The first thing you tend to ask when you are confronted with the artist born Stefani Germanotta is who or what is a Lady Gaga?
It’s a lot to take at first, and anyone who sees the native New Yorker wearing an outfit made of bubbles or dressed head to toe — literally, head to toe — in red lace might simply shake their head in bewilderment. Her look is confrontational, and she’s not carved out of the same supermodels-as-singers mold as the Beyoncés, Britneys and Christinas of the world. And what’s with that name — Gaga? What does that even mean? This mystified state then leads to …
2. DismissalThe jaded music fan is quick to write off Gaga as all style, no substance. She needs to wear those outfits to make people talk! She needs to create controversy to overshadow the fact her songs are idiotic dance-pop trifles! (Similar criticisms have belied Gaga’s forebears, including Madonna.)You see the existence and popularity of Gaga as an affront to your esteemed, finely honed musical tastes. Yet as soon as you become indignant enough to say she epitomizes everything that’s wrong with music today, you’ve already fallen into her vortex. Because soon that dismissal leads to …3. Curiosity
You simply can’t believe how far she goes in some of those live performances, whether she’s staging her own assassination at the MTV Video Music Awards (complete with copious amounts of fake blood) or breaking bottles over a piano at the American Music Awards, so you seek out more examples to build your case against her. (That’s what YouTube is for, isn’t it?) And suddenly you start to realize, hey, those songs you first sloughed off aren’t so bad after all.
Take “Poker Face,” which on the surface is another in a long line of empty, synth-laden club tracks, but in actuality is a bi-curious lament about pining after women when you’re with a man, or vice versa. Or “Paparazzi,” a love song wrapped in a metaphor for our fame-obsessed, celebrity-driven times, with the relationship in the song mirroring the paparazzi/star dynamic.
In short, they’re smart — plus they’re amazingly catchy. A few spins of either and they’ll be stuck in your head, rattling around your brain, until you realize you don’t really mind so much anymore. Your defenses are starting to fall. Your Gaga curiosity has now led to …
4. AcceptanceYou download “Poker Face” and probably “Bad Romance,” too, and come to grips with the fact they’re really good pop songs. And when you overhear others who are in the Confusion or Dismissal phases of Lady Gaga Fever, you find yourself defending her, and arguing how you were once there, too, but have overcome your initial doubts and turned into a fan. Heck, maybe you even bought a ticket to one of her concerts. You then recognize your acceptance has lead to …5. Obsession
Gaga has got you in her trap, and there’s nothing to feel ashamed about. She is an ambitious performance artist with a striking visual style and an image that is totally of her own volition. She writes her own hits, and is not a product of some Swedish pop conglomeration with nefarious plans of world domination. She’s in-your-face and provocative, she demands attention and earns the strong response she gets from people. She’s a risk-taker.
Yes, Gaga is a confluence of her influences, a direct descendant of David Bowie, Madonna, Liberace, “Project Runway” and Us Weekly. But apart from that, she’s an original.
So if there’s a cure for Lady Gaga Fever, keep it, we’re not interested. This romance is so bad it’s good.