Last night, I ended up at the Lady Gaga concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Friends of ours — friends in their 60’s, I might add — couldn’t use their tickets and gave them to Courtney and me. I didn’t go into the Gaga show as a “Little Monster,” or even as a particular fan. I, of course, had heard her music, because it is ubiquitous. And I don’t hate pop music.
What I did know about Gaga came from a brilliant essay by James Parker in The Atlantic, calling her “The Last Pop Star“:
In the current generation of Pop divas—Ke$ha, Rihanna, Shakira, Britney, Katy Perry, Beyoncé herself—there’s no match for the alienness of Gaga. Pop in 2010 is thoroughly pornographized and tattoo-demented; the mainstream, as you may have noticed, is not very mainstream anymore. But there perches Lady Gaga, in paradoxical elegance, her plumage bristling, with an uncanny feel for just how much of her freakery we are prepared to absorb. She has successfully managed the rumor that she is a hermaphrodite. (She’s not.) Sweetly and demurely, she has ridden the couch of Ellen DeGeneres: “Who doesn’t love Ellen?” she cooed to the audience. The culture will not victimize her. Rather the reverse: with songs like “Paparazzi” she is, as English soccer commentators are fond of observing in the wake of a particularly jarring early tackle, “getting her retaliation in first.” Watching her stalk onstage with her retinue, one has a particular sensation—of aberrant sensibilities on the march, rive gauche visions, a whole underworld of transgression breaking the surface.
That is very much the experience I had last night when she walked on stage. The concert was sensory overload: a huge set, a dozen scantily clad dancers, lights and fog and strobes, and Gaga getting rear-mounted on a motorcycle by another woman. She shouted repeatedly, “I don’t give a fuck!” and told us that she’d birthed us from her “monster pussy.”
But Gaga seemed to know that this concert wasn’t really about the music. I suspect she might even know that her music isn’t that good. In fact, she spent more time talking to the crowd than any performer I’ve ever seen.