Published on May 2nd, 2012 | by Hunter Schwarz0
Lady Gaga Makes Her Return To A Vastly Altered Pop Landscape
Remember Lady Gaga? Yes, the pop star in the meat dress. Remember when it seemed like she would never go away? Well, she did. For six months. Even though she’s been in relative hibernation, she returned every so often.
At the Grammys in February, Lady Gaga was dressed in her requisite weird outfit — this time it was a fishnet facemask. She didn’t get as much airtime as she usually did at awards shows though, and the camera seemed more focused on Adele.
After watching three years of wall-to-wall coverage of Lady Gaga’s rise and reign and witnessing every pop star play catch up, it was bizarre to see Gaga relegated to B-list status. She didn’t even win anything that night.
But Gaga’s hibernation is over. She opened her Born This Way Ball Tour on Friday in Seoul, and it will snake its way across the Eastern hemisphere and Europe for the next six months. North American dates haven’t even been announced yet, but if it’s anything like her last tour, she’ll be on the road right up until she releases her next album.
So Gaga is back. But the pop landscape has changed since she went off the radar.
The era of four-on-the-floor euro-dance hits sung by divas in technicolor wigs is coming to an end. They gave it a good go, though. “Bad Romance,” “Single Ladies,” “Till the World Ends,” “E.T.,” “Super Bass” — these are songs we’ll be listening to for 25 years. Or at least sing at karaoke bars and see at drag shows for the next 10. Even the ladies who have never worn a wig on stage gave us some classics like “Love Story” and “Rolling In the Deep.”
We first realized we were entering a golden age of pop when Gaga hung herself at the VMAs after singing “Paparazzi” in 2009. That was the moment we knew she wasn’t just a flash-in-the-pan pop star. Then there was, in quick succession, the modern masterpiece that was “Bad Romance,” the nearly ten-minute-long short film that was “Telephone” and the lead up to the release of Born This Way, which topped the height of Brandon Flowers and Kanye West’s ego in terms of its hype and sense of self importance. And, of course, there were all the elaborate dresses, ten-story heels and wigs. So many wigs.
You know how the Beatles made Revolver and the Beach Boys were all like “daaaang” and so they made Pet Sounds but then the Beatles were all like, “oh no you didn’t,” and made Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band? That’s kind of what happened in pop in the late ‘00s and early ‘10s. It has been a sort of pop renaissance. Australian pop star Kylie Minogue said so herself.
“[Lady Gaga is] like a meteor that just came from outer space and landed on the pop landscape,” she told Access Hollywood. “And just … there was dust in everyone’s face.”
“Dust in everyone’s face” meant every pop star realized they had to bring their A-game. And they did. You could see it in the size of the shoulder pads.
It was an era of excess we not only allowed, but embraced, which was interesting since we had just plunged into the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. But, the America that allowed the excess of Lady Gaga’s lobster glasses, iceberg hat and bubble dress was the same America that thought it was a good idea to pack INVESCO field to hear Barack Obama speak at the 2008 Democratic National Convention on a stage set with Greek columns. While we were in a recession.
But times have changed. I doubt the Democrats will be as extravagant at this year’s convention, and pop seems like it will be the same way.
We won’t be hearing anything new from the big name pop stars this year. Gaga, Britney, Beyonce and Katy have been at the end of their album cycles for a while now. Nicki’s record is a big mess, but she threw so much at the wall that something will probably stick. Madonna’s MDNA had a great first week and her tour is expected to break records, but she isn’t exactly lighting up the radio.
In the absence of the female pop stars who have ruled the airwaves the majority of Obama’s administration, quirky alt-pop hits and British boybands have filled the void. The success fun. is having on the charts should give rock bands everywhere hope that rock isn’t really dead yet. Pop is changing, and that’s OK, because that’s what pop is supposed to do.
Lady Gaga seemed to hint at the need for change a year after her bloody “Paparazzi” performance. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards — as Katy Perry tried to pull a Gaga and change her outfit multiple times during the broadcast — Gaga dressed as a man and stayed dressed as a man the whole time. It instantly made every chick in a wig or wearing a box on their head look outdated. ♦ ♦ ♦
Hunter Schwarz is a senior at BYU studying journalism. He is the editor of the Student Review, an off-campus alternative newspaper in Provo, UT. You can follow on Twitter at @hunterschwarz.