I have said that I don’t like Lady Gaga, and that’s true. “Bad Romance” and “Telephone” are the only songs that I can stomach, and her videos freak me out. I also don’t think she’s all that innovative, and every time people say that she’s doing something no one has ever done before, I ask them if they were asleep when Madonna and David Bowie were big. I also don’t think it’s a really legitimate thing to say that the point of being a crazy performance artist with no rhyme or reason is to trick people into paying attention, or to make some kind of statement that art is arbitrary, because all of that is just silly. To be clear, I’m also not a big fan of most electronica, because I think you can’t define things as “music” unless they have melodies and include at least one instrument or voice that comes from a physical being or object. But I do reserve a few electric-y tracks for when I work out or clean my apartment.
But it just struck me that my argument somewhat falls apart when I consider that I very much like listening to (and watching videos of) Marina and the Diamonds. I’m going to try to explain the difference between her and artists like Gaga, and also explain why I like her. She’s definitely in the “tradition” of current pop, which is like stylized, commercialized performance art. But it’s still way different from shitty installations in contemporary art galleries and pop stars who go for shock-factor-cum-esoteric-ness. I totally admit that it could just be that I have followed Marina & the Diamonds a long time, so I’ve read her blogs and listened to her demos, and also that I just happen to find her music more aesthetically pleasing than Gaga’s, but I think it’s more than that.
Another caveat: I enjoy intellectualism and deconstruction/analysis, so this could be another reason I prefer Marina. I see Gaga as primarily about shock, and secondarily about attaching fake meaning after the fact. And it’s never all that shocking–“oh, women are objectified, so let me point to my crotch a lot! Aren’t I pushing the envelope?” Meh. Marina, on the other hand, is a complete package and she is all about acknowledging that. She said she wanted to be a popstar, so she made herself one–she writes pop songs that talk about pop and pop culture, she does herself up to look like a popstar trying to have a persona, and so she has one. She plays with electronica by making her voice electric. I don’t mind the performance art because it’s totally self aware, so I can deconstruct the nuances if I please or understand pretty easily what statements she makes. Also, she’s fun. This is the same reason I can respect (if not particularly enjoy, except for a handful of songs for the gym) Katy Perry, Bowie, Flight of the Conchords, etc. Concept artists are more fun than concept albums, I think. And I think it’s absurd when you pretend as if being a concept isn’t exactly what you’re doing.
So if you like Lady Gaga, I’m going to say that you probably have objectively less of an ear for music and less of an eye for aesthetics than the average human, even adjusting for cultural differences, because she’s just not that great. And if you like Katy Perry, I will support you, but I will not buy a ticket to her concert. I’m more of a quiet person.
And there it is. I think the real reason I loooove Marina is that her songs conceptually match the ones I try to write, except that hers are good. And most important, she’s not afraid to be loud. Somewhere in my growing up I way, way toned down my extrovertedness and succumbed to my shy side. And even when I was an extrovert, there were still many things I did not do, and the biggest was never to exit my personal bubble, which very closely mimics the shape and size of my body. I don’t dance, I don’t jump up and down, I started wearing more black clothes and flat shoes, and people always think I’m angry at concerts because my happiness stays inside me. Hell, I even straightened my hair so that people would notice me and catcall me less.
What fascinates me about Marina is her willingness to get so outside of her immediate body, I think. I am jealous of that, but it also scares me. I love the idea of being an artist like she, because I imagine she’s quite clever and, probably like me, enjoys a huge, varied diet of music, movies, and books. She knows her shit, and she also has a consistent style and persona, even while she grows. That’s not something I’m so sure I have, and not because I’m still changing as rapidly as I used to, but just because I don’t know how to do that. If I wanted to be a person like Marina, I would overanalyze it and make lists and charts and diagrams about my influences and cut out pictures of fashion and art so that I could always check to make sure I was living them. Marina, on the other hand, seems to just have it in her, whereas all of my ideas only seem to come out like this. Words, connections that work in my mind but that don’t sound so pretty when I write or say them.
Also, I still have to say, I get easily tired of Marina if I listen to her too long, but I could listen to her new acoustic set over and over again. It’s the silly, self conscious performance aspect, the snappy lyrics, and a quieter approach. This I could maybe do, if I took sexy lessons and no-more-shyness lessons. Maybe.
Maybe I’ll write a novel about a performance artist sometime?