What does it mean to be fan of someone. Does it mean you have to love everything they do. Everything they represent. The way they speak, dress, behave? I don’t think so. Let’s apply this to some of the bigger female popular singers from our time. I’m a fan of Madonna. I have been from day one. I know she isn’t the best singer in the world. Far from I dare to say. But I like her music and I have respect for who she is, what she has done and does and how she has influenced generations. I do not however idolize her. I will not fall on my knees and kiss the very ground she might or might not have placed her feet on. I’m also a fan of Celine Dion. There, I said it. I know many will make a mock of that because “Celine isn’t cool”. But as with Madonna, I like her music and I like her authenticity, as far as one can be authentic while living in the spotlights.
For one reason or the other, if you want to be noticed in the much-overcrowded pop music industry, you need to bring something to the table that goes beyond talent. Though I do believe it is the talent that eventually garantees a longSia is a good example. She is a very talented lady and has a particular look. One might say a bit Björk-ish though I don’t recall anyone ever having made that comparison. Rihanna rose to stardom thanks to her – ok let’s say it – rather annoying nasal sound (by the way, I like her too), which has since then been much copied by others whose names I don’t even remember. And then there is Lady Gaga.
Let’s set things straight. I’m not a big fan of Lady Gaga but I don’t dislike her either. There are some things that just don’t fall in the right place for me. Her name for starts. I understand Stefani Germanotta doesn’t have a very pop feeling to it, and I agree that Gaga is much more catchy. I guess I have more a problem with the lady part (no pun intended). It sounds so, I don’t know, travestic if that’s that even a word. But let’s face it, the Lady has talent. She has done some pretty rocky songs. I count Bad Romance and Edge of Glory among my personal favorites. Telephone too, partly due to the participation of Beyoncé, whom I also happen to like. And her recent ballad Till It Happens to You is a real tear jerker, and I mean that in the most positive sense. Lady Gaga is an artist, with a voice and musical education and should be recognized and respected as such. She is creative and artistic. She is also not ashamed to admit she finds inspiration in those who came before her. Big names such as David Bowie and – indeed – Madonna. The latter being a source of inspiration for many others as well. How could she not be with a career that spans over more than 3 decades. But why oh why does everything the young lady does needs to be compared with Madonna. Or worse, why does Lady Gaga needs to be accused of plagiarism each time she brings out a new song (well maybe each time is a bit exaggerated, but still). It happened with Born This Way, and true, first hand Madonna fan as I am, I do admit the similarities between that song and Express Yourself were maybe a bit too obvious. But do we really believe that Gaga’s latest – Perfect Illusion – is a copy of Madonna’s 1986’s Papa Don’t Preach? Ok, I admit, both songs seem to have a similar tempo and feel very 80’s. The latter is because 80’s music seems to have a habit to keep coming back, much like bad Chinese food, and obviously Papa Don’t Preach actually is an 80’s song. But since many of Madonna’s songs are, does that mean that everything that sounds remotely of that period diverge from her music? No, I didn’t think so either.
So what is going on here? Why are fans such haters? Why can one artist - and mind you, I’m mostly talking female artists because I don’t see this happening a lot with male singers – not do something without being compared, judged and found guilty of copying as soon as they even open their mouth to release the first note. It’s not just Gaga and Madonna. In the past it was also Christina and Britney, and Mariah and Whitney but the various fans of those have been silenced. In Christina and Britney’s case probably due to the fact they both went very different musical directions, and when it comes to Mariah and Whitney – well – that comparison pretty much ended with Whitney’s death. Again, I do think Lady Gaga’s Born This Way was way too close to Madonna’s Express Yourself to be comfortable, and Madge even hinted at it while doing a hybrid live version during her MDNA Tour in her usual not very subtle way. But comparing Gaga’s latest to Papa Don’t Preach really is a stretch, and I think even Madonna will agree to that. If not, there is only one conclusion to draw and that is that maybe, just maybe, Lady Gaga is not the eccentric, artistic, creative and musical multitalented singer we all think she is. That maybe, just maybe she is indeed a perfect illusion? Born this way? Nay, I don’t think so either. –BM-
Cover photography by John Falocco.
BEAUTIFULMAG | Everything That Is