Posts Tagged ‘Lady GaGa’

    Lady Gaga is a Madonna fan. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has a) heard her new, predictably controversial single, a catchy homage to Madge by way of a Vogue/ExpressYourself mash up or b) looked at her, at any point since her explosion onto the music scene.

    Don't go for second-best, baby...

    To be fair, Gaga isn’t the only young pop starlet to wear her Madonna inspiration on her sleeve; the grand dame of pop music, Madonna’s influence spreads far and wide. It is almost impossible to avoid comparisons with her if you are female, vaguely edgy and playing the pop music game. This can’t be good for the self-esteem of those concerned because to be brutally frank, there is but one Madonna and she is force of nature.

    I was too little to appreciate Madonna’s ‘old school’ hits the first time around. My poor mother refused point blank to let me put the Immaculate Collection on my Santa list. I do believe were her exact words on the matter were, ‘why would you want to listen to that wan?’ She may or may not have blessed herself for good measure.

    It wasn’t until university that I got my proper introduction to Madonna. Oh sure, I knew the songs – who didn’t – but beyond that, I never gave Madonna a second thought and certainly not in terms of feminism, until she popped up on a course I was taking at university about subverting popular culture.

    At first, I was dubious. To me, Madonna was as mainstream as Adidas tracksuits and cups of tea. She was just another bubblegum pop star who made millions and liked to take her clothes off. So what? But as our lecturer encouraged us to scratch the shiny often very sexy veneer of Madonna’s music, something began to emerge, something that made me spend what little money I had on the Immaculate Collection (CDs were not cheap at the time and illegal downloading was the stuff of fantasy) which I listened to on repeat for a month. In short, I fell in love with Madonna. Here are 3 reasons why:

    Sick of hearing songs about female ’empowerment’ that involve buying things, crying about lost loves and using your booty to get his attention? Then you need Express Yourself, the message of which is simply: value yourself as a human being. Expect your partner to do the same. If he can’t, you’ll be better off alone. (Don’t expect this one to feature on a rom-com sound track any time soon)

    Who says a pop song can’t be serious? Case in point: Papa Don’t Preach. Plenty of pop songs are about sex; very few are about the realities of sex gone wrong and even fewer again are about a young woman facing up to a difficult situation in a world that just does not want to know. The lyrics are as relevant now as they ever were which sadly says a lot about how far we haven’t come.

    On occasion, you might like a bit of sexy music but not obviously sexy music where the singer is shrieking about LOVING SEX, especially with WHIPS, CHAINS, TENNIS BALLS or whatever you might have lying around the house (Rihanna, I’m looking at you). Justify My Love – a song so sexually charged it will have you aching and blushing at the same time, without a tennis ball or whip in sight.

    In terms of subverting popular culture, you could type about Madonna all day long from Sex to the Blonde Ambition Tour (Marilyn but with muscles) and her pop star status aged fifty-something. Likewise, the many gems on the Immaculate Collection are worthy of repeated listening and consideration (sorry Mum!). She has released many albums since, whose merit or lack there of is certainly up for debate.

    The final Madonna moment I’ll leave you with is from the album Music, released in 2000, 10 years after the Immaculate Collection. Gaga et al would do well to remember that while performance art can be fierce fancy and wild, often what is most powerful and sometimes most shocking is using a deceptively simple pop song to hold a mirror up to our grubby world and telling it like it is. Just ask Madonna.

    Madonna/ What It Feels Like for A Girl

    What’s your favourite Madonna moment?

    Mary McGill likes to talk. Thankfully, she gets to do that most nights, hosting i102104’s talk show. She also likes to write, read, travel, listen to music, speak French (badly), laugh a lot and look on the bright side of things – most of the time.  She believes tea is the balm of life and if you make her a nice, strong cup, she’ll love you forever. You can tweet Mary here @missmarymcgill

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Cast your mind back, if you will, to 2009. Right from the outset, the last year of the noughties was being dubbed ‘The Year of the Female’; a clutch of young musicians in possession of the X chromosome were being corralled into a makeshift scene, solely because of their gender. Of course, I can’t play the saintly onlooker and chastise my fellow music journos for their laziness – I’m sure I was as guilty of buying into the fuss surrounding acts like Florence & the Machine, La Roux, Little Boots (above) and Lady Gaga, at the time. (Little Boots, by the way, was one of the worst interviewees I’ve ever had the misfortune to have a phone conversation with. Twice.) The thing was, though, that most of those acts were largely pop/electro-pop oriented. Just two years on, however, and the landscape has tilted in favour of musicians with a rockier demeanour.

Look at the BBC’s ‘Sound Of…’ poll, for example; for all intents and purposes, the taste-making list drawn up by UK industry figures is redundant. New music is there to be discovered and recommended, not coldly thrust upon you by a group of anonymous people cherry picking a list of the bands that are being buzzed about most deafeningly. However, some of the female names on this year’s longlist seemed to demonstrate the shift away from pop music. There’s Warpaint, for example, the LA four-piece that channelled the gloom of the much-missed Organ with their excellent debut last year. Esben and the Witch, a female-fronted Brighton trio, so impressed Matador Records that they became the first British band to sign with the label in five years.

Anna Calvi

The Domino Records-signed Anna Calvi is also currently frantically propelling journos and bloggers thesaurus-wards in search of new adjectives to describe her brooding, guitar-led indie-rock. Personally, I don’t really get the fuss – but maybe I need to give the album more time, see her live (she plays Dublin’s Workman’s Club on February 23rd), or just banish the niggling ‘sub-PJ Harvey’ notion clanging around my head every time I listen to ‘Blackout’. But there are worse artists to ape, of course.

Harvey herself also has a new album out on February 11th, by the way. ‘Let England Shake‘ impressed me from the first listen; it’s her first ‘solo’ record since 2007’s stark ‘White Chalk‘, although her frequent collaborators John Parish and Mick Harvey are as omnipresent as ever. It’s a slightly barmy (one track drops in a triumphant fanfare riff at random points) and completely original offering. Harvey doffs her hat to no one.

But what does this supposed shift away from danceable floor-fillers mean? Is it just a case of swings and roundabouts? Do women with guitars wield more influence as ‘serious’ musicians? Have we finally seen the last of Florence ‘I’m 24, really, I am’ Welch‘s many re-releases of ‘Lungs’, or is she waiting to pounce with a fake ID and a follow-up at any second? Will anybody care about Gaga‘s latest wacky stage show if her next album is rubbish? Will La Roux‘s Elly Jackson lose the source of all her powers if she chops off her quiff for album number two? Feck knows. I’m just glad I don’t have to interview Little Boots again.

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Like many of us, I sometimes take a random, and probably completely unfair, dislike to various celebrities. And then sometimes, I go the other way. Yes, perhaps because I would simply rather like people than hate them, I often find myself suddenly liking celebrities whom I previously regarded with either boredom or disdain. Which is why I could totally identify with Jessica of Go Fug Yourself in this recent post, where she said

I am SO EASILY talked into liking celebrities that I hitherto disliked. Seriously. I almost ALWAYS come around. I’m pretty sure this means I am super susceptible to Stockholm Syndrome, like if I were kidnapped by Colombian drug lords, I’d come back from my ordeal and be all, “You guys, I kind of miss Pablo.”

Sadly, I suspect I am the same.

Oh Kanye, you're so ridiculous.

Not only was I too strangely charmed by those images of the Hoff and his tribe, but over the years I have found myself developing a sort of affection for other stars I have previously just mocked or loathed, including Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Eva Mendes. And it doesn’t take much to win me over. I realised I kind of loved Kanye when he retweeted Aziz Ansari’s tweets parodying West’s OTT persona; I developed an affection for Gaga when she started talking about her newly awakened feminism (one of the reasons I’d previously found her annoying was an earlier interview in which she said she wasn’t a feminist because she didn’t hate men), and I realised I thought Mendes was basically a good egg this week, when she decided to give the frenzied Googling pervs want they want by releasing a very special sort of sex tape. But sometimes it’s not as concrete as that. Sometimes I just start thinking that someone is, as my younger sister (who is as easily charmed as I) and I used to say, “strangely likeable”. And sometimes I think it really is Stockholm Syndrome-esque.  In the early ’90s, my youngest sister was obsessed with Take That. I was a loathsome cooler-than-thou teenage indie snob, so of course I hated the That and all their works. And yet, somehow, after a solid year of seeing her Take That: The Party, Live At Wembley video on the telly almost every time I came into the sitting room, I was slowly but surely won over by their cheeky northern charm. To the extent that, when I reviewed their spectacular Circus tour in Croke Park last year, I was the only person in the row of sullen critics cheering like mad and indeed dancing along with my best mate (who had also witnessed the That’s hypnotic powers back when we were teens) to ‘Could It Be Magic’.

But generally a celebrity will win me over if they give a hint that they have a sense of humour, if they can take the piss out of both themselves and their detractors in a sharp and/or good humoured way, and if they can talk vaguely sensibly about feminism (seriously, once I find out any celeb calls themselves a feminist, I pretty much always like them a little bit more, even if, as in the case of Bill Bailey, I love them already).  So what previously loathed celebs have you developed a strange affection for? And what does it take to win you over?

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Pundits the length and breadth of the land have only just finished brainwashing us with their favourite books, films, TV shows and bands 0f 2008 before they get all Mystic Meg on us about 2009. While being told what to watch/read/listen to by a cabbala of hacks can be annoying, it can also be terribly useful for the time-poor among us. So having poured over oodles of lists and listened to gossipy music hearsay, it’s clear that 2009 is very much about the ladies. So here are five gals you should listen to, even if it’s just to waffle on about them knowingly like you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.

Florence & the Machine – ‘Dog Days Are Over’

Although there’s a touch of the Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl about Florence, she’s been picking up more comparisons to Kate Bush than you can shake a shimmery chiffon scarf at, but she reminds me of folkier singers like 10,000 Maniacs’ Natalie Merchant.

Florence and the Machine on myspace

VV Brown – ‘Crying Blood’

Foxy and feisty, VV does her own makeover version of 60s girl pop like no one else – and that includes the over-exposed and under-talented Duffy.

VV Brown on myspace

La Roux – ‘Quicksand’

Maybe it’s just me but the verses in this remind me a lot of ‘When Doves Cry’ by Prince, no? No bad thing perhaps, but it gets a bit annoying after three listens.

La Roux on myspace

Lady GaGa – ‘Poker Face’

In the opening scene there are dogs, masks and leather so you’d be forgiven for thinking that this ex-schoolmate of Paris Hilton was “doing a Goldfrapp”, but she’s nothing like her.  Stefani Joanne Germanotta has written tracks for Britney and The Pussycat Dolls (ick), has been nominated for a Grammy… and she’s only 22.

Lady GaGa on myspace

And possibly coolest of them all is Little Boots who plays a weird little instrument called a tenorian and uploads her own homemade jamming videos from her bedroom to Youtube.

Here she is on Later with Jools Holland playing not only that dinky tenorion, but a stylophone (hi Rolf!) and piano.

Little Boots on myspace

Anyone got any recommendations for 2009, female or otherwise? Any Irish women we should be talking about?

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