I am really into Lady Ga Ga at the moment. It's been a while since I have been so excited by a pop star. (Okay, so there was that obsession with Britney a few months ago; I am always into one diva or another.) But I really think it has been a while since someone as exciting and provoking as Ga Ga has been on the charts.
What strikes me most about Ga Ga is her self-identity as an artist and the extremes to which she is prepared to push this identity. There's nothing more that irks me than celebrities who try too hard to be "down-to-earth" in interviews. Not so Ga Ga - on Rove she appeared with a one-foot cone of fake hair on her head, and answered his questions in a highly abstract and somewhat detached manner. Rove was actually watchable for a change.
Indeed, Ga Ga's whole life is a performance. She travels around in a bus called "Haus of Ga Ga" with a small army of creatives. Every interview contains an extreme or unexpected opinion. Is she joking or is she for real when she says "I would die without fame"? As with all the best camp irony, the answer is unclear.
One the surface "The Fame" seems lyrically out of date. It seems all so very Paris Hilton who is so a couple of years ago now. However I think there is a very sophisticated irony at play - as complex perhaps as Andy Warhol's exploration of fame. Indeed Ga Ga openly models herself on Warhol, with her self-penned nickname "Candy Warhol". The film clip for "Paparazzi" is possibly her most amazing yet - it manages to be provoking - how long has it been since a video clip was provoking?
Madonna 20 years ago?
Ga Ga has a voice that is similar sometimes to Christina Aguilera - but she can use it a more clever way. The contrast in Poker Face between a robotic rap and Aguilera-style warbling helps make it one of the most original pop-anthems in recent years. Ga Ga has a high-fashion edginess that makes Gwen Stefani look staid and conservative. Her lyrics have the catchiness of some of Madonna's best, but are wittier and slicker than anything Madonna was written in years. One of the most impressive efforts of The Fame is that Ga Ga has managed to do something Madonna has failed to do for quite a while - sell dance music to the U.S. public.
Like Madonna, Ga Ga creates as much noise off her albums as on them. Like Madonna, the music is what is best about Lady Ga Ga.