The Subliminal Messaging of Lady Gaga

In Culture on August 18, 2010 at 3:57 pm

-by Gina Moccio
-Illustrations by Jillian Shannon

         I can’t remember how I first heard of her. It could be her “Just dance” music video that debuted in 2008. I thought she looked like Christina Aguilera, with her platinum hair and almost no clothing; except her style and video friends were much more hip and glam looking in their blazers and metallic purple tights. Though, you barely see the other dancers and extras except in quick cuts of bizarre and drunken positions. It’s mostly her rolling around on a couch and wall covered in floral wallpaper. Anyways, I brushed her off, sick of pop*star gimmicks.

         Then in April of 2009, a photographer I know was taking fan photos at her show at the Ritz in Ybor and asked me to be a runner for the other photographers. I helped take photographs of her really diverse and excited fan base (many had made Lady Gaga shirts and their own disco ball face masks) and saw her show for free. Even though I was in the very back and couldn’t see a thing- I could hear her. And I could tell that those directly around me and the rest of the crowd were really “into it.” A sound clip that is played at each of her shows mentions how Gaga is here to “infiltrate the culture.” Infiltrate is an interesting word because it’s usually used to describe military tactics and entering enemy’s territory for takeover. In science, it’s to pass through a small space or a substance’s pores. In most cases, this word is reserved for discussing forceful entry or moving quickly and quietly. It has sneaky, dark undertones.

         I also couldn’t help but notice during the show how many times on both pre-recorded sound clips and a video clip that “My name is Lady Ga-Ga” was said. It was slow and robotic. And also, seductive, as in it pulled you in. The definition of seduce, is to win over or attract; to beguile into a desired state or position. But seductive was my word. Word choice is so very important. Marketers especially will tell a person that. Suppose two words are very similar in definition, but one can evoke or complete a certain image in ways that the other cannot. Though, her intro wasn’t saying anything spectacular. It was broken sentences full of words describing the general make-up of her life. “I want. The future. Gaga. Fashion. Technology. Dance. New York. Music. Pop culture.” Gaga represented the “gimme gimme gimme” way of living that western culture has adapted to being.
A few more of her words were, “Some say Lady Gaga is a lie. And I am a lie. But everyday, I kill to make it true.” I remember thinking, “Yes. Kill to make it true… wait, what?” Her approach was so aggressive. I literally felt like my mind was being handled. It became uncomfortable. Why were we being incessantly reminded of “who she is”? Why was she fighting so hard for something she clearly had in her possession? No one can take this away from her. All that she has worked so hard for since she has been writing her own songs and playing at open mic’s when she was a young teenager.

         Before her career took off she worked with and was signed to singer, Akon’s record label Konvict Muzik and has written songs for musical acts, the Pussycat Dolls, Fergie, and Britney Spears. Akon is a man whose singles include “Smack that” and “I wanna love you”, both about getting a woman back to his place by flashing his car, money, and identity. The Dolls are popular for being overtly sexy and make it clear in the songs “Dontcha” and “Buttons” that the objective is to sleep with them when they discuss how “hot”, much of a “freak”, and ready to go they are. Fergie is peculiar because she has managed to break away from the Black Eyed Peas and make a name for herself by singing about how fabulous her body is, and by teaching the world and its youth how to spell important words like ‘glamorous’, and ‘delicious’. In the song entitled, “Fergalicious”, she uses the word ‘tasty’ to describe herself, then explains that she “ain’t promiscuous” and has “reasons why she tease ‘em”. I’m sure she does. Last but not least in the line of shallow and predictable pop music, is Ms. Spears.

         Spears is the only one that Gaga seems to have a personal attachment to. She has not only expressed several times how much she respects Britney and how proud she was to write for her but when asked in high school who she thought she had been separated from at birth, her answer was Britney Spears. Even though there are several similarities that could be drawn between them, there is one huge difference. As pop stars, their image is a very large matter. With Spears, who has made her way from a Catholic school girl to the ringleader in a circus act, it has been proven many times in the past that many of her decisions are not her own and are made by assistants, producers, and family members. Gaga’s construction is completely her own. It’s detailed and intentional, and has come a long way. It also somehow includes sentences about art and love being the only things that truly matter in-between songs about fame and money.

         Art, love, fame, and money do not ride in the same boat. Someone who held love and art as high as Gaga claims she does wouldn’t identify with people that their life’s work is commercial, vapid, empty albums full of songs written by people other than themselves. Perhaps Gaga didn’t write “Dontcha,” but she still wrote for all the above. There’s this huge contradiction with her. She is and she isn’t.
For more reference, I looked at her video interviews. I watched her compliment Ellen DeGeneres for being a great role model, especially for the gay community. I watched her teach a few dance moves to two aloof women on the Today Show. I also amusedly watched her being interviewed by Paris Hilton. Hilton was invading her personal space and repeatedly calling her an icon, to which she denied. Hilton sounds and looks permanently inebriated, and really had nothing to ask Gaga, only things to tell her, like how they should write some music together. I was impressed at how she didn’t fawn over Hilton, how genuine she was to Ellen, and how sweet and patient she was with the Today Show hosts. But there is still a but. Why doesn’t any of this reflect in her music?

         During her video interviews she usually never gets to say much. The interviewer talks 75 percent of the time and even cuts her off with pointless, numerously already answered questions. Video interviews are the highlights; they’re short and to the point. The highlights are that she’s different and wacky and her music is selling very well. The lowlights are that her music is about fame and sex, she’s mostly offensive, and no one wants to talk about it. Everything she says has two sides. They never discuss the side that clarifies the point of a song that was inspired during a time of self-absorption, and rich kids taking their parents’ money to buy drugs has all to do with how anyone from anywhere “can feel beautiful and dirty rich”. Is using money that you didn’t earn to get high, rich? Is strung out and being completely out of it beautiful?

         There was one video interview with that was short, sweet, and to the point of who the person is that writes these lyrics. As naïve as Britney Spears was when asked why she dressed provocatively, Gaga was just as seemingly so, when asked if she thought people viewed her as promiscuous because of the content of her songs. She shook her head and her eyes darted to the wall on her right as she answered, “I don’t really know how people see me.” When asked what she looked for in a man she simply said, “A big dick,” with her hands folded in her lap. “So any guy that has one of those has a chance?” “Yup.” Next question. Her lack of elaboration or hesitation to that question and another where she immediately said she wasn’t looking for anyone seemed as though she may be throwing spite at someone specific who might have hurt her recently. However, she later claimed to be a “free spirit” rather than “promiscuous” though ended the interview by saying she’s “enjoying touring the world and sleeping with really good-looking people.” That person is the one who usually comes out in print.

          Interviews that end up in magazines are often given much more time to talk to their interviewee. In many cases, the interviewer is able to spend a few hours with who they’re speaking with or possibly even able to experience a day with them. This was the case for the writer of the article that was published in Rolling Stone magazine in June of 2009. Why this writer mentioned Marilyn Manson’s presence thrice times in an article about someone else is ridiculous. Especially since all Manson had to say were things like, “I want to be that guy. I want to be balls deep,” when he commented on a music video involving Gaga and a model getting physical. This writer seemed more excited about Manson’s presence than Gaga’s- though the fact that she didn’t seem to be bothered by Manson’s inappropriate behavior says something about her. Her lack of a filter for other people and herself is almost as puzzling as the idea that she is original. “I don’t look like the other perfect little pop singers,” she said. Though, the word “look” might as well be “appear to be” since Gaga is a literal culmination of everything she’s ever seen.

         Gaga’s lightning bolt that is often on the right side of her face is basically the same as David Bowie’s, though his is red and hers is blue. The factory-style of collaborating with friends that do creative work is the factory Warhol created for himself in the 60’s. Her name was taken from a Queen’s song. Even her clothing that she has become so well-known for is modeled after previous collections by designers, Thierry Mugler and Hussein Chalayan. Gaga is a hungry hippo. The only thing futuristic about her is that she is an example showing that everything in the future will be influenced by everything of the past. The Flaming Lips represented their own category and The Ramones were just The Ramones, but now a days you can have a band that’s influenced by both The Ramones and The Flaming Lips and even have a bit of you-name-it mixed in. Everything will be a mixture of the past. We’re becoming Generation copy + paste; but what happens when you copy the copy?

          Andy Warhol once said that in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. I don’t think that everyone will. I believe it’s that everyone can. Everyone is capable of coming up with their own scandal. In the interview, the question, “If you had to give up either sex, music, or fame which would it be,” was unwelcomed with, “That’s a ridiculous question. I wouldn’t give up any. I’d cut off my leg.” Gaga said to break her down into three categories such as those was upsetting since she’s “quite a complex woman.” She’s so complex that how she finds herself underneath all those sequins at the end of a day is something no one might ever know. Maybe she doesn’t and that’s how she keeps going. “Every minute of my life is performance.” There is no truth to be found in Gaga’s world. The reason why she can be broken down into three basic categories is because she would rather lose a limb by her own hand than give up sex or music. Though the answer to which she would not give up is simplest of all. Lady Gaga will always choose fame.

Editor’s Note: Listen up before you call me an ignorant know-it-all. I never said GaGa wasn’t amazing. Or talented. Or beautiful as hell. I wrote this article a year ago and I had never done more research in my life and I’m a senior in college. I realize now that this article’s point was that we need to pay attention to what information we’re taking in, and that goes for listening to the news and reading it on paper and even what enters our ears through headphones because music touches us in ways that can’t be seen. I admire GaGa for letting her positive beliefs spread with her music and all the sacrifice and hard work she did to get to where she is now; even if she had to infiltrate us to do it.

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