Not much more can be said about the culturally ruinous effects of Lady Gaga. Never before has a “controversial” public persona been so contrived, derivative, and over-calculated. Every single move the woman makes is designed for one thing and one thing only: attention. Gaga (born Stefani Germanotta) is, quite literally, an Internet troll. She employs the same sort of shock-mongering that stars of yesteryear (Madonna, Michael Jackson) peddled to print and television, but her schtick is all about dominating new media: blogs, social networking, and celeb gossip websites. With multimillion dollar marketing firms behind her, she’s been extraordinarily successful, but there’s still hope. We can weather this cultural storm, but it will take courage and diligence. Anyone who’s spent any time on the Internet knows there’s only one way to stop a troll: starve it.
Given that this is Big Hollywood, I doubt I need to encourage anyone to stop patronizing Lady Gaga. But there is a rising pop star that could eclipse Germanotta’s celebrity with your support. If you have daughters, buy them a copy of The Archandroid as soon as you can. The album’s artist, Janelle Monae, is a genuine musical talent and an exemplary role model for young women.
The Archandroid is absolutely verdant, bursting with ideas and energy, hopping from genre to genre effortlessly. It tells the story of a robot named Cindi Mayweather who breaks the law by loving a human man and discovers her destiny as the savior of her fellow droids. It’s at once classic and contemporary, familiar and uncharted musical territory. Like most ambitious records, it drags in places and missteps one or two times too many, but it establishes Ms. Monae as a confident and passionate artist with the potential to someday be counted amongst the ranks of soul music legends like Nina Simone or James Brown.
Outside her recordings, Monae is the opposite of Gaga in almost every way. She is focused, purposeful, and modest. By bouncing back and forth between overt sexuality and proclamations of chastity (and not chastity for morality’s sake), urging her fans to protest Arizona’s immigration law while refusing to join her colleagues in their oh-so-courageous boycott of the state, Gaga clings to the tired troll schtick of saying anything that gets a reaction regardless of whether it makes sense. Monae, instead, nearly sounds like a broken record, as in almost every interview, she stresses that what people need to pay attention to most is her music. The message is that her persona has adapted to a character that she created for her music, not vice versa.
Gaga’s overlong music videos are chock full of fetish outfits and borderline nudity, but Monae openly rejects that gimmick, donning austere tuxedos as a tribute to her parents and the years they spent working as janitors in jumpsuits. Though she’s received a ton of fashion accolades, she’s not worried about people who accuse her style of being too butch. “I am not faithful to any of the clothes that the world says I have to wear to be more feminine,” she says. “Strength and femininity come from me, not my clothes.” To boot, her wild hair is entirely natural.
The ArchAndroid, beyond its dabbling in soul and gospel music, has a very strong spiritual theme with Mayweather as a Christ figure. This highlights another difference between these two pop stars. Gaga, an alumnus of Convent of the Sacred Heart, one of the most expensive private Catholic schools in Manhattan, has used spirituality only as an object for her silly controversy mining. Swallowing crucifixes? Getting manhandled while dressed as a nun? Shocking, just shocking! Monae, however, doesn’t flinch as she tells reporters she’s a Christian. One can see how her view of all people as image-bearers of God reflects in her emphasis on the value of the individual.
This leads to perhaps the only disappointment I have with Monae. In the same breath as her admission to Christianity, the artist will often proclaim she is a progressive as well. I won’t fault her merely for having that belief, but I can’t help but feel that Monae has latched onto causes du jour within her industry that contradict the core principles she espouses. Despite her family’s humble background, she rejects any sense of entitlement. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, she asserted, “I could’ve easily been a product of my environment and played the victim. But I consider myself a thriver. I refuse to use my race or my background or anything as an excuse not to reach my goals.” There’s also a strong thread of personal liberty and freedom from oppression running through her songs.
However, in a song called “Mr. President” (released long after the Pink song from which it borrows liberally), she complains that wars fought to allow democracy to flourish in places heretofore run by dictators are wars fueled by “hatred,” and she says we should be doing more to ensure education and healthcare (just comes right out and says it– great way to make her songs dated in a year or two). She doesn’t see that the actual effects of socialized medicine are a loss of freedom, a reinstitution of slavery, and dignity-destroying dependence.
But whatever inconsistency Ms. Monae has in her politics, it flows from ignorance rather than malice, and it does little to tarnish the bright example she is becoming to young women all over the world. So parents, please– do not feed the Gaga. Do your children a favor and introduce them to Janelle Monae.
For once my fellow Republicans have good taste! Also, please feel free to stan, because this is why I posted the lulz to begin with!
Big Hollywood is completely serious. Read the comments for additional lulz and the regular right wing fail.