Lady Gaga, will you please put on some pants?
|Artwork by Chris Strouth|
Makes No Sense At All captures the visions, ramblings, and memories of Chris Strouth, a Twin Cities-bred master of music, film, and everything else.
When Lady Gaga first hit the scene, no one was indifferent about her. You either loved her or hated her, and usually to a large extreme. But now, as we as a culture have had to live with her for five or so years, she has gone from the elephant in the room that you can't help but notice, to the elephant in the room that you're not sure if you should keep around, mostly because it is such a hassle to dust it.
I started off liking Lady Gaga in a big way. She was big and goofy, sure stunningly derivative, but she was the first pop diva since Pink that was remotely interesting. Pink was a radical because of her confessional style, like Jewel only without the annoying cloying poetry and twee acoustic guitar and sincerity. Gaga was anything but sincere, her bit was more akin to Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club, doing whatever was going to grab our attention. And in a world of 24-hour news cycles, internet granny porn and hobo shock fights, not much is going to grab our attention long, unless it's really weird (like the Balloon Boy) or really messed up (Two Girls One Cup, The Kardashians) and lucky for Gaga she sort of filled all the checkboxes.
The Fame, her first record, was a genuine monster, with singles that dominated the next two years of the charts. She was an instant media darling, her back story getting more revisions than George Lucas has done to Star Wars. She was sassy and engaging and built her own little virtual world. The music was good by pop standards but the crazy stand out was the branding. She moved from new to essential in months, becoming the first true diva sensation since the Spice Girls nearly a decade before.
Not to discount Madonna of course, but Madge had long since made it out of Diva of the Month club. She outlasted metal and grunge, and may be the last genuine icon standing -- the last of the golden age of the pop star in any case. In fact, here is a little bit of a mind blower: Madonna's career thus far has gone 6 years longer than that of Elvis. This year marked the 30th anniversary of her first single, and yes, you really are that old. Madonna is, according to Guinness, the most successful female artist of all time. She is in the number three position of most records sold by an individual artist, just behind Elvis and Michael Jackson, and if she has one more big hit record she'll most likely tie or beat Jackson...which, let's be honest, he was probably into.
There is a long history of the diva -- the female superstar who defines an era, not just through their talent but by style and artistry. A pop culture as well as a pop music phenomena. Truly, they are the singular icons of their prime diva age. You're probably thinking Madonna in the 80's; may I however suggest Jenny Lind as the first true diva. She was the Madonna of the 1850's...well minus the whole church scandal sexy dancing nude pictures thing.
That aside, Jenny Lind really did cause something of a panic in these United States. She toured relentlessly over a very short period of time and became a national obsession. This was in a time before recordings, before radio, so she essentially had a huge fanbase made mostly of people that had never heard her sing. She had merch: clothes, chairs, even pianos. Setting true to the path that would follow pop diva for the next 150 years, the hype was all orchestrated by an older man, in this case PT Barnum. A figure that would be a role model for showman and scoundrels alike for the next 150 years.
The problem of diva-ness is that for the most part it doesn't last too long. Oh sure, you're still famous, but more in that "didn't that use to be" kinda way; for every Britney and Christina there are a dozen Vitamin C's . Remember, even Brooke Hogan was a diva for a week.