August 19, 2013 by NowhereButPop
Over the past two years since her last album Born This Way, I almost forgot about Lady Gaga to the point where I couldn’t remember why people were so into her when she first came out. For an artist, this is the worst thing that could ever happen to them; the moment that people forget about them is the point where their career is effectively over. For someone like Gaga who relies on shock value and outlandishness, this is infinitely worse, because it backs her into a corner where she now has to top herself by doing something even weirder to get us to notice her again.
Lady Gaga exists as a theme, as an idea that is supposed to be evident in her music and by her actions. The problem that arises though is that she’s only been a theme for her entire career, and not an actual person. The theme of Gaga has actually transcended the music itself, which has affected her adversely. Gaga, as a theme, stands for universal acceptance and love, but at the same time preaches having a good time, kinda like a couture version of Christianity mixed with Prince’s 1999. We know Gaga as a theme and an ideal, but we don’t know Gaga as a person. And so when the image fades, and the ideal stops transcending music, unless we’re shown a person behind the theme, there’s nothing that will keep people.
“Applause” the first single from Lady Gaga’s new album ARTPOP has been released and it is her “first real album” that represents “a phoenix rising from its ashes”. Now, while “Applause” is an enjoyable song, the lyrics and the way she describes the album are still very much clichéd, as if she’s still trying to adhere to that Gaga principle. She’s not focusing on Stefani Germanotta the woman, but playing out the idea of Lady Gaga, something that everybody is incredibly familiar with at this point.
No one likes Lady Gaga the way they loved her back in 2009-2010 and that was because the idea of Gaga was still transcendent and fresh. Even if the music was only an improved version of the typical pop being played on the video, she wielded the aura of an image that elevated her music into a fad, a social statement that hadn’t really been seen since Madonna in the early 90s. But what separates her from Madonna is that Madonna knew when to shed her image and be a person again. You have True Blue from 1986 which as an album is concept; it’s the kind of album that a theme would put out. Three years later she keeps us on our feet by putting out Like a Prayer, an album that a person with feelings, passion, and a soul would put out, and sure enough it catapulted her into mega-stardom. Once the theme and the subordinate image began to fade, she knew it was time to expose herself as a person, because that was the only alternative to riding out said theme to boredom.
Born This Way was initially hyped as the next Like a Prayer, an album that was going to transcend the pop music scene and influence culture in a similar fashion as Madonna’s album did in 1989. Even the lead single bearing the album title seemed to reaffirm our faith that this album would introduce us to the woman behind the whole Gaga craze. 2011 was her moment to do so, to put away the initial Gaga hype, but instead she rode it out to the expected response. The album was a solid album, but it was nothing new. Nothing seemed to have changed between The Fame Monster and Born This Way. In fact she seemed more comfortable and more engrossed in her own image and cult of personality. The problem is that we as a fanbase, as a society were on the precipice of outgrowing it.
For those who have seen Gaga speak during interviews, or when she is in her Stefani Germanotta persona, you know that she is an incredibly smart, aware, and emotionally astute person. She’s also just as charismatic as she is when she indulges in her Lady Gaga motif and microcosmic culture. “Applause” conveys that she needs our applause and adulation as sustenance. It also makes subtle references to her own status as an ideal and as a theme. Is this the purpose of her new album? To comment on the genesis of her own transcendence from person to theme? If so that would be a spectacular feat that would deconstruct the notion of her own idolism as a cultural idea. The lines of the song “pop culture was in art, now art’s in pop culture in me” and the line preceding it “One second I’m a kunst, the suddenly the kunst is me” reflect how she has become an art instead of an artist.
If this is the direction of the album, good things will be in store for Lady Gaga, since we’ll be seeing the woman that inspired such a frenzy a few years ago. However, some might mistake this more continued self indulgence and mental masturbation at the image that she’s cultivated for herself as an idea. If “Applause” is the outlier on the album, and ARTPOP turns out to be another Born This Way, people will forget about her then and there, and she’ll be just another weird pop fad….like Cyndi Lauper. This is an album that Gaga needs; whatever it is, it will be dictate what she is and what she is not. Five years after her breakthrough, her back is already against the wall, and all the world is watching. She will either rise from the ashes as she predicted, or she’ll be brought down by her own machinations. We’ll get our answer soon enough.
 “Kunst” is German for “art”.