Thus spake Lady Gaga, in the profile on her in this month’s Vanity Fair, a rag I admit to reading religiously. (Hey, it’s perfumed-up real pretty, which makes it perfect to wrap fish in.) You thought public morals and good taste were all she’d taken a chainsaw to – as you can see, she’s done a real number on the English language as well.
“But what makes her tick?” you want to know, as, apparently, all America does. Why, the same thing that has made every other “pop icon” tick, of course:
When I look into the crowd [at my shows], I feel like I’m looking into tiny little disco-ball mirrors and I’m looking into myself. And when I wake up in the morning, that’s what makes my heart tick.
As always with these weirdos, “It’s all about me!” But with “the Gaga,” it’s all about you too, dear fans:
It’s about loving who you are. I don’t want people to love me; I want them to love themselves. I have a relentless pursuit in me to give everything in me to my fans to make them feel good about themselves.
The proof is in the pudding, for Lady Gaga recalls the young lives she’s transformed, as evidenced by the sob stories she’s received from myriad teenage losers and misfits who have found hope in her music and an example in her life and work. And hers is, it seems, a faith-based philanthropy. She “currently ‘works with’ ‘spiritual guides’” and “used to pray every night that God would make me crazy”:
Listen, I prayed for a lunacy, and he gave it to me. It’s a bit of a sick thing when a 17-year-old says in her nightly prayers that I would rather die young and a legend than be married with children and die an old lady in my bed.
Not quite Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, or Christ’s “Thy will, not mine, be done,” but let it not be said that the former Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta remembered absolutely nothing from the nuns who taught her. Indeed, despite her slutty public persona, she is “quite celibate now.” Quite. Because “I don’t really have sex. Well, sometimes.” But only sometimes, you see, because:
I also think I’m afraid of depleting my energy. I have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone they’re going to take my creativity from me through my vagina.
You heard it here first, folks.
So, we have a “spiritually”-guided “icon” who sacrifices herself for her work and her followers, who in turn identify with her and find salvation in her work. In short, pop music fandom as atavistic religious cult, where the content of the religion is pure narcissism. Somewhere, Roger Scruton is saying “I told you so.”
What’s most amazing about “the Lady Gaga phenomenon” is that anyone thinks it is a phenomenon at all. It’s essentially the same shtick we’ve seen from David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and a thousand others. New freak show, same as the old freak show. While in Prague recently I was flipping through the channels on the hotel TV and came upon her video “Alejandro.” Don’t watch this one with the kids. In fact, don’t watch it. But not because there’s any new depravity there. It’s just the same old depravity, perhaps even more tiresome than titillating given that we’re somehow expected to find it really envelope-pushing. Weird fascist aesthetic? Bowie’s Thin White Duke and Pink Floyd’s The Wall have been there and done that. Blasphemy? Madonna and Marilyn Manson beat her to it long ago. Virtual pornography? Since when have you not been able find that on MTV – or cable TV in general, or even just plain old TV?
Perhaps the one thing truly novel about the ex-Miss Germanotta is her choice of stage name. Not the goofiness of it, of course, but its “truth in advertising” quality. None of the absurd pretentiousness of the Bowie and Floyd albums I wasted so many hours of my adolescence on, but a proud expression of the truly infantile self-absorption of the pop icon. “Gaga” indeed.