When Lady Gaga first entered the pop music scene back in 2008, I forced myself to take a second look. Her lyrics were symbolic of both the feminine mystique and female empowerment, she wore avant-garde and provocative clothing (or a lack thereof), and she had the strong ability to capture the attention of millions by dominating the music charts for weeks on end. This was reminiscent of a certain Queen of Pop who seemed to embody many of the same traits. Beginning with the release of her single “Like A Virgin” in the mid-1980s and up until her most recent album Hard Candy, Madonna hasn’t ceased causing both chaos and excitement over her musical and fashion styles in the minds of countless critics and fans.
But, amidst the recent statement that Madonna claims to see a bit of herself in Lady Gaga, along with Lady Gaga saying that she’s about to take over the pop industry and change it forever, I’m still sceptical. The director of Gaga’s most recent video “Telephone” has said that she has the potential to become as big as Madonna. That’s pretty cocky: comparing a cultural icon to a wild and sexualized dance-pop newcomer? I’m hesitant to even place them side by side in a sentence. Yes, Lady Gaga may have a high-energy onstage presence and a “creative” mind, but her costume changes don’t fool me. The comparison doesn’t make sense.
Madonna has unquestionably championed a certain femininity in her genre over the past few decades. She has earned her royal title due to the revolutionary changes that she’s propelled throughout the music industry by daring to be different, rising up against the norms of mainstream pop, and committing herself spiritually and passionately, even through the fire of religious condemnation. Madonna’s music videos, award show performances, and constant flamboyance allowed her to continuously transform and reinvent herself.
Madonna’s 1989 video “Like A Prayer” is a prime example. The video features Madonna kissing a statue of a saint (who she later makes love to when he suddenly turns human), a contentious scene where she dances with burning crosses, and a fun-loving jam with a gospel choir at the end. No big deal for Madonna, but pretty controversial for those who were used to listening to Whitney Houston and Gloria Estefan. The Catholic Church’s position regarding Madonna’s revealing expressionism is quite incomparable to the responses that Lady Gaga has received in light of her antics.
I won’t lie, I did enjoy Lady Gaga performing with Elton John at the Grammy Awards. Putting aside the fact that the “Fame Factory” metaphor didn’t really intrigue me, it was an elaborate act, a good opening, and some musical talent shined through as she worked that piano solo. It was not, however, as good as Madonna. Take Gaga’s VMA “Paparazzi” performance – how could this ever be compared to Madonna’s “Like A Virgin?” Please don’t tell me that Gaga deserves such praise just because she was creatively “out there,” wearing underwear with knee high boots and bleeding on stage.
I don’t think Madonna’s ready to give up her throne just yet. And when she is ready to hand over the “Queen of Pop” title to someone else, the crown may not fit Lady Gaga’s head (have you seen the Coke cans in her hair in “Telephone?”). Lady Gaga simply cannot cause the pandemonium that Madonna did. It’s already been done, and much more authentically.