Sasha Frere-Jones’s piece about Lady Gaga in the latest issue of The New Yorker is certainly the most thoughtful and erudite defense of the divisive dance-pop starlet that you’re likely to find anywhere, and we’re inclined to agree with him on an abstract intellectual level. There is no doubt that Gaga is an intriguing character — she’s an unapologetic weirdo who dresses like a sci-fi super-villain, name-drops Rilke and Marx in interviews, and has had great success in the United States with the sort of gloriously dumb dance music that usually thrives in gay clubs and Europe. Despite all this, we find it hard to actually embrace her music.
This isn’t to say that Lady Gaga’s hits are not very good. “
Let’s Just Dance” and “Poker Face” are bold, energetic songs that beat their hooks into a listener with brutal efficiency, but when it comes down to it, they basically sound like Europop remixes of Britney Spears deep cuts. (Unsurprisingly, Britney is a fan — she enlisted Gaga as a writer on her latest album, Circus.) Even if she is a bona fide eccentric, Gaga’s music is ultimately very conventional, and mostly comes off like a rehash of every cold-hearted, oversexed, ultrahedonistic radio hit and club banger we’ve heard over the course of this long, long, looooong decade. Her video for “Poker Face” presents a sort of big-money, high-fashion revelry that already seems somewhat anachronistic in this period of global recession, and the song itself is a thinly veiled ode to rough sex, which fits all too well into the emotionally toxic tone of contemporary pop radio, which is essentially a terrifying echo chamber of anger, violence, entitlement, and porny sexuality.
Perhaps it is unfair to take our pop fatigue out on poor Lady Gaga, but we feel like we’re ready for a new era of mainstream pop, and for all her weirdness, she’s repping hard for all the things we’d like to get away from as we enter a new decade. She’s just too ‘00s, you know?