by Robert Dean
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re into music way deeper than the average bear. You’ve got a closet full of band shirts, and when someone is looking for new music, you practically wet your shorts. We dig through crates for vinyl, schedule vacations around shows, and more than once, we’ve asked for concert tickets as a Christmas gift.
Music nerds bond like glue over our obsession, but it also drives stakes between camps of people: like those who argue who the best Black Flag singer was, or should Dio-era Sabbath be called Sabbath or Heaven & Hell? (Ozzy is Black Sabbath, folks.)
When you go HAAM on music geekology, pop music is a sticky subject. It took everyone forever to realize it, but Justin Timberlake is one talented SOB. If you love music, it doesn’t take a genius to admit that dude is a once in a lifetime performer. I’d go as far and say JT is our generation’s answer to Frank Sinatra. He’s got the chops, can write (Sinatra never wrote songs), can play, and most importantly can back up this argument. But, this ain’t about Just Timberlake. It’s about Lady Gaga.
As a species of dork who loves to argue about the finer tenants of Patsy Cline’s career, or way Sarah Vaughn is a lesser known treasure, we need to embrace the fact that Lady Gaga is awesome.
Look, I know you’re about to throw the computer or phone in the trash over my inflammatory statement. This is one of those times when you have to set aside the “fuck pop music hat” just for a second. In a world of trite garbage that’s as morally infectious as whatever’s on the radio, you’ve gotta give it up to Gaga.
She’s named after a Queen song, did a Bowie tribute, absolutely destroyed an Oscar performance of The Sound of Music and has recorded a duets record with Tony Bennett. What’s Britney Spears been up to lately?
Is Lady Gaga’s pop stuff good? It’s not my cup of tea, but what is admirable, is the lengths Lady Gaga goes to foster inclusivity, to push the boundaries of what’s allowed, vs. what’s accepted in popular culture. While some folks get caught up on a meat dress, there’s something to be said about a performer who’s donated, and worked in the trenches to help kids find homes when they’ve been kicked out for their life choices.
Lady Gaga hasn’t played by the rules that her peers do, she’s like a relic from the 1980’s in her style morphs into things, and assumes personalities, but always remaining her own. She’s not swinging around in a chair, trying to hawk things ala The Voice, but instead, she went on tour and played dive bars to get her chops back up after a lackluster album. Lady Gaga didn’t get discovered because she was in a halter top and some exec decided guys wanted to fuck her, and girls wanted to be her – instead, she slugged away at NYU, and then dropped out to front a Led Zeppelin cover band.
While she made a lot of statements about social causes and led by the example of what artists should to do lend their platform to others, it was Till it Happens to You that put Lady Gaga on a different plain than the rest of her pop peers. The depth of that song, exercising demons in such a powerful way, left a trail – one asking if we weren’t paying enough attention to an artist who was visibly taking risks against commercial success. You just don’t drop a song about date rape and expect nothing to come from it. That takes guts.
Gaga should be on your list of saints because let’s be honest – she saved Metallica’s ass on the Grammy’s. When Hetfield’s mic when MIA – Gaga stepped up, sexy stripper dancing and all. She knew the song. Not, like a half-assed version, either. She knew the words, the cadence. Her favorite band is Iron Maiden – it can’t be a far stretch that jumping on stage with Metallica wouldn’t be a lifetime moment for her, amongst her many success.