The Lady Is a Vamp

8.9.2009

By Out.com Editors

Pop's newest—and gayest—superstar pulls back the curtain to reveal all is allusion in the art and artifice of fame.

Gaga may sing about sex a lot, but she does it with a hyperbole and na'vet' bordering on ironic. Unlike her provocative predecessors, most notably Madonna, Lady Gaga seems less interested in sex than in talking about talking about sex. Lady Gaga doesn't care whether you think she's sexy. She just wants you to think. Her body is a small, highly bosomed, well-proportioned, deadly delivery system programmed to explode the way you look at music, sex, fashion, fame, and everything that came before. She'll take, as she did at the MuchMusic Awards, the missile cone bra, last seen during Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour, and rig it to shoot fire from her breasts. Madonna and the other pop matriarchs should take cover. Lady Gaga may nod their way, but she won't bow. 'Lady Gaga is more like a collection of quotes than a singular performer,' Los Angeles Times music critic Ann Powers recently wrote. 'Every move she makes, every crazy ensemble she wears, can easily be traced. She's a human mash-up, a sample bank, recycled and reused.' As Gaga herself puts it: 'You're only as great as your best references,' and in the epic eight-minute clip for 'Paparazzi,' she proves it by riffing on film noir, Cindy Sherman, cyborgs, Macbeth, Lindsay Lohan, and horror films of the '50s. Of the video she notes, 'There's an art to fame. Even in the most humiliating and defaming moment of your life, you're still ready for the camera.'

Mining those bleaker moments is nothing new for Gaga, and the darkness that pervades The Fame isn't incidental. Gaga has always been drawn to the macabre and the monstrous. Before she became besties with Kanye she was friends with Marilyn Manson. Lately, she says, 'I've become really fascinated with fantasy and monster movies and the na'vet' of the '50s. Somehow I feel, socially, after a war or after something really bad happens there's a rebirth of na'vet', so that's where my obsession comes from. That's when the fame monster is born.'

The monster lives and demands to be fed. Gaga cannibalizes herself to feed it, exposing more and more of herself. She finds immunity in confession, detailing her shocking drug antics and sexual peccadilloes with an avidity that outstrips the paparazzi. 'Everyone knows what my breasts look like, who I'm sleeping with, what my real hair looks like, and when I'm wearing wigs'all the information is out there,' she says, not without pride. 'But somehow there's an ambiguity that hovers.' That ambiguity is the constant desire to peek behind the curtain to glimpse the real Gaga. Too bad the curtain doesn't exist. As Powers put it, 'the split between 'real' and 'fake' seems to have closed. This isn't because the quest for authenticity has been abandoned. It's because, for artists like Gaga, fake has become what feels most real.'

Though Lady Gaga is rarely caught in the same outfit twice, the disco ball runs like a leitmotif through her wardrobe. She wore a homemade disco ball bra in the video for 'Just Dance' and a dress made from dissected disco balls at the Glastonbury Festival in England in June. On stage, the angular mirrored dress refracted the fervent faces of her fans, happily bouncing up and down. Each one sees in Gaga a reflection of him or herself, picking from her array of looks and melodies and messages those that appeal to them. Gay, straight, misfit, mall rat, teen, tween, or twink, look at Gaga and you'll see yourself.

Lady Gaga made The Fame and The Fame made Lady Gaga famous. In return, she's become fame's greatest apostle. 'What I want to deliver, as a message about fame, is that anyone can have it. My fame lives in my friendships, in my convictions about the power of art and love -- you could have 500 pairs of shoes that cost 10 cents and still be famous.' In a culture where kids close their eyes and dream of being a contestant on Big Brother, Gaga's fame free-for-all is an irresistible message for those yearning for a fame monster of their own. And when it comes accompanied by more hooks than a fisherman's tackle box, it's a message few can resist. Is it true? Lady Gaga's poker face is notoriously hard to read, but 'This isn't the Lady Gaga newscast,' she says. 'Nobody gives a shit what is really going on -- everyone wants me to tell them a story. Art is a lie, and every day I kill to make it true.'

To see our Lady Gaga photo slideshow, click here.

 

 

--JOSHUA DAVID STEIN AND NOAH MICHELSON

 

 

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