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Friday, April 12, 2024

Column: Little Monsters, indeed

It’s funny how you can YouTube just about any song in mainstream circulation right now and be instantly bombarded with viewer comments about what a blatant Lady Gaga rip-off it is. What’s even funnier is that at least 50 percent of these songs are just ordinary branches on the same formulaic dance-pop tree — so why are Mother Monster’s legions so cutthroat when it comes to the competition?

From the lips of a self-proclaimed Gaga fan to your ears, I’ll be the first to admit it: the Little Monsters are fucking crazy. Of course, this comes as no surprise given that the object of their idolization is more than just a little off-the-wall herself (see: May ‘11 David Letterman appearance in which she dreamily hums the theme to Batman and eats her host’s cue cards).

Yet, there’s something especially compelling about the insanity of her fanbase, something that extends beyond hoarding paraphernalia and attending concerts in elaborate drag. Many Little Monsters act as though Gaga is some sort of musical messiah and, as such, will go to great lengths to defend her from anyone they view as a trespasser on her musical turf. The biggest problem with this? When one artist is already accepted as the leader of the pack, all others are inherently viewed as followers.

A number of people have been quick to point out the similarities between all other reigning contemporary pop stars and Lady Gaga, some through gentle implications (I, for instance, do have to wonder if Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream-era chameleonic ‘do was at all inspired by Gaga’s own follicular ventures) and others with less finesse.

“Bitch aint original,” [sic] writes YouTube user LivingTheGagaLife, pointing out the fact that Nicki Minaj’s latest single “Starships”  was co-produced by one of Lady Gaga’s staple producers, RedOne.

Now, I’m not oblivious; I can see just as well as anyone else that, following the massive public response to Gaga and her bizarre wardrobe, many other singers in the pop game gave themselves proportionately dramatic makeovers. Within a span of less than a year, Ke$ha wore studded metallic eyebrows and post-apocalyptic glitter in her video for “We R Who We R,” Katy Perry donned an electric blue wig and shot whipped cream out of her bra to promote her album Teenage Dream and Nicki Minaj showed up to the 2011 VMAs sporting what can only be described as Mortal Kombat-meets-Hello Kitty chic. No one can say for certain, but it’s hard to believe that all the aforementioned stars (and then some) simply embraced eccentric fashion by pure coincidence.

Sonic imitation, though, is an entirely different boat. Danceable beats may be a commodity among pop stars of all different dye jobs, but can you imagine Gaga spitting one of Nicki Minaj’s rapid-fire verses? Conversely, imagine the self-titled Barbie even writing a line like “I want your whiskey mouth all over my blonde south” – that gem could scarcely come from the lockbox of anyone but Mother Monster herself.

The fact of the matter is that nowadays exposure is synonymous with club-readiness; the airwaves are positively clogged with the telltale thumping beats and sliding synths of pop music. But there’s a reason for that, aside from any of the arguments of #TeamGaga that all other artists are copying their musical savior.

The issue, as it usually tends to be when seeing the world through my perspective, is us. The consumer decides what is and isn’t popular and, as such, is the reason that the American music industry currently stands divided between dance-pop, hip hop and Adele. A singer’s management team is largely responsible for the direction of their music and image, and since we, the listeners, have shown such an ongoing strong reaction to dance-pop (like Lady Gaga), we’ve created an atmosphere that is conducive to the production, and success, of very similarly structured music. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken, right?

Lady Gaga just so happens to be one of those special cases who is both marketable and talented. The fact that she can blend commercially appealing tunes with some serious artistic integrity speaks volumes about her ability as a musician, and definitely offers some explanation as to why her followers seem to worship at her altar. However, this still doesn’t justify the notion that every other artist must therefore want to copy her style. Maybe I just like Nicki too much to see it, or then again, maybe the idea really is nothing but complete and utter scheiße.

Watch for Lady Gaga’s forthcoming music video in which DYLAN GALLAGHER’s pelt will be worn as a leotard. In the meanwhile, send fan mail to dylaaaaan@gmail.com.


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