Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Effects of Modern Popular Music on Academia and New Curriculum

Last summer, up in Toronto, my friends and I wanted to go to a dance club that played House music. It was a hot summer night and we made a list of a few places to check out. We went to the first place but since the DJ selections were sub-par, we opted for the next spot. We're very picky about music and, of course, we need to be. I'm not one to take music lightly and neither are they. Like goes with like, after all. The second place we checked out was not available as, well, Lady Gaga was in town and she was performing there. A couple of bouncers offered to give us some good tickets but we politely declined. We were in the market for House not Gaga. As we were heading to the next place, another person approached us and, if my memory serves me right, he actually offered us tickets to the Gaga show. I finally turned and said, "Yeah, we don't do Gaga, guy. Sorry!"
Lady Gaga's music and overall presentation is not something I care for. However, I don't have to like a performer to check them out. I believe in being as informed as I can about art and I try to do my homework.

A few days ago, many friends of mine asked me what I thought of Gaga's new video, Alejandro. They know that I don't just check out the kind of music that I like but all kinds of music. I can't help it, really, as it's a condition I've long resigned myself to. It could be worse though, I could suffer from a chronic need to watch all the new motion pictures out there and I most certainly don't have a need to do so. Thank heavens. Can you imagine watching Paul Rudd and Ashton Kutcher movies?!

But I digress.

I tweeted about "Alejandro" and how to me it's not only not new, it's actually a clear imitation (note, not adaptation or interpretation) of Madonna's La Isla bonita and Like a Prayer. What I said, in a nutshell, was that I sure hoped Madonna was getting a piece of the Gaga pie since she (the latter) is imitating her so blatantly. Have people forgotten Madonna and what she used to do back in the 80's and 90's? Madonna pre-Confessions on the Dance Floor, is, as far as I'm concerned, a trailblazer. I wasn't a fan of Madonna's when I was a child as my musical sensibilities were more Rock and considerably less Pop. I did, however, appreciate the novelty that was she.

I remember when I was 12 and Madonna gave an uber-elaborate concert in Rome. My best friend, Evis and I watched it together and I remember feeling sensorially overloaded by the many elaborate Marie Antoinette-type costumes and the melange of things that took place on stage. What attracted me to her was her creativity and how original and oddly novel she was. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, seems to me to be an already seen mix of certain haute couture notions, catchy and simple pop choruses (seriously, consider this: "Walk, walk, fashion, baby. Work it, move that bitch crazy"), and, oh, yes, latex.

Madonna tackled issues via her music videos. Granted, much of it was to shock but much raised awareness as well. Madonna celebrated her femininity and womanhood in ways that we had not seen before. She embraced herself in unapologetic ways and she showed the world that she would try to be in charge of her own self and create herself her own way. One does not have to like her or her particular kind of music and presentation to see her for the unique performer that she was when she first entered the pop scene. Gaga does not ooze novelty to me. Not in the least. I've already seen her act and, as it is the case with much else in my own life and experience, if I've seen it once and it doesn't inspire, I'm over it. Next?

Gaga's New video Alejandro is hailed as yet another controversial piece of art. To these bizarre words of praise I say, check out Madonna, folks. Look at what she did at a time when we didn't have iPods and YouTube also known as the late 80's.

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Sean said...

Right, I don't get it how people forget other artists' previous work that inspires more modern versions. Lady Gaga does remind of Madonna. I don't think she channels Madonna by chance.

JJ said...

I also don't understand the need to shock, really. I mean if the music is good and solid by itself, it shouldn't need the extra attention to sartorial choices.

Anonymous said...

I do think that this forgetting the past thing, is very much a sign of our collective quick pace and how focused we are on what's to come as opposed to what's transpired.

Sra said...

I think underneath all Gaga's uninteresting aesthetics, there's a pretty talented musician. Her presentation is certainly not to my taste, however. You know, I have heard several people cover her songs and I thought, "Damn, that's a good song, maybe I should give her a chance." Then I look up her version and it just doesn't do it for me the same way. Although, she did an unplugged piano version of poker face on youtube that I like. It's a jazzy version, and it's not too bad.