Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lady Gaga Weeps At Poland Show,'It's Trendy To Be Free'

The last time Lady Gaga gave a long address, we stomached a lengthy, bizarre, extended metaphor about meat, the military and human rights that was tangentially related to the slab of sirloin she wore to the VMAs. Over Thanksgiving, the pop star kept the food in the kitchen, tweeting a photo of a Little Monster Casserole that presumably isn't made of actual Little Monsters (Ke$ha's the pop star who actually just released a disc called "Cannibal," after all) -- but she did find a way to make a speech.

At the Friday night stop of her Monster Ball tour in Poland, Gaga had a few new talking points: Her upcoming album, "Born This Way," is great. Actually, scratch that, it's epic ("I promise to give you the greatest album this decade, just for you"). And most interestingly, she's sick of seeing freak-flag-flying as a trend in pop culture.
"The funny thing is that some people reduce freedom to a brand," Gaga said between tears. "They think that it's trendy now to be free. They think it's trendy to be excited about your identity. When in truth, there is nothing trendy about 'Born This Way.' 'Born This Way' is a spirit, and it is this connection that we all share. It is something so much deeper than a wig or a lipstick or an outfit or a [expletive] meat dress. 'Born This Way' is about us, 'Born This Way' is about what keeps us up at night and makes us afraid." Then she played the comparatively upbeat "Telephone," the Beyoncé collaboration about dancing her worries away that helped make "The Fame Monster" a multiplatinum success.

The bulk of Lady Gaga's speech sounds like a direct response to the handful of empowerment songs female pop stars have released in the past few months. Nearly all of them were performed at last week's American Music Awards: Pink's "Raise Your Glass," where she shouts out "underdogs" and "nitty gritty dirty little freaks" who can't help but be inappropriately loud; Katy Perry's "Firework," where she encourages a frustrated listener, "You're original, can't be replaced"; and Ke$ha's "We R Who We R," on which she celebrates letting go of self-consciousness and "dancing like we're dumb."

While Lady Gaga has argued loudly for gay rights -- particularly on behalf of LGBT members of the military -- since her earliest days, when she revealed she identifies as bisexual, Pink, Perry, and Ke$ha have all spoken about genuine inspirations for their songs. Perry dedicated her video to It Gets Better, an initiative to encourage bullied gay youth to hang in and keep their eye on the future (Ke$ha's song was inspired by the project, as well). Pink features a gay wedding in her track's video, like the one she's discussed throwing for her lesbian best friend.
The wig and lipstick comments in particular seem aimed at newcomer Nicki Minaj, who has embraced a gay fan base, donned an assortment of way-out-there hairpieces and launched a lipstick in collaboration with M.A.C., a company Gaga partnered with as part of their Viva Glam campaign to fight AIDS. While Minaj began her career hinting that she might be bisexual, even granting a cover interview to Out magazine in which she refused to confirm her sexual orientation, the rapper has backed away from gay issues in recent months and distanced herself from her earlier comments.

So is Lady Gaga weeping because she doubts the motives of her competitors, or she's bummed they were able to release their empowerment records before she finished recording her new masterpiece? Surely there's room for more than one pop star to be involved with one of the largest civil rights struggles of our time. And there has been -- and will continue to be -- plenty of space for songs about freedom in the rock & roll canon.

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