Another reason to love Lady Gaga

Apparently, according to Fred Phelps (of Westboro Baptist Church/”G-d hates fags” fame), the deity himself hates Lady Gaga.  Watch out kids, the “hussy’s pretentious prancing” could lead you into moral ruin.  Consider yourselves warned.

This is pretty predictable, given the intense social-conservatism-cum-insanity of Phelps and his followers (who, incidentally, protested at Penn Hillel a few weeks back!).  What I find more interesting is his choice of Lady Gaga to hate on, as opposed to other singers.

There are certainly other prominent artists who could conceivably raise his hackles: people like Adam Lambert, who’s unapologetically out and caused a stir in November with his homoerotically-tinged AMA’s performance (good for him!), or perhaps better yet, Katy Perry, who used to be a conservative Christian but now a) kisses girls and likes it, and b) dates skinny guys with long hair (!).  Or, you know, any pop artists who have overtly sexual lyrics.

Lady Gaga, however, is adamantly pro-empowered female sexuality, often explicitly assuming sexual control in her videos, evangelizing about masturbation, openly identifying as feminist, and doing a lot to challenge the normative male gaze/crazy amount of cookie-cutter sexualization that young female celebrities (and women, period) have to deal with.

I’m not sure how much her message comes through–I feel like a lot of people put her in the “crazy antics” box and don’t pay much attention after that–but I certainly appreciate what she’s trying to do, which is pretty unique and quite important.  And it seems to me that her ideas about female sexual power, more than the fact that she doesn’t often wear much beyond tights below the necessary bits (not that the two aren’t related), is what’s ticking off the good Rev. Phelps.

Quick hit: Lady Gaga’s new video, frame by frame

Dodai over at Jezebel breaks down Lady Gaga’s new video, for the song “Bad Romance,” and it’s pretty amusing.  This is why I like Lady Gaga as an entity: you can actually analyze stuff like this, and she probably meant to embed lots of those meanings.  Check it out.

My only worry is that 25 years from now, my kids will look back on it the way my friends and I look back on this classically wacky video:

Bonnie Tyler’s not quite as high-concept as La Gaga, unfortunately.

Quick hit: Jay-Z teaches Oprah how to rap

Click through to see this amusing interaction on Jezebel.

I find Oprah’s awkwardness extremely interesting–here is a woman who has the self-confidence to appear on national TV almost daily and is the face of a multibillion-dollar media empire; who speaks publicly about weight and health issues; and in general seems pretty okay with herself.  But here she is, quietly freaking out about rapping.

It’s fairly well-established within hip hop studies that many baby boomer middle-class or wealthy African Americans tend to have negative opinions of hip hop, viewing it as trashy and aesthetically unappealing in comparison to R&B, jazz, Motown, etc.

So, I can’t help but wonder if Oprah, who is probably America’s most famous member of that demographic group, was so uncomfortable because of some age/class baggage vis-à-vis hip hop going on.

Lady Gaga “will inspire a movement”

Lady Gaga goes on record with Ramin Setoodeh in this week’s Newsweek with more grandiosity: she’s not a singer, she’s a performance artist, and she “believes in a glamorous life.”  Her VMA performance will be

less of me singing a song, and more of a performance-art installation.

She also

hope[s] to say something very grave about fame and the price of it.

I might have to borrow a TV for this one, kids.

Dodai over at Jezebel breaks down precisely why Gaga’s so intriguing:

You might think Lady Gaga is pretentious, a phony.  But if she is, it’s as someone once said of Holly Golightly: She’s a real phony…She honestly believes all this phony junk that she believes.

That’s absolutely true, even if we’re veering into Holden Caulfield territory.  And that’s why Gaga’s great.

Hoda Kotb’s got the whole club lookin’ at her

Every so often I wish I a) owned a TV, b) felt like spending money on a converter box/cable, and c) had the time and attention span to watch daytime television.  Then I would be able to catch things like this brilliant clip of Today Show host Hoda Kotb doing her best impression of Flo Rida:

(click through to see the clip on Jezebel)

…and the original:

Creepy white-supremacist girl group

The Pendergraft sisters are a terrible, creepy, white-supremacist duo from the Ozarks.  Jezebel and the Southern Poverty Law Center have already said pretty much everything that needs to be said about them (note: Jezebel has a video if you want to listen to them).  The academic-music part of my mind wants to discuss how music is working with (repugnant) nationalist/ethnic ideologies here.  The part of my mind that enjoys listening to good music is just aghast at how anyone, even creepy white supremacists, would be able to tolerate listening to them as they are possibly the worst band, purely on aesthetic grounds, that I have heard in a LONG time.  I’m sure the artistic pickings are slim in white-pride circles, but seriously, this is beyond belief.

The part of my mind that likes listening to music is winning.  It’s hard for me to take people like this seriously on an intellectual basis.  They’re clearly hateful and potentially dangerous people (Holocaust Museum shooter, anyone?) who need to be called out and monitored, but I feel like the bulk of society’s racism-fighting energy needs to be directed toward less-explicit but more-influential forms of it that occur in more-mainstream culture: structural issues like housing and employment, and the subtler ideas that many people carry around and don’t necessarily perceive as racist (i.e. what neighborhoods are “safe”).

Quick hits: Motown, Barack and media theory

  • The women of Motown had fabulous style.  Too bad when 2009-era white women try to pull it off the result looks like this.  (Please note, I love Amy, but you have to admit the look could use some tweaking.)  At some point, I want to write a post exploring the impact of eyeliner on pop music.  I bet there is something to be analyzed there.
  • I haven’t heard either album in full yet, but both the jazz-hip hop fusions discussed here look amazing.  Here’s one of the tracks:
  • Finally, for a touch of meta, here are two recent NYT articles on the blogosphere (doesn’t that word sound like a relic of some now-discredited ancient Greek astronomical system?) and how researchers are trying to track the internet zeitgeist and who contributes to its formation.  Pretty cool.

Update on our favorite hot mess

I’m going to beef with Jezebel on this one:

[Lady Gaga's] right, though: her sexuality doesn’t distract from her music.  Her Rainbow Brite wig?  Maybe slightly.

Lady Gaga’s sexuality IS her music.  Her role model is Madonna, for heaven’s sake.  She has made a career largely on the basis of not wearing pants, wearing fetishy stuff, and bluffin’ with her muffin (the first definition on that list, btw).  The only reason it is not possible for her sexuality to distract from her music is that the two are mysteriously one and the same in much the same way that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one and the same.

Now I’m wondering what would be the third part of the Trinity of Lady Gaga…

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