Goo Goo Gaga

ID_IC_MEIS_GAGA_AP_001 Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Lady Gaga…wants nothing more than to stand out there, alone on the stage surrounded by a numberless, raving throng. She wants to bring back the super-fan.

“When I'm writing music, I'm thinking about the clothes I want to wear on stage. It's all about everything altogether — performance art, pop performance art, fashion. For me, it's everything coming together and being a real story that will bring back the super-fan. I want to bring that back. I want the imagery to be so strong that fans will want to eat and taste and lick every part of us.”

That's Gaga in an interview with MTV News a couple of years ago. She's always known in her bones that super-fans are the Holy Grail of Pop Fame, the fame of the true legends: Elvis, the Beatles, Marilyn. There hasn't been someone really worthy of having super-fans for a long time. The diffusion and fracturing of culture has been too profound. No one performer can be big enough, anymore, to command that much attention. Sure, there are instances of super-fandom here and there, amongst a particular demographic or sub-group: the Jonas Brothers, for instance, and the kids who love them. But having real super-fans means cutting across all those distinctions. It means having moments where you hold an entire culture in the palm of your hand. It means you can push the buttons of millions of people, drive them wild and outside of themselves simply by walking on to the stage.

Lady Gaga's latest offering to her fans is a music video for her song “Telephone.” It starts in a women's prison. There's a vicious catfight, some lesbian kissing, and a pair of sunglasses made from burning cigarettes. The story moves on to the choreography of sandwich-making and then a mass murder at a roadside diner. Fabulous stuff.

I was struck, though, by the strange realism of the video, especially in the prison. It is no mistake, I think, that Quentin Tarantino is referenced throughout (Lady Gaga and Beyoncé leave the prison in the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill). Though Tarantino is often criticized for an overuse of irony and a “meta” style, his movies are at their best when a sudden rush of violence, perfectly orchestrated, brings you very much into a real moment. Those moments in Tarantino movies are disturbing, all the more because he so easily manipulates the viewer in and out of them. The ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs is not funny or pleasant or cool. It is scary and wrong and it sticks in your craw, for real.