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Lady Gaga: occult master or mere pop star?

Recently ran across a very strange but intriguing review of Lady Gaga's Telephone (the video I posted a while back):

The Hidden Meaning of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”

If the hidden meaning this person sees in her lyrics and video is really the meaning she intended (doubtful, but possible) then I have to say, my respect for both her and her music goes up considerably. I get a lot of enjoyment from listening to her music, but I always kind of assumed there wasn't a huge amount of thought going into the lyrics or themes. I wouldn't use the term vacuous, but I can see how people might see her music in that way. But on the other hand, if this analysis is right then Telephone is a actually a very clever and sophisticated well-developed commentary on the state of our postmodern society. A truly brilliant masterpiece, complete with subtle references to the Illuminati and Monarch Programming. In my opinion, if all of this is really contained in her music as the author thinks it is, then it means her music deserves to be classified as high art rather than just pop music. Unfortunately, I don't *quite* buy that she thought all of this symbolism through before recording. It seems more likely to me that this author (who almost seems like he believes she is *working* for the Illuminati rather than referencing them--I can't quite tell) is reading into it a lot of his own interpretation rather than picking up her intended interpretation.

Nevertheless, I do think some of these themes are there, whether she intended them or not, and add to the enjoyment of the music. In particular, the feeling of being disconnected and "in your own world" is a theme that has always resonated with me a lot, since that's very much what a lot of life has been like for me. Always feeling disconnected from the mainstream and from others around me. So it's very possible that the reason why it's been 1st on my list of songs I've enjoyed this year so far is because I'm picking up some of that theme and identifying strongly with it.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:50 am (UTC)
There's a follow-up to that and plenty of other derivative analyses gunking up a certain segment of the blogosphere (e.g., Red Ice). But, as I understand the argument, she's said to be an unwilling pawn - a dupe. She serves a function. That function is the effect she has on her audiences. If you can really look at that in such a way and classify her "music" as "high art", I think that's a sad validation of Lyotard and Baudrillard's critiques.

Have you had time to read much cultural theory?
spoonless
Apr. 6th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)

That function is the effect she has on her audiences.

It seems like the main effect she has is to get people to think more about the nature of pop culture and what they're consuming. She serves the role of opening people's eyes, which to me seems like a good thing.

See some of the links firmament posted to see some more of the thought provoking interpretations that her artwork has generated.
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Apr. 6th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
"Thinking about pop culture"?

Uhhh... No, I don't see that happening at all. I see her as exemplifying a vacuous, obscene subversion of 'pop culture' that deserves deconstruction, not glorification.

If that's the impression you're taking from the cultural phenomena that is Lady Gaga, I'm guessing you *haven't* had the opportunity to study much cultural theory. In that case, I can't really blame you for not seeing through the veil, but that makes it no less tragic.
mzflux
Apr. 5th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
Oh jeez.
roxymartini
Apr. 5th, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
i dunno about her lyrics, but can't we count her as high art just for her costumed finery? pretty please?
(Anonymous)
Apr. 5th, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
There are three flowers in the vase; the third one is GAGA.
I think they're right about the over-arching themes and obvious allusions to the nature of pop culture, but I think the finer-grained analysis is verging on conspiracy theorizing... I think Gaga is a talented artist, but I don't think even the writers working with her think on these sorts of levels. (Pretty sure this critic is playing A Beautiful Mind: the home game.) If there is any actual occult symbolism, it's probably present in the way it is on our money: for effect and reference, not to indicate some larger reality.

Besides, Illuminati sleeper-killers activated by phone? I could've just watched Dollhouse to get *that* idea...
vaelynphi
Apr. 5th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
Re: There are three flowers in the vase; the third one is GAGA.
^was me; for some reason LJ seemed to forget that I was logged o
spoonless
Apr. 6th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
Re: There are three flowers in the vase; the third one is GAGA.

I think they're right about the over-arching themes and obvious allusions to the nature of pop culture, but I think the finer-grained analysis is verging on conspiracy theorizing... I think Gaga is a talented artist, but I don't think even the writers working with her think on these sorts of levels. (Pretty sure this critic is playing A Beautiful Mind: the home game.)

Right. And lol for "Beautiful Mind: the home game"!

See firmament's links below for some less schizophrenic interpretations that still expose the richness in symbolism of her art.
firmament
Apr. 6th, 2010 01:54 am (UTC)
Lady Gaga Studies
Okay, so that link goes a little far. But I really do think that even when Gaga's lyrics are a bit vapid, she is doing a lot with her image and with her music videos that is really making some major statements, and there have been some really interesting analyses. Here are some:

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/03/13/weekend-arts-section-nothing-that-happened-this-week-was-ever-going-to-be-as-important-as-the-telephone-video/
http://onlywordstoplaywith.blogspot.com/2010/03/lady-gagas-telephone-observations-and.html
http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/03/deconstructing-lady-gagas/37458/

The first one is also pretty funny (to me).

Of course, it seems to be common currency in the humanities that the intention of the author is neither necessary nor sufficient for a valid interpretation. Which actually makes a good bit of sense, actually, if you think that there are all kinds of unconscious processes going into the creation of art and that those processes are interesting, too. (Of course, this means that literary & cultural theorists should pay more attention to up-to-date psychology and cognitive science, but whatever.)
spoonless
Apr. 6th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Lady Gaga Studies
Very nice links! I skimmed a little bit of each of them, but look forward to reading through more carefully.

It's interesting to note both the differences and similarities between all of these interpretations. Each reviewer has picked out specific elements that seem meaningful to them, but there is also overlap and broad agreement about the meaning of certain things.

And it is a relief to see that there is some intelligent analysis of it, that gives it credit for being rich in symbolism, without slipping into paranoid schizophrenic like the link I posted.
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Apr. 6th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Lady Gaga Studies
Hooray for 'life as text'! ;)

I guess it's a matter of interpretation, but I think many literary and cultural theorists *do* pay attention to "up-to-date psychology and cognitive science". Case in point: Slavoj Žižek.

However, I'm not sure that the "major statements" you're interpreting in her work haven't been targeted by post modern critiques of the Spectacle. It sounds to me as though you're giving her more credit than she's due, but then I don't consider her an artist at all, so perhaps that's partly my own bias. Indeed, from my vantage when people begin mistaking Gaga and what she does as "art", it's an indication of the triumph of Spectacle over the Real.
easwaran
Apr. 7th, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)
Re: Lady Gaga Studies
"Touching each other's crotches in a helpful manner"! So many great lines!
easwaran
Apr. 7th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
I'm not familiar with the ideas of Monarch Programming and the Illuminati, but the references that were mentioned by this article didn't seem very meaningful to me. As I see it, the argument of that article is that there are a lot of cases where one eye is covered, she makes an "A-OK" symbol, and someone wears "Mickey Mouse glasses" while killing people, and this is supposed to be a reference to the Illuminati and all. Maybe the A-OK symbol and the Mickey Mouse glasses really do have some level of established symbolism, which would be interesting.

But the article did make the video seem much more interesting to me. I hadn't noticed all the telephone symbolism, like the telephone hat and telephone hair!

Anyway, if the author was correct about the Illuminati controlling Gaga and others, then I don't see why they would flaunt this control. Wouldn't they want to keep it secret?

But I guess this notion of public hermeticism is a common trend in mystical and conspiracy theory settings, even though it makes no sense.

The being disconnected and in your own world are pretty much on the surface - that's what the song is about. It's about enjoying your time in the dance club and being annoyed at your boring boyfriend who never feels like going out dancing but always calls and interrupts your good time (not that I've had a boyfriend of that type, but I could imagine it happening), and wanting to remain in this more fun, somewhat trance-like reality.
spoonless
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)

As I see it, the argument of that article is that there are a lot of cases where one eye is covered, she makes an "A-OK" symbol,

The part I thought was more interesting was that the whole mind-control theme, and things like the honey-bee connection where the honey is the music being offered up, a sweet tasting but sticky substance that, in the video ends up being poisonous... and the bees are like the mindless drones either producing or consuming it. It also kind of reminds me of whinny the poo, where he puts his hand in the honey jar and then gets stuck.

And while the A-OK's and the one-eye poses do seem like a stretch to connect it up with Illuminati symbols, it does seem kind of creepy that they do those poses so much, and makes me wonder what the point was behind them. The only thing I can think of for the recurring one-eye thing is that it could have been a reference to Kill Bill, where Bill has an eye patch. Although a single all-seeing eye has always been the most widely recognized symbol of the Illuminati. I have no idea about the A-OK. But it's even weirder that there is one pose where she does the A-OK on top of her one eye.

The being disconnected and in your own world are pretty much on the surface

Well, to me... as opposed to most people who have analyzed the video... I still feel like the primary value in Telephone is the music; the video is neat and adds a lot of interesting thoughts, but really just a bonus. It stood out to me as higher quality than anything else on the radio for a long time, and I spent a while trying to figure out who sang it before I eventually got Shizam to tell me it was Lady Gaga. (Even though I had gone through the same thing with half-a-dozen other songs by her last year, which ended up making up the bulk of music I've downloaded onto my phone since June when I bought it.) My second favorite song this year so far has been Paparazi, which I didn't even find out was by her until after I posted about Telephone (while I was reading through the analysis). So I seem to have this strange disability for recognizing when she's singing in songs, even though I pretty much always like her work no matter what. I think this means she is a diverse artist but always delivers high quality. But of course, I have run into a lot of people who disagree with me... people who seem to disavow liking her for the music, and instead say they like her for the way she dresses or the things she says or something.
easwaran
Apr. 7th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
That's true, the honey is an interestingly repeating symbol as well.

I thought the covered eye was just a sort of fashion choice, the way a certain type of mysterious/sexy woman might have her bangs covering one eye, as might a certain type of hipster guy. Or someone with a hat at a particularly jaunty angle.

I definitely need to watch the video again to see how much some of these things are repeated.

And it's interesting - I've generally thought Lady Gaga's songs are high quality pop, but they're not especially great compared to other genres. I think Paparazzi and Poker Face are my favorite songs of hers, but I can't tell if that might be just because those are the earlier singles and they've had longer to become familiar. (Those two songs made me think that she has a repeated "p-p-p-p" sound in every one of her songs.) And I thought Telephone was actually a Beyonce song that just happened to feature Lady Gaga, even though the video made it seem the other way around (though I'm definitely not sure).
spoonless
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:24 pm (UTC)

And it's interesting - I've generally thought Lady Gaga's songs are high quality pop, but they're not especially great compared to other genres.

Looking back through my music tastes, I think I just tend to like pop more than most of my friends. Although presumably the average person must like it even more than me, otherwise it wouldn't be so popular.

I admit that part of the reason may just be lack of exposure. I put some effort into finding new music, but not as much as a lot of people I know, and the majority of it I just pick up from listening to the radio or to music in clubs. Then again, there's a chicken or egg question... perhaps if I liked pop less and other genres more then I would put more effort into finding other stuff.

I think as a genre, the one that sticks out to me as the best is actually "freestyle" which is a kind of pop/club music from the early 90's that became popular. Industrial, trance, and glitch also stick out as good, but I feel like there is less consistency there with the artists... a particular artist will usually hit on one good song and then not do much else worthwhile. I've also noticed that I like Karaoke songs in general, like the kinds of classic songs that people sing from the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's.
spoonless
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)

Anyway, if the author was correct about the Illuminati controlling Gaga and others, then I don't see why they would flaunt this control. Wouldn't they want to keep it secret?

Right. That's why I said I "almost" got the sense he thought she was working for them, since that would make no sense at all. Although according to ank_f_n_khonsu that is kind of what he's saying. So I guess the guy is in that sense, just an idiot.
easwaran
Apr. 7th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
I think this is a common thought of conspiracy theorists. They see random things, trace a pattern in them, and think this pattern is a sinister conspiracy. But they they have to explain why the pattern actually shows up so often in the public pronouncements of the members of the conspiracy, and they have to say it's either some kind of esoteric communication or else some sort of gloating about their power. But it doesn't really make sense.

(Matt had some friends that were worried about similar government conspiracies. They had heard somewhere that a few recent "disaster preparedness exercises" planned by the US government had turned out to be real disasters, like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and they heard about a disaster preparedness exercise coming up that would simulate a response to a nuclear strike near Portland, so they wanted to get out of Portland to avoid the real nuclear blast that was coming. The biggest thing I didn't understand is, if they thought it was a government conspiracy to cause actual disasters, then why would the exercises be announced in advance?)
spoonless
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I have heard some people talk about the disaster-preparedness exercises thing.

It still seems stupid, but perhaps less stupid than a "secret" society advertising itself to the public with covert symbols in music videos. It does make some sense that if the government were to carry out an actual terrorist threat, they would have to simulate it at some point in advance. The part that doesn't make sense there is a.) why would it have to be so close to the real exercise, and b.) if they can't do a better job of keeping a training exercise secret, how could they possibly keep their involvement in the real thing a secret?
promeny
Apr. 8th, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
Lady Gaga is a fraud.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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