attention to Bookworm when she writes:

The joy of a normal life, a truly normal life, is that you don’t allow yourself to get blasé. If you live in the center of the path, which I always envision as a sort of Leave it to Beaver morality, you can still get excited by a jet flying overhead, a flower blooming at the roadside, a baby’s smile, or your lover wearing little to nothing in the privacy of your own bedroom. This is so much better than trying to live a life in which you constantly push your own sensory envelope. Rather than enriching your sensory life, it seems to me that, eventually, your perceptions become so calloused that there nothing left to bring you surprise or joy.

I know all about life! It’s about what 14 year olds want! I’m Lady Gaga, and I’m a f*****g genius! Next year, I will be derivative of Mummenshanz!

UPDATE: Got a Tweet asking me if I wasn’t a little less generous to Lady Gaga in this piece than I was writing a few months ago for NPR. Well, yes and no. Note my closing paragraph for NPR:

Lady Gaga is a good musician, therefore she understands the need for resolution. That may help her to move beyond the initial monster call-out. If she cannot, she will fall as quickly as she has risen, having unleashed onto a generation an idea that, like Madonna’s mindless sex fest, is ultimately empty, bleak and unhelpful. Even monsters need purpose and redemptive love, as Mary Shelley knew, or there is no place for them but exile.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • JessM

    I spose I am far too unsophisticated or edgy but that posting was a bit disappointing. I am sure you were wanting to make some sort of point but all my primitive brain got was…disturbed. I guess I just don’t like being voluntarily exposed to such creepiness, I guess. I feel a little dirtier now. I am a little surprised at you, Anchoress!

  • suzyq

    ewww. please take it away.

  • Caroline W

    The anchoress is the bleeping genius. I’m showing this to my daughter.

  • dry valleys

    How do the tunes stand up without the videos, though? I know she is quite visual (oddly enough I’ve heard it said that she is much prettier than her persona would have you think) but if you’re there with your ipod does it still work?

    I don’t think so, I was once made to listen to more of her stuff than I’d have liked because a distant relative (who actually is a 14 year old girl) took control of what was played on a family occasion. The only even vaguely positive impression I got was that I thought singing about a disco stick is quite funny :)

    Of course it isn’t aimed at me, & I suppose there is intelligence & care gone into it. Like I said last time this was discussed, they don’t just let any old joker into NYU.

    [For me, the only song Gaga has written that "stuck" with me was "Bad Romance." I thought that was a decent piece of pop-music. Alejandro really is an ABBA/Ace of Base derivative with silly lyrics and an unmemorable melody. -admin]

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  • CV

    Ace of Base?

    Every time I hear Alejandro (which seems to be in an endless loop on the airwaves this summer), I think I am hearing Madonna sing an ABBA song.

    Seriously, there is nothing new about ANY of this. Except maybe the red habit.

  • Peregrine John

    Bad habits, huh? Just saying.

    This is a scrumptious parody, Anchoress. I’ll be showing it around.

  • Joe

    The Anchoress can be very funny and scathing when she wants to be. Remind me to stay on your good side.

  • Joe

    The Anchoress can be very funny and scathing when she wants to be. Remind me to stay on your good side.

  • http://www.goldfishandclowns.com Jerry

    Parodying a parody?

  • http://www.goldfishandclowns.com Jerry

    Parodying a parody?

  • Doc

    Who is Lady Gaga and why is she popular? Give me Koko Taylor any day.

  • Sheryl Bryant

    Brillant and spot on! I’ll be interested to see what Lady Gaga does when she grows up.

  • Robert

    Fair enough JessM,

    Contra: I love this kind of culturally relevant fun.

    ‘Helps me escape all my fellow Catholics who use words like “darned” (probably while reciting Chris West, whom I otherwise respect, ad nauseum).

    ‘Never fails to impress me that Jesus Christ was able to walk into bordellos and elicit responses other than “who’s this stuck-up, holier-than-thou git?”

    He was perfect and yet could still engage with the everyman/woman and 2000 years later we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.

    And in doing so, we might as well poke some fun along the way which The Anchoress does with aplomb.

    Many thanks,

    Robert

  • http://www.goldfishandclowns.com Jerry

    And just as I posted that comment, what should roll around on my iPhone but “All The Lovely Ladies” by Gordon Lightfoot.

    Now where have we heard that song before… ;-)

  • http://chrysologus.blogspot.com Adam Rasmussen

    So, bottom line: you weren’t offended, just bored. I wasn’t offended either. And yeah, I guess I was a little bored.

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    Lady Gaga is just another manufactured “artist” which cheapens that word beyond measure. She actually can sing – she just chooses to subjugate any minor talent she might have to her desire to shock. Despicable role model for young girls. My 10-year-old “tween” guru Jillian says she is “lame”! That should settle the matter. Jillian is very smart and very perceptive.

  • Diane

    What’s left after a performer sheds her clothing, reveals every inch of herself, opens her viscera, pulls out her entrails and holds them high while shrieking the shallow prophesies she claims to see there.

    Roadkill.

    And, a whole bunch of people sorry they witnessed the whole sad, disturbing show.

    Yuk.

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  • archangel

    On a lighter note… without being into her music or even personae, the first thought was exactly what Jerry said:

    A parody of a parody.

    She strikes me as knowingly derivative. In essence making fun of it. It is tired and boring because IT IS tired and boring. I think to understand this is to try and look at it through HER eyes. She fancies herself an artist so lets deconstruct a bit. How does one view things artisticly but through symbols.

    Rosary = prayers
    Nuns habit = virginity

    Eating of the rosary essentially equals choking on one’s prayers.

    Red Leather nun habit in provactive position = the yearning for sexual purity (or even exposing the lie in her life) as in acting the virgin but wanting to be the tramp.

    The conical breast plates and the abusive attitude looks to me to be a satire of Madonna. Again derivative because it is meant to be. Profaning of the sacred kind of has to be intended for my hackles to raised. Like the Hyundai commercial… the symbols are used because they are convenient and because (interestingly) when “purity” wants to be portrayed all artists still look to the church. Again kind of a tip of the hat. They know where purity can be found. Again somewhat flattering.

    Either way as a whole… its a yawner.

  • Veronica

    I agree with Katy Perry: “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.”

    In my opinion, Gaga is just another mind controlled sex slave that will be used, abused, and thrown out like yesterday’s leftovers when her time’s over. I personally still continue to be puzzled as to why she’s so famous, to me she’s just another manufactured character made of recycled plastic. The fact that the media is determined to push her down our throats as the ‘biggest, most talented artist evah!’ doesn’t make me like her more, either… I think I would have ignored her if it wasn’t for the big propaganda machine she has working behind her back.

  • archangel

    Some fart jokes are still funny. :)

    Just ask my 9 year old.

  • CV

    “Knowingly derivative” is still derivative, is it not?

    I don’t see why I should give Gaga extra points for artsy self-awareness, when the impact is essentially the same.

    If it walks and talks like Madonna….

  • http://cleansingfiredor.com/ Nerina

    Loved it, Anchoress. Keep it coming.

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    Gage may have reached her prominence because early on the essentially useless Perez Hilton promoted and supported her endlessly!

  • Andrew B

    I cannot add anything to the Anchoress’ masterful dismantling of the latest sad, tawdry pop spectacle. Well, maybe I can add this: Is there anything on earth more predictable and contrived than a person who wants to be edgy and controversial? Lady Gaga has the cheerful spontaneity of a Space Shuttle launch.

    Got the checklist? Catholic imagery? Check! Fliration with blasphemy? Check! Homoeroticism? Check! Exposed body/concealed face? Check!

    How long before she marries/divorces Sean Penn, moves to England, adopts every child she can grab and flirts with Judaism?

  • Gail F

    She strikes me as smart and calculating, and (unlike Madonna) she can actually sing. My impression is that she made a list of things to do to become famous and make millions, did them, and became famous and made millions. There is a touch of burlesque there that Madonna didn’t have — a “this is all one big act” vibe — but also a callous disregard for anyone else.

    The sad part is that if she’s that smart and talented, she could have become a hit some other way. This is the way she chose to do it, and I find that both sad and disturbing. I tried explaining that to my 16-year-old but she did not understand me at all. She said I was “judgmental.” I told her that we have judgment for a reason, that we are supposed to judge — not people’s souls, but their actions. She gave me a whole “that’s relative” speech that I suppose I would have given at 16.

    [Yes, weren't we all brilliant at 16? I was so smart I knew more than everyone who had ever come before me, and relativism was just "right reason." -admin]

  • dry valleys

    Let’s remember that Catholicism is what she knows, being the daughter of devout parents who was at a Catholic school. She is kicking against the pricks (worth noting also that Katy Perry is from a hardcore evangelical Protestant background).

    I, having not been brought up with any religion, don’t really understand the frenzy that is on display here. I wonder if she has just boxed herself into a corner.

    I’ve got some better stuff going on, I’ve just listened to “Da Capo” by Love. Going through my A-Z rotation, I’ll be on the Lynyrd Skynyrd tomorrow if I can avoid work-related distractions for long enough to get my ipod banging for a good stretch :)

    PS-
    Apparently Stefani is quite an agreeable person in real life. I go to Birmingham quite a lot, I got a new job in March & I often attend conferences etc. there. I can’t claim anything along those lines has ever happened to me though.

  • http://musing-minds.com kimsch

    ah, Mummenschanz – I was lucky enough to see them live – Twice! What a great show.

  • archangel

    CV- of course it is. But there’s a difference between copying with the intent of trying to be original and copying with the intent to parody or even satire. So yes, in a strict sense being derivative for whatever reason is still being derivative.

    But I will tell you that being in a creative field myself, the only conclusion to be made is that in all artistic endeavors, the final product is always derivative of something or someone.

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  • Glenn Smith

    Don’t over-think it. It’s just porn. Soft, expensive, popular and extremely lucrative when sold to teens, but just porn none the less. Take out the sex and supposed taboo busting and you have exactly what you would if you did the same to a porn flick – just boring video and background music.

  • Peggy R

    She’s a complete Madonna copycat. I guess w/different lyrics or something…I would not know a song of hers if it smacked me in the face. Unimpressed.

  • Peggy R

    She’s a complete Madonna copycat. I guess w/different lyrics or something…I would not know a song of hers if it smacked me in the face. Unimpressed.

  • newguy40

    Blech….

    For a palette cleanser may I recommend..
    Ave Verum Corpus-Mozart
    Adagio for Strings-Barber
    Symphonies 5, 6, 7,8,9 – Ludwig VBee.

  • newguy40

    Blech….

    For a palette cleanser may I recommend..
    Ave Verum Corpus-Mozart
    Adagio for Strings-Barber
    Symphonies 5, 6, 7,8,9 – Ludwig VBee.

  • NanB

    Lady Gagme does not appear to have much imagination. Most of her work is a regurgitation other pop star’s videos and songs.
    Why doesn’t she choose another religion for her “imagery”; why must it be the Catholic religion?

  • NanB

    Lady Gagme does not appear to have much imagination. Most of her work is a regurgitation other pop star’s videos and songs.
    Why doesn’t she choose another religion for her “imagery”; why must it be the Catholic religion?

  • dry valleys

    Because Catholicism is what she knows? It isn’t likely that she’ll know much about the ins & outs of Islam or Hinduism, or the worship of the ancient Greek gods.

  • dry valleys

    Because Catholicism is what she knows? It isn’t likely that she’ll know much about the ins & outs of Islam or Hinduism, or the worship of the ancient Greek gods.

  • mark

    Libs think they are sophisticated. I think they are insane. Take your pick.

  • mark

    Libs think they are sophisticated. I think they are insane. Take your pick.

  • Tom

    I agree that “Bad Romance” is an effective pop tune (and I wish it weren’t an effective pop tune – a quiet look at the lyrics confirms this). There is nihilism at the heart of most everything Lady Gaga seems to be doing, and if her music weren’t already a re-packaging of the media soundtrack to millions of young lives these days, I think already this talented woman would have moved on to more challenging and meaningful music.

    I think that this viral video from about a year ago says something. The singer is the Lady herself.
    link

  • Tom

    I agree that “Bad Romance” is an effective pop tune (and I wish it weren’t an effective pop tune – a quiet look at the lyrics confirms this). There is nihilism at the heart of most everything Lady Gaga seems to be doing, and if her music weren’t already a re-packaging of the media soundtrack to millions of young lives these days, I think already this talented woman would have moved on to more challenging and meaningful music.

    I think that this viral video from about a year ago says something. The singer is the Lady herself.
    link

  • joan

    Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
    Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God…..
    This is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life:fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry…..
    Colossians 3

  • joan

    Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
    Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God…..
    This is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life:fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry…..
    Colossians 3

  • http://www.matthewklobucher.blogspot.com Klobes

    I was surprised at this posting. I may be breathtakingly naive here, but I think Lady Gaga’s oeuvre so far is quite satirical. I note that sexuality and sex in her songs is rarely a good thing (it seems mostly associated with addiction and/or power), which I take to be a critique of the way we often categorize sex as a material to be had. In fact, I would say that most of her songs extend that critique to a material-as-value perspective throughout popular culture. It’s like she’s saying that the cheap entertainment that consists of sentiment and sexuality and violence and cheap heroics is, well, superficial. And she’s saying in the language of all that superficiality. I’ve been caught saying that she’s a genius, and it’s mostly because I hear in her songs the truth about the edifice of pop culture: it’s corrupt. Her videos, so far as I’ve seen, bear this out.

    She also has a gripping and beautiful voice. I actually prefer it to the videos she makes.

    You may be right, Anchoress. She might be seeking attention with Warholian stunts. But I think she’s mocking them.

  • http://www.matthewklobucher.blogspot.com Klobes

    I was surprised at this posting. I may be breathtakingly naive here, but I think Lady Gaga’s oeuvre so far is quite satirical. I note that sexuality and sex in her songs is rarely a good thing (it seems mostly associated with addiction and/or power), which I take to be a critique of the way we often categorize sex as a material to be had. In fact, I would say that most of her songs extend that critique to a material-as-value perspective throughout popular culture. It’s like she’s saying that the cheap entertainment that consists of sentiment and sexuality and violence and cheap heroics is, well, superficial. And she’s saying in the language of all that superficiality. I’ve been caught saying that she’s a genius, and it’s mostly because I hear in her songs the truth about the edifice of pop culture: it’s corrupt. Her videos, so far as I’ve seen, bear this out.

    She also has a gripping and beautiful voice. I actually prefer it to the videos she makes.

    You may be right, Anchoress. She might be seeking attention with Warholian stunts. But I think she’s mocking them.


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