Lady Gaga Scares Me

I like to think that when it comes to music, I’m a pretty progressive guy. Although I crossed the 40 threshold not so recently, I still am pretty up-to-speed on what’s going on in music, pop and otherwise – including hip-hop, punk/alternative, electronic, ambient, jazz, etc. And over the course of my listening career, there’s always been the bands that seem more interested in freaking people out versus writing really good music. Bands such as Marilyn Manson and Gwar whose shock-rock approach to performance was a bit disturbing but felt cartoonish and not really dangerous. Then there are bands like Slipknot – that aggregate various nightmarish personas into a loud, harsh, grating wall of angry sound that turned the dial into creepy-dom but, even with their over-the-top aggro approach – still didn’t seem to pose a real threat to pillars of modern society.

So, given that these acts sent chills down some parent’s spines – but not mine, I always wondered what kind of music and artist would serve as the wedge between me (with my supposed open embrace of all music) and my soon-to-be teenagers – who like all their predecessors – have a genetic mission to find a band or bands that simply are incomprehensible to their parents. I used to say that save for speed death metal and maybe some popular country western acts – I’d be hard pressed to be freaked out by anything my kids would listen to.

However – after recently watching “Bad Romance” (below) by Lady Gaga I’ve now crossed into “concerned parent” territory. Although many younger viewers might not quite totally get what’s going on in the video – a forcibly drugged girl getting bid on by anonymous and ominous sex partners with a clear S&M bent resulting in a literal flaming bed and corpse, as an adult, I’m feeling very much “in the box”. What’s causing concern is that, unlike the groups mentioned previously, this isn’t a fringe act or underground artist playing on the margins of pop culture but is currently the hottest talent out there right now – for all young, impressionable teens and pre-teens to consume.

I normally would dismiss a pop artist like Lady Gaga as a flash in the pan… the flavor of the month – but she’s got undeniable talent. She writes all of her own music and lyrics – so she’s not just a voice with dance moves. Apparently she’s more performance artist than true pop artist – having started her career in coffee houses and small theaters working her way up into unbelievable stardom. But that doesn’t compensate for the overtly sexual and disturbing content of the video which brings forth the rubberized fun-buddy “The Gimp” from Pulp Fiction, with an undercurrent of “The Hostel II”, tasty lyrics like “I’m a freak bitch…” and an overdose of product placement – the most frequent appearance by the Ukrainian vodka brand, Nemiroff. A perfect storm of sex and sales.

I’m somewhat aware of what’s freaking me out – she’s a woman, overtly expressing a powerful, somewhat maniacal and fetishistic sexual energy with unabashed confidence – and anger, who is claiming territory typically staked out by her male counterparts while charting new paths into onstage psycho-sexual therapy… and having that tidy package delivered straight into my “family room”. Yikes!

Apparently the artistic explanation of the “Bad Romance” video’s narrative is about the human sex trafficking trade – an interesting subject for a teeny bopper pop act music video. Given that acts like LG need to keep breaking through the clutter and getting buzz and coverage, I’m now scared at what’s next and even more scared at what’s going to be standard pop fare in the years to come. I’m just sayin’…..