In this decade the new mainstream street urchin is certainly Lady Gaga. If the zeitgeist then was the New York East Village Scene, the theme of the 2000s (I will not say aughts) is the robot. Not the festive dance craze of the 70s, but people as automatons, vis-à-vis glazed sexuality and autotune. Lady Gaga, especially in her first incarnation, brought this concept to a mass audience just as Madonna brought the New York dance scene to us in the 80s. Of course I am old now so Gaga resonated zero with me – it seemed silly. This is how I know that I’ve matured past the sell-by date of current diva pop. But I would not say that I was unaware.
There have been the inevitable comparisons to Madge. Cold sexuality? Check. Grandstanding? Check. Faux outrageous acts? Check and check. Madonna, however, has always sourced black and gay for her inspirations. Gaga, by comparison, sources aliens and (at least lately) Elton John as her style references. I have considered this for a while; just as Gaga coerced her gay and tweenie fans with Eurotrash she certainly pulls equally from rock n roll (at least today). Her primary difference, in the end, is that she has what Madonna lacks: a full, rich and powerful voice.
Ergo the endless remarks that Gaga is “talented” and that Madonna is not. Well, people, how many Madonna tunes can you hum right now? A lot! She co-wrote them all. She depends on collaborators! you say. Wow- what astute choices, I say. I am here to suggest that not only is Madonna talented but prodigiously so. Love her or leave her she makes one strong record after another, including a bona fide original (her first album “Madonna”). There is her rock solid instinct in choosing her songs and collaborators, fine tuning them so that they stick, and keeping her style just edgy and modern enough to keep her current. This talent has been attributed to her business savvy, which is not quite accurate: it is more like an animal instinct. Bowie had it as well in his day.
I know she is desperate and probably unfriendly but Madonna captured lightning in a bottle for so much of the 80s and 90s crowd. I also know it is the same for the fans of Gaga, a genre-defying fame junkie just like her. But I would say the comparison stops there. The answer to my question is yes: Madonna rules. And the bitch is back.