Lady GaGa: One Hit Wonder Or Actual Artist?

The New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones brings up an interesting point regarding the recording artist known as Lady GaGa: The Question Of Endurance.

Frere-Jones argues that pop music is hard to predict. Sometimes the songs — and artists — you think won’t last, do. He writes:

The nature of pop recycling makes it hard to measure, or define, endurance. In 1980, Gary Numan’s synthesizer pop song “Cars” was a reliable presence on broadcast radio here and in the United Kingdom. By 1985, though, you’d have been hard pressed to find a trace of Numan in the mainstream of pop. Today, he’s ubiquitous-“Cars” has been referenced in television shows and pop songs steadily throughout the past decade, and Numan’s synthesizer sounds are audible in the work of tiny Brooklyn bands and enormous stars alike. […] The artist who stays on the charts for years without interruption sometimes does it by virtue of professional acuity and inoffensive predictability. Some of pop’s most delightful figures endure exactly because we can’t figure out what they are up to.

As for Lady Gaga? She can sing, and she can write songs. (Frere-Jones notes that she penned tracks for the Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears; her producers have worked with Destiny’s Child.) Her album has gone gold; “Just Dance” has gone to number one in seven countries. But what really gets attention is that she namedrops Rilke, wears avant-garde get-ups and “opines in public about whether a certain shade of red is ‘Communist.'” People love a wacky one-hit wonder, but can GaGa keep it going? And is she really odd, or is she just, as Frere-Jones puts it, “not dumb”? Some singers are genuinely “weird” — Peaches, Björk — but even if they earn dedicated fans, they tend not to have the global success more tame, “mainstream” acts enjoy. And just because someone has talent and longevity — Mariah, Janet Jackson — doesn’t mean they’re interesting as innovative artists. Also, there are plenty of one hit wonders who are incredibly talented, but for whatever reason cease to be embraced by the public after an initial flush of success. Frere-Jones asks, “[GaGa] knows that the one-hit wonders are weirder and cooler than the well-paid musicians who stretch their careers over seven years on the stage and twenty more behind it. Can she have it both ways?”

Time will tell whether Lady GaGa is a flash in the pan or someone from whom you can always expect something new, quirky and different. But for now, isn’t there room for a breath of fresh air in a world of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and other girls gone mild?

Ladies Wild [The New Yorker]

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