With all due respect and affection to my esteemed colleague and dear friend Guy Friday, he’s out of his head! I take serious issue with his claim that people who don’t like Lady Gaga don’t know enough about her. I read her Wikipedia page months ago.I still don’t like her. Do I find her music catchy? Yes. If it comes on when I’m at a party, will I dance? Sure. Is she getting a dime out of my pocket? Nope. Every time some oddball singer/dancer comes out, gyrating provocatively and getting frisky with the synthesizer, somebody tries to present me with this back story that explains that she’s totally original and interesting. Trouble is, I’ve heard this back story so often, it’s all starting to sound a bit like a required mythology. I’m not buying it.
Artist Myth #1: I am my alter-ego.
1. Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Germanotta. . . . Stefani at that point adopted the stage name Lady Gaga and now only responds to being addressed as either Lady Gaga or simply Gaga.You know what other uber-famous person insisted that people call her by an assumed name? Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. No word on whether she still requires the usage of “John.” My guess is “No.” Even a toddler knows that fake names are so 2008.
Artist Myth #2: I have been talented since birth and I’m also well-trained. Lady Gaga is a classically trained pianist. Gaga began learning the piano at the age of 4 and by age 11 was set to attend the prestigious Julliard School in Manhattan, which only admits 149 pupils a year. Instead she chose to attend the private Catholic school Convent of the Sacred Heart and by age 17 she was given an early admission to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
A) Every musician has to learn pitch and rhythm somewhere.
B) That she was “set to attend” the Julliard school is impressive, sure, but Guy Friday appears to be wrong on some of the details. Based on her age, it would have been the Pre-College division. While the Pre-College Division does accept students from all around the world, they are required to live near NYC with a family member or guardian. Being one of 149 pupils (and I don’t think that figure is accurate for the Pre-College division) in a metropolitan area of 18 million is an accomplishment, but it doesn’t compare to being admitted to the college, where the applicant pool is international, adult, and therefore more mobile.
C) Tisch? And not Julliard? Tssssshh. No, in all seriousness, you know who else got into Tisch? Over 2,000 other people at the moment. She left. Art school adds value only if you stick it out.
D) It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert (see also Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers), but I don’t care if those hours come from birth or from your late teens. If you’re under 25 and you’re skilled, talented, and successful, yeah, you’re going to have started pretty early and had a pretty intense devotion to your studies. We’re a youth-obsessed culture. So this is just kind of more of the same.
(PS. I performed as a toddler as well. I specialized in “Splish Splash” and “Bad to the Bone.” I’ll give ten bucks to the first person to find it on YouTube. It would have been Kids Country Corner in Potterville, MI, sometime in the 1980s, probably 1987. Google says it’s in Charlotte, MI now. Subject to parental verification, of course.)
Artist Myth #3: I am creative and I call the shots.
Doesn’t mean what the artist is doing is any good.
3. Lady Gaga writes / co-writes her own music.
Artist Myth #4: [Insert factoid that does not affect how the purchasable product sounds but seems to be evidence of superiority.]
4. Lady Gaga does not lip-sync.
That’s great. But “Poker Face” is not exactly full of runs, and for the parts where she does need a wider range, she stands still. Let’s not get hyper because a singer sings.
Artist Myth #5: [Insert factoid indicating that the artist is stronger than comparable artists but which most people won't notice.]
5. Lady Gaga‘s vocals are not “back cut” with other artists’ vocals.
This, I actually respect, though I’d argue that since she uses a stage name and tries to present herself as an ensemble act (Haus of Gaga), it’s unnecessary. Maybe there’s an economic reason?
Artist Myth #6: I am not a Johnny Come Lately. It is right and just that I am famous and rich.
6. Lady Gaga has been around since 2005. . . . The music is acoustic and featured her voice in it’s raw, unaltered state. Another excellent example of her vocal talent can be heard on the song Wish You Were Here from this demo CD . . .
This would be more convincing if her raw voice wasn’t that of a nasally teenager. You can hear hints of it in the “Poker Face” Ellen video too, so I don’t think it’s something she’s outgrown.
Artist Myth #7: I’m better than [somebody nobody likes anyway].
Talk about damning with faint praise. Being more talented than Heidi Montag is not an accomplishment.
8. The International versions of Lady Gaga’s debut album have bonus tracks not available in the US.
Artist Myth #8: I have cred overseas, where people have better taste.
Yep, B-sides and international releases are often pretty cool. Who doesn’t? I’m an American. It affects my taste, sure. Nothing to be ashamed of.
Artist Myth #9: I am a total artist and creative person. See my right brain, and admire it.
9. Lady Gaga designs / co-designs her own wardrobe and stage designs.Lady Gaga is very involved in every aspect of her brand as an artist, which includes working with a creative team dubbed the Haus of Gaga. While the names of many of her creative people and designers are kept a close secret, Gaga is heavily involved in designing and planning her costumes, choreography, music videos, and stage sets. Like her music, her shows and appearance are a reflection of her as a creative entity.
Turn-off. Don’t confuse branding with art.
Artist Myth #10: You, too, can be just like me, if only you buy the right make-up, get better posture, and, like, totally believe in yourself. I’m not THAT hot.
10. Lady Gaga strives to challenge the contemporary standards of beauty. . . . Lady Gaga is an average woman. Upon close inspection one can see that her nose is large and prominent, her two front teeth are longer than the other teeth on either side, her bust is an average size, and her thighs are thick and muscular . . . .
Just because you’ve dissected her flaws does not mean that she isn’t, on the whole, a highly attractive and sexually desirable woman. She challenges nothing except dress codes and etiquette.
And for those that comment about her affluent background consider this – Gaga left home at 18 to make her own money performing in cabaret shows and working odd jobs. It was important for her to make it on her own, without the financial aid of her parents. Gaga didn’t have to struggle as hard as she did, it was her choice to take the tough road to stardom. By making that choice she is now infused with a lot of character and maturity for someone all of 23-years-old. That is a lesson many of today’s spoiled youth could take to heart.
Leaving home at 18 doesn’t mean she can just give back the piano lessons or the private school education that she had up to that point. Plus, I’m sure leaving at 18 was just as much about rebellion than it was about wanting to make it on her own. I’m reminded of this song.