Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Ga Ga Dolls

Greg Mankiw - economist, Harvard professor, and Pigou revivalist - admits to something quite shocking; he has been listening to ... Lady Gaga??? What I've Been Listening To
I am bit embarrassed to admit this, but the answer is Lady Gaga. Her music reminds me Blondie, which I enjoyed back in my student days. I particularly like the Lady Gaga song Bad Romance.
Mankiw shouldn't be so embarrassed. Lady Gaga is endlessly entertaining because it's so hard to tell whether she is serious or she is indulging in an extended satire of blockbuster queen bee style dance music. If you watch her videos carefully, you will see that she is not very attractive and, oddly, not a very good danger, despite participating in a lot of very stylized choreography.

What saves her is humor. She is very funny in a Spinal Tap kind of way. I continue to believe that she is parodying Madonna-style dance music. Her videos have gotten increasingly sophisticated as her fame as increased, but they have also grown increasingly absurd. The best is Paparazzi where she is paralyzed by a fall, and ends up staggering around on crutches while an army of dancers lurch around her energetically. Then there's Bad Romance, which ends with her lying catotonically on a bed next to a burnt corpse while sparks spray from her breasts. Her costumes and make-up are equally ridiculous, yet also very stylized and cool.

None of this would matter if the music wasn't good, but most of her songs are very good euro-beat pop. Pokerface is probably the most impressive, despite its having a very clumsy rap in the middle. And she does have some skills beyond what you see on MTV. There's one video making the rounds of Lady Gaga sitting alone at a piano (wearing a silly late-period Peggy Lee outfit) doing - well, I wouldn't call it "jazzy," but at least swinging versions of some of her songs.

The surface says that Lady Gaga is just another assembly-line dance pop singer. But, underneath there is something very clever and arch going on.

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