Monday, July 26, 2010

On Popularity and Assless Chaps

"I wasn't very cool in high school, so sometimes I abuse this part. Do you think I'm sexy?"
-Lady Gaga

I was totally on board with Lady Gaga at the beginning. It's fun music--poppy and dirty and even funny, good to dance to and even better to yell-sing after just enough jungle juice. I actually thought the "Telephone" video was awesome--I mean, if you're going to go crazy, you should go balls-to-the-wall cracked-out batshit insane, right? And undeniably, preaching safe sex, AIDS prevention and embracing your own weirdness to an audience of millions is a good thing. But I think I've finally fallen off the Gaga wagon.

Here's the thing. I'm really, really tired of her blabbing around about how she wasn't popular in high school, and how that somehow makes her special, and I'm tired of people saying she's some kind of saint for anyone who was ever uncool. (First of all, no matter what weird Frank-Gehry-meets-David-Bowie getup she parades around in, she's still conventionally attractive. She's skinny and pretty, with nice boobs and a boatload of genuine talent. Cry me a fucking river.)

My high school years weren't terrible, but I think that was because I kept a fairly healthy perspective that it was, well, just high school. Yes, I had friends, played a sport, got a prom date...all the things that equal social success in high school, but I was uncool. I was homeschooled until eighth grade. I played the viola. (Playing an instrument-besides the guitar, of course- is social suicide enough, but any instrument that you have to explain is doubly so.) I went to exactly one football game. Sure, high school slights can feel like the end of the world when they're happening to you--but most of us graduate, grow up and move the fuck on.

Having been unpopular in high school is simply not the basis for an artistic career, despite the sucess of Johns Hughes and Cusack. True, no good art ever came from kids who sat at the right lunch table. But do you remember how many people sat at the right lunch table? About twelve. The rest of us were frizzy-haired, brace-faced, pimply, awkward kids who played the bassoon and wore the wrong brand of jeans and were too smart or too dumb or too fat or too skinny--and you know what? We survived. Some creative people like to cling to some of that adolescent angst, talking about how misunderstood they are. However, there's a very important distinction between talking about how misunderstood you are and actually making art that is misunderstood. And I'm sorry, but "Love Games" is not Nude Descending a Staircase.

Gaga can really sing, and she's a breath of fresh air in a world of Britneys and Jessicas. But if life is high school, she's not the real outcast. That kid--in this analogy maybe David Foster Wallace, or Steve McQueen--is quietly sitting in the back of the classroom. Meanwhile Lady Gaga is trying--obviously, desperately--to look like that outcast, only with more sparkles and pleather and a set list of good but decidedly conventional pop songs about getting drunk and making out with boys. She's trying to style herself as a misfit, because she thinks "real artists" are supposed to be outcasts. But bitching about how nobody thought you were pretty in high school is not art--and it's pretty damn boring.

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