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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lady Gaga vs Sarah McLachlan

A few days ago, the music section of the New York Times carried a piece by Jon Caramanica entitled "Girl Pop's Lady Gaga Makeover." To me, it makes for pretty depressing reading. The basic theme, if you don't mind me oversimplifying somewhat as I paraphrase, is that songs and singers who feel something and have something to say are being replaced by entertainers for whom such motivations are anathema. In other words, we're going post-modern yet again. Except now we're post-post-modern, or perhaps even post-post-post modern. It's so hard to keep track of the trends these days, especially when trendiness if often all that popular culture seems to be able to offer us.

Caramanica makes the point that Sarah McLachlan, who a decade ago seemed to be heralding the end of endless inventing and reinventing as the way to success in popular music, is now in retreat, having had to cancel a third of the concerts in her current revival of the Lilith Fair tour while Lady Gaga is raking in the money and the attention (actually, again, I am paraphrasing what I take from his piece, but I think this is the basic message.)

Don't get me wrong, I often find Lady Gaga entertaining, for no other reason than that the real secret of her popularity--the vicarious thrill she gives to wannabes who want to identify with her ability to make a great deal of money with very little talent and nothing to say that hasn't been said much better many times before--forces her to be reasonably clever about the way she goes about doing it. And she seems to have good progressive politics, although how brave she will be if the Tea Party goes after her in a big way remains to be seen (I would hope more brave than Commander-in-Chief President Barack Obama was in the face of the right-wing smear of Shirley Sherrod.)

But you know, there's a lot of sadness in the world, and like many people, sometimes I want to feel it. And I know Sarah will always be there for me. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, will probably be old news this time next year--unless she reinvents herself as someone who has something to say. One never knows.

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