Gaga for Fame

by Omar Kholeif

28 July 2009


Recently dubbed the new “princess of Pop”, Rolling Stone has said that Lady Gaga is on the verge of being the “defining Pop Star of the year”, and earlier offered her the cover of the coveted annual Hot List Edition. The honour is arguably a well-deserved one, considering that the singer’s ‘80s flavoured dance songs have been smash hits across both sides of the pond—helping secure the former cocaine-addict a devoted fan base.

Personally, it isn’t Gaga’s music that I find most intriguing. Rather, it is her dramatic rise, and her unabashed obsession with fame and her penchant for discussing it. Surely, the title of her first album, The Fame professes this explicitly, while Brian Hiatt’s report in RS reveals that the young starlet is a workaholic, who is devoted to the continued rise of her stardom. These musings were interspersed with quips by Gaga who regaled readers with stories about “kissing girls” and how she “doesn’t look like the other perfect pop singers”, i.e. she aims to surprise with her lack of convention.

Pop music aficionados will note that there is nothing particularly fresh about Gaga’s approach. We all know how Madonna exploited the minds of the MTV generation, and that her sole intent at the time was (arguably) to usurp convention, through reinvention.
But something about Gaga’s rise does strike me as particularly interesting. To be exact, it is the ‘timing’ of her meteoric achievements. It just so happens that Gaga rose through to the ranks, amidst an era teeming with aspiring MTV reality divas, where “pop stars” like Victoria Beckham (whose day job is simply to perpetuate her celebrity) are turned into cultural icons. As such, Lady G’s unabashed pursuit of stardom seems endearing, and her honesty about it is, well, almost noble. 

As a UK writer, I am particularly exposed to this commoditised celebrity culture. For instance, the contestants of reality television programming such as Big Brother, American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent are in fact the eminent occupiers in the mainstream press here. Undeniably, these contestants are driven purely by a hunger for fame and as such, the pursuit of it has become a public ideology. This has become such the case that last year; some educational commentators went as far as to suggest that celebrity hungry culture has replaced ‘God’.

With this in mind, it makes perfect sense for Lady Gaga to exploit her blatant wish for celebrityhood, mirroring the public’s collective desire, and with this, fuelling their addiction with fame. At the end of the day however, it is fitting to refer to Jake Halpern’s notable book, Fame Junkies, where he notes that “our obsession with celebrities ISN’T about THEM, [rather], it is about US and OUR needs.” This may seem self-evident to some, but to others it cautious reminder, which unveils the prickly relationship between the public and their celebrities.

Topics: lady gaga | madonna | mtv
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