A secondary meaning of overwrought is “Too elaborate or complicated in design or construction.” By this light, Jody Rosen’s review of Lady Gaga’s new album in Slate is certainly overwrought. I have nothing against Lady Gaga and, in fact, respect her for the concern she shows for her audience and her forthright stands on gay civil rights. But I loathe her music. Then again, I’m not anywhere remotely in her demographic–as a middle aged, married heterosexual with two left feet and no fashion sense. Hey, different strokes for differrent folks. I’m sure that there are a lot of folks who listen to Lady Gaga who loathe many of the bands that I find indispensible.
This review, however, seems to play into the massive hype machine that is Gaga, and gets carried away with its own reverence. Gaga is a “pop revolutionary.” Her music is “fascinatingly multivalent.”
Gaga has decided to outdo them all, to put out a record that is bigger, more emphatic, more ferociously campy than anyone’s . . . This is the place where pop schlock becomes, if you will, rapturous—where a song slips the surly bonds of earth, gusting heavenward to touch the cloudbank where Jesus, or Meatloaf, gazes down from a golden throne.”
Where Rosen really slips off the rails is in the review’s description of Gaga as a disciple of Bruce Springsteen. I have two main complaints:
1) Musically, there is no connection whatsoever. Gaga’s music is accurately described as drawing on the “tradition of camp that extends from drag queen cabaret to Broadway and disco.” Bruce is not campy in any way, he has always been seen as the keeper of the flame, the champion of rock tradition–as passed down through Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley et. al.
2) The following quote is what pisses me off the most about this review: “Gaga is a rocker at heart. She has little feel for, or interest in, black music; there’s almost no hip-hop on her records. Her songs are powered by blunt foursquare house beats—a European sound that, thanks to Gaga, has become the default pulse of American pop.” Being a fan of deracinated corporate disco thud makes you a rocker? Having little feel or interest in black music makes you a rocker? AAAgghhhh! Let’s all send Rosen a URL link to the Black Rock Coalition and a copy of Chuck Berry’s “Great 28.”
Bruce Springsteen has long been noted for his affinity for both pop and R & B. Bruce’s influences certainly include all the great musical traditions that make up rock and roll–including soul, R & B and even, (in his itinerant preacher schtick during concerts–gospel.)
Lady Gaga has always been open about her love of Bruce’s music, explaining that it was a crucial part of her bond with her Bruce-fanatic dad. But it is one thing to be a fan, another to count that person as a muse.