Lady Gaga is changing pop music and culture.
When she appeared in the mainstream with The Fame back in 2008, I thought she was just another weirdo who got all flashy for the camera, hot on the heels of every other neo-glam 80′s excess kickback artist that was (and is to some extent) dominating the charts. Her songs were catchy, somewhat crude, but ultimately forgettable. Her music videos were also somewhat weird, but understandable and fairly common fare.
Paparazzi changed that.
Paparazzi was a video that was raw, disturbing, and full of a fairly subversive narrative. Gaga then took this narrative to the stage at the MTV Music Awards where copious amounts of fake blood were on stage at its finale. It was gross and provocative, and Gaga had found an empty niche left by Manson and the Shock Rock of the late 90s.
Then The Fame Monster came out.
Bad Romance, followed by Telephone and now Alejandro, are showing a progression into the various themes of abuse, power, prostitution, and taboos that are now really getting people’s attention. Everyone’s locked in to what is being shown in these videos (734,586,919 views on Youtube as of writing).
Looking back, it’s hard not to see a master plan here. With The Fame, her first videos seem like forays into pop star tropes that saturate the industry. These are capped by what is almost surely the most disturbing paparazzi trope video/song ever created. A song that made everyone turn their heads. It is at this point that things get subversive. Gaga’s latest over-sexed, violent, profane, and nearly unintelligible music videos seem to be revealing a dark and twisted world under the pristine guise of pop music. She’s changing and reforming the industry by pushing it to its limits. And to some extent, this is a good thing.
Lady Gaga a good thing? Let’s set a little straight first. The music itself isn’t really different from anyone else. Her music videos are not appropriate for children, but neither has anything anyone else has done in the past 10 years very appropriate either. The difference is that Gaga is not pulling any punches on any level, making everyone uncomfortable. Because we were sucked into The Fame, The Fame Monster has got us. That monster is feeding on us, dragging us into a world where Madonna and Marilyn Manson had a kid named Gaga. Too much sex, too much violence – something has got to give, and soon.
When will that be? Where is rock-bottom? I don’t know. I’m looking forward to it, though, because when you hit the bottom, the only thing to do is go back up.
While singing in church during our service on Sunday, it hit me that there’s is a very insidious vein in a lot of modern worship these days, beyond the shallow theology, the ‘Jesus is my girlfriend’ stuff, and the six million chorus repeats without even a key change.
It is the pronoun, “I.”
I think something just broke in me on Sunday. I was singing a song about how awesome God is, focusing on being part of the corporate acknowledgment of his sheer Bigness, that I almost didn’t notice it. But, almost every time, there was a line (near the end/chorus) that brought it back to it being about us – no, that’s not right – me. I think I would be okay if it were we/us/let us, because then it is about the church in general in corporate communion with God. But nooo, it has to be about me.
Those that know me well, know that I admire and respect C.S. Lewis’ ideas about the Christian life, and one of my absolute favourites is that the opposite of selfishness is forgetting about yourself entirely – the removal of the ‘I’ pronoun. To correctly get on the road of selflessness and humility is to find one’s identity in God so much that you forget you are you. And as Lewis says, the great paradox of it all is that is when you become truly your unique self.
But what I am finding is, naturally, the opposite. By emphasizing our individuality now, we become drones to the hive, cogs to the praise-making machine. I’d like this to change.
So let’s just take all the ‘I’s out of our worship music for awhile, at least. Ok Church?
In no particular order:
I really like music. When talking about music, I say things like, ‘this stuff’s bananas!’, or ‘seriously, you have to listen to this for a minute.’ I listen to all kinds of music, (some more than others) and now I feel I need to share some music with my reading public, to expand your minds. Here are 4. people/groups you should take some time to get to know.
Wow. Just, wow. Before moving forward, however, the name is misleading. There is no pornography involved and for the most part the lyrics are quite clean. Essentially, this is a Canadian Supergroup (a group of solo artists/band members who perform together when not on their own tours/recording) that blows my socks off every time I hear it. You should pick up their album, Challengers - it’s hauntingly beautiful.
2. Buck 65.
Buck 65 is a Canadian Hip-hop artist who has gained popularity in the underground scene over the last few years. Before his newest album, Situation, I’m not sure I quite got where he was coming from, but this album really gels well – it’s a theme album about the 50′s people, the freakin’ 1950s! Be warned, however; there is a bit of language.
Imagine the most politically active beatnik from the 50s/60s, give him a mean streak and grainy voice, and you have Sage Francis. When this guy raps, he tears guts out of things (not literally, just a graphic metaphor) and throws it on the table, with the express point of making you deal with it. Human Death Dance is an album that has stayed in my regular rotation since last May when it came out. This one, unlike the rest is loaded with cussing, hard questions about God and rough issues. Not for the faint of heart. But sooooo good.
Ok, so I have a confession: Dan Smith of the Listener Project is the Manliest, Coolest, Most Awesome individual that I have ever met. I have serious man-crush on this dude. I have so far planned 2 different concerts, the main purpose being that I can just spend time with this artist. Listener Project is leading the way with a new genre of music: Talk Music. It’s fantastic. Listen to it.
So there you go. Have a listen. If you would like specific songs that you should listen to, feel free to ask.