Research Update: Speaking of Gaga

by justindburton on November 29, 2011

Following up on yesterday’s lighter link to Lady Gaga content, today we’ll send you over to a critical essay appearing in the Journal of Popular Culture and written by IASPM-US member Victor Corona. Corona positions Gaga within a contemporary flux of spectacle musicians in order to explore the social imaginary that her persona conjures.

WITH THE 2008 RELEASE OF HER ALBUM THE FAME, LADY GAGAbecame the first recording artist in history to have at leastfour number one hits from a debut album.1Although TheFame and its 2009 expanded rerelease, The Fame Monster, earned positive critical reviews, Gaga’s artistic reputation is also closely tied to anendless stream of avant-garde fashion worn in her music videos, performances, and public appearances. Proclaimed to be the ‘‘defining popstar’’ of 2009 by Rolling Stone (Hiatt, ‘‘Rise of Lady Gaga’’), Gaga wontwo Grammy awards in 2010 and was nominated for six a year later.She is followed by over seven million people on Twitter and was 2010’ssecond most Googled celebrity in the U.S. Gaga’s success also led to aninvitation to Queen Elizabeth’s annual entertainment gala and a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, whereshe wore the first hat designed by the architect Frank Gehry. Althoughher music and sartorial flare follow in the tradition of artists like DavidBowie, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Queen, Gaga has succeeded increating a glam-pop aesthetic aptly described as ‘‘neon noir’’ (Weiner2009), one that pursues a lasting presence in popular memory andcelebrates a monstrous Otherness.

In order to evaluate Gaga’s place in pop culture, this article exploresthe components of her distinct aesthetic, which can be described as asocial imaginary (Castoriadis 1987) that upholds much of Warhol’s PopArt vision yet twists it to reflect contemporary anxieties. Her active quest to produce the memorable and celebrate the freakish highlightsthe degree to which pop spectacle has been affected by a period ofunprecedented connectivity among consumers and cultural producers.The emphasis on creating the memorable reflects a new urgency for stars’ differentiation in a period of ‘‘hypermodernity,’’ an acceleratedstate of western capitalism characterized by ‘‘the culture of the fastestand the ‘ever more’: more profitability, more performance, more flexibility, more innovation’’ (Lipovetsky 35). From this perspective, postmodernity’s progeny is a cultural landscape where any possible event ofinterest can be almost instantly tweeted, blogged, texted, uploaded onYouTube, displayed on social networking sites, and discussed on comment boards. The entertainment industries have reacted to this trendby recognizing that in a quickened state of cultural exchange, thediffusion and perception of a star’s image are the most importantbuilding blocks of a career.

Read the full essay (no registration required to view the link!).

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: