I’m coming into this with a bias. Witchy little elfin princess Joanna Newsom has a song called “Emily” on her album Ys. I am a sucker for any song with my name in it, even if it is Bowling for Soup’s “Emily.” Therefore she wins. I know she sounds like a screeching cat, or a female troll trying to bewitch you, but she is better than Gaga.
I do get it though. On one hand, the lady is an artist. She wears zany clothing (or lack thereof) and challenges mainstream pop’s perceptions of style, aesthetic, and design. Still, at the same time, her songs suck. I have the album The Fame Monster. I got it from the library. I’ve listened to it. Besides a couple of great dance hits I’d be psyched to hear at the bar, it’s terrible pop music. There is nothing original in her songs; hell, when she’s watching some bitches fight in her “Telephone” video she might as well be Rihanna, singing about dancing in a club.
But besides me ragging on the state of pop music or Gaga herself, lately there's been a lot of discussion about the infamous Lady G. Named one of Time’s most influential people, and selling millions just by sheer nature of being famous, Gaga has pissed off a lot of people. When musicians can get rich and famous just by covering her, or copying her (new Christina Aguilera video much?) the surges of anger will undoubtedly arise from the indie waters. Petite Newsom recently told The Guardian:
I'm mystified by the laziness of people looking at how she presents herself, and somehow assuming that implies there's a high level of intelligence in the songwriting. Her approach to image is really interesting, but you listen to the music, and you just hear glow sticks... There's not much in her music to distinguish it from other glossy, formulaic pop. She just happens to wear slightly weirder outfits than Britney Spears. But they're not that weird - they're mostly just skimpy. She's fully marketing her body/sexuality; she's just doing it while wearing, like, a 'fierce' telephone hair-hat. Her sexuality has no scuzziness, no frank raunchiness, in the way that, say, Peaches, or even Grace Jones, have - she's Arty Spice! And, meanwhile, she seems to take herself so oddly seriously, the way she talks about her music in the third person, like she's Brecht or something. She just makes me miss Cyndi Lauper.
Compared to a Spice Girl, ouch.
But Joanna, you’re really indie and whimsical, of course you hate mainstream, poppy-sounding stuff. More edgy, rough artists have more appreciation for her antics, yes?
Well, controversial rapper M.I.A. told NME:
People say we're similar, that we both mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same. None of her music's reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza disco, you know? She's not progressive, but she's a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I fucking do!
At least she has Jack White’s, uh, blessings. He told the UK Sun while discussing the new Dead Weather album, Sea of Cowards:
I was thinking of the type of song a contemporary musician would write so I started thinking about her. I started thinking of how she would write the music to this song and got quite into being Lady Gaga in an odd way.