Monthly Archives: December 2009
Finally, part two of my analysis of Lady Gaga’s music. Since my last review, I have seen her live, and she has come out as a feminist! All I can say is I knew it and good for her! It is something that is hard to admit and I commend her for doing it. More women need to, especially successful women in music!
Now, I know there will be some Gaga haters out there, and still others who think her and feminism are like oil and water. They never mix. Nope, sorry, they do. Those who will chid her feminism based on how she looks or the style of music she writes are guilty of the same sexism they propose to be fighting. Judge not by the outfits one wears, but by the content of their character! Come on people!
Anyways, so here are some more thoughts on why Lady Gaga’s music is feminist!
4. Pop Music As Art
Now, there are many people who think that pop music (popular music and pop style music) is inherently valueless, talentless, and just stupid, mindless entertainment for and of the masses. This type of musical elitism is quite annoying. I can say this because I used to be one of those people, and I quickly grew up and stopped being a closed-minded a-hole.
First, popular music is the style of music that at the type reaches a wide audience and is popular with a lot of people. This changes over time. Pop style music is very “hook” based, radio friendly, with standard song progressions and formats, often focusing on the needs of the current youth. It is sometimes hard to distinguish pop music from other genres, since so many genres have a pop version, ex. pop-rock, pop-punk, power-pop, ect. But, nonetheless, I must stress that even if you do not like the genre of pop music, or what happens to be popular musically at the moment, you cannot ignore the cultural and social impacts it has, as well as, the messages it sends. To do this ignores a powerful source of reality shaping for so many people.
Lady Gaga takes the popular style of music and turns it into something full of depth while still remaining very accessable to everyone. It is not trying to be “full of itself” by constantly throwing in your face that “They’re REAL musicians, REAL talent, blah, blah.” If you have to constantly prove to people that you are REAL, you probably aren’t. I’ve seen Lady Gaga live, and she doesn’t have to prove a thing. You see how talented she is, how devoted and hard-working. You don’t need to flaunt talent if you’ve really got it.
Lady Gaga takes this popular style, the hooky, catchy driven pop song and subversively inserts positive and challenging messages that you may not even get on the first listen. As I had mentioned before, she does this in “Paper Gangsta” and “Paparazzi” but also with other tracks. What she does that is so subversive is that she takes topics and ideas that most people have determined are worthless, valueless, and artifacts of mass cultural that are excessive and challenges them in their own medium. She takes the celebrity, the glamour, money, fame, drinking, partying, sex, beauty….and writes songs that critique them while doing it in a style that no one thinks holds a lot of criticism or deep thought. A song that does this for example is “Vanity.”
For example “Vanity” on the surface, is just a song about how much people love themselves. But if you take another look at the chorus, it actually makes vanity seem silly, by blatantly stating just what it is.
“Touch me, t-touch me baby but don’t mess up my hair
Love me, l-love me crazy
But don’t get too attached, this is a brief affair
Vanity (pictures in magazines, movie screens)
Vanity (mirrors and cameras, so many beauty queens)
Vanity (it’s so good to be)
Fabulous and glamorous, we love ourselves and no one else”
Vanity is to love yourself to the point of absurdity, danger, and even alienation. Hence, you love yourself and no one else. This song takes an excessive aspect of popular culture, the emphasis on appearance, and turns it on its head intentionally. This isn’t a song taking about how awesome it is to be vain, but rather, reveals vain culture in a manner that is honest, and by being so honest, challenges vanity’s very place in our celebrity culture. It is very tongue and cheek, and a subtle critique of something many spend way to much time on.
It is Lady Gaga’s tongue and cheek style that makes her music so powerful and appealing to me. You could just say: “Hey, you’re all vain and shallow and wasting your time.” Make it into some angst tune, amid varying keys and instruments. Sure, it gets your point across. But Lady Gaga does it in a style you do not expect criticism to come from, hence, you are left dancing and bobbing your head going “Huh, we do love ourselves and no one else.” Boom. You’re in. You were not expecting a pop song to make you think twice about the current state of youth culture now were you?
The same goes for other songs of hers on the Fame. The title track “The Fame” does this as well.
6. The Fame
“I can’t help myself
I’m addicted to a life of material
It’s some kind of joke
I’m obsessively opposed to the typical
All we care about is
Runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles
Give me something, I wanna be
Retro glamour, hollywood, yes we live for the
Fame, doin’ it for the fame
’cause we wanna live the life
Of the rich and famous
Fame, doin’ it for the fame
’cause we gotta taste for champagne
And endless fortune”
More tongue and check lyrics here. Gaga is expressing the current cultures obsession with fame. From reality TV to crashing presidential dinner parties, anyone will do anything for 15 minutes. And Gaga makes it clear what they want and all that they care about. It is about personal gratification and excess. It is similar in effect to Madonna’s “Material Girl.” It’s all about getting the limelight. It’s all about me.
“Fame, fame baby
The fame, fame
We live for the fame, fame baby
The fame, fame
Isn’t it a shame, shame baby
A shame, shame
In it for the fame, fame baby
The fame, fame”
Yet, the way Gaga sings it and expresses it, it isn’t celebratory, but confessional. It is a shame.
“I can see myself in the movies
With my picture in the city lights
Photograph my mind
And whatever else you’d like to shoot
All we care about is
Pornographic girls on film and body plastic
Give me something
I wanna see television and hot blondes in odd positions”
Here, more honestly about celebrity culture, with a bit of feminism. Women’s objectification in the media isn’t something new. But in the second verse, Lady Gaga knocks down three things about how women are portrayed in it. The fact that their bodies are pornified for consumption, full of cosmetic surgery and/or photoshopping, and that we want to see them “in odd positions.” Women are more likely in ads to be in compromising, uncomfortable and unnatural positions. These positions are often under men, restrained by men, or in positions where they are vulnerable. Confident, powerful people are always standing straight up, free to move. Women in ads, just take a look. They are not.
7. Dance In The Dark
On the surface, this song just sounds like a song about literally dancing in the dark, at a club or at home. But a deeper meaning lies here. This song is about a woman who is uncomfortable with herself and her body, and hence only will have sex (the dance) in the dark. Lady Gaga explain this herself: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1628355/20091216/lady_gaga.jhtml. This song is another example of her subversive tactics to spread messages about women’s lives and feelings. Once again, taking popular style music and making it into art.
The ideal of self-esteem is a big issue for feminism and for women everywhere. It is hard for many women to have confidence, especially in the bedroom when they feel ugly about themselves. And the idea of having sex in the dark so your partner doesn’t see you, your imperfections, real or perceived, is a real thing, done by real women. I can say that I have done this myself when I feel ashamed about my body. And have had relationships where someone made me feel bad about my body yet “still give the dance.” Women are expected to “give” sex,(not really a choice if you feel like crap either way) no matter how they feel to their male partners. This is one of the cultural legacies of women being men’s property. Sure, there are laws against this now in our own country, but the idea that women must always please men, and that men are entitled to their bodies is real and current. If men didn’t feel entitled to women’s bodies, when, wherever and how they want, we wouldn’t have things like rape.
Wow, pretty darn deep for a pop song huh? But, let’s take the song verse by verse if I haven’t convinced you yet.
“Silicone, saline, poison, inject me.
Baby, I’m a free bit(ch)
I’m a free bit(ch)”
If this isn’t obvious, what can I say. These are things that women do to their bodies in attempt to feel more beautiful. They are poisonous and dangerous. She’s a free “bit” and “bitch” in two ways. One could be in the idea that she is a music industry artist, and can freely be molded into whatever they want her to be, whether she wants it or not. additionally, “bitch” still is used negatively toward women. Being a free bitch in this sense is about entitlement. Gaga is stating exactly how the girl feelings when she has to dance in the dark, when she doesn’t want to. It makes her feel like a free bitch. She doesn’t have the power to say otherwise. Her body is free for you to do with as you want, not hers.
“Some girls won’t dance to the beat of the track
Won’t walk away, but she won’t look back
She looks good, but her boyfriend says she’s a mess
She’s a mess, she’s a mess
Now the girl is stressed
She’s a mess, She’s a mess, She’s a mess, She’s a mess”
Another perfect example of feminist activism in music. Lady Gaga is writing about women, for women, from a woman’s perspective. This topic just happens to be about body issues and sex. The girl in the song wants to “dance to the beat of the track”, have sex her way, but can’t leave her current situation, nor face it. Her boyfriend doesn’t help ether, saying she’s not good-looking, that “She’s a mess” further adding to the low self-esteem the girl has. Now the chorus:
“Baby does her dance in the dark
Cuz’ when he’s looking she falls apart
Baby does her dance in the dark
Baby does her dance in the dark
Cuz when he’s looking she falls apart
Baby does her dance, does her dance in the dark”
Here is the main point of the song in the chorus. The girl has sex in the dark because she can’t have her boyfriend look at her. She can’t be herself, let her real self be seen. If she does, she will “fall apart.” So, she has sex in the dark. In the dark, she can hide all of her insecurities, at quite frankly, still have sex with this jerk.
“Around her kiss is a vampire grin
The moon lights away, while she’s howling at him
She looks good, but her boyfriend says she’s a tramp-she’s a tramp
She’s a vamp, but she still does her dance
She’s a tramp, she’s a vamp, but she still does her dance”
Again, this verse reiterates the girl’s insecurities, since her boyfriend trashes her self-esteem by calling her a tramp.
And the breakdown is especially awesome:
“Marilyn, Judy, Sylvia, tell them how you feel girls.
JonBenet haunt like Liberache
Find your freedom in the music
Find your jesus, find your cupid
You will never fall apart Diana
You’re still in our hearts
Never let you fall apart
Together we’ll dance in the dark”
The women mentioned here are: Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Sylvia Plath, JonBenét Ramsey, Princess Diana. I am not sure all of them had body issues and low self-esteem, but I think partly the reason they are mentioned is that we look up to these women as beauty icons. They must not have any problems. Yet, we know, no matter how beautiful we think these famous women and young girl are, that doesn’t mean that you do not have your own self-esteem issues. Basically, Gaga is saying it’s ok, we’ll band together in the dark. At least we won’t leave you, we won’t let you fall apart. We understand how you feel. Women need to support each other. Before it’s too late.
Wow, this analysis of Lady Gaga’s music is going to be a multi-part posting that is for sure. I may just analyse all of her songs. So, enjoy this for now and I’ll be back with more insights! Until next time!
My previous posts on Why Lady Gaga is a feminist
Vivian Girls – Surf’s Up (2008) on Wild World Records
I am a fan of three-piece bands. Not just because I have been in them, but because you really have to know your stuff. There is more sonic space to play with, therefore you can in a way do so much with so little. Sometimes, when your band gets bigger, in the number of members, some of the subtle things, as well as, mistakes can get hidden. As for the Vivian Girls, nothing is more fun than just turning up the fuzz, add echo the vocals and let it rock.
The Vivian Girls are a three member surf, punk garage band from Brooklyn, NY. Their music is a combination of chord-rock, doo-wop drums, and retro-psychedelic sounding vocals. They are currently on indie labels right now, and their following is growing, at least, in all the magazines and websites that I read!
This 45 single includes 3 songs, in perfect garage band style. The guitars are treble heavy, with some tube distortion and fierce chord strumming. The bass rounds out the tone full of primal drive and perfectly inserted fills. The drums are a little punky, yet, remind me of the 50s and 60s styles of girl groups. The vocals of course are loaded with reverb and echo. They have an almost etherial sound, as if they are singing from the clouds, or at least a really strange sky stage.
It is refreshing to hear this band for a variety of reasons. You can tell they are not heavy on production and mixing. They basically sound just as awesome on their recordings as they do live. From what I have read, they like to record their songs in one take, all of them miked and playing at the same time. It’s real, just them doing their thing, and I love and respect that. They remind me a lot of The Pandoras’ early work in their style. Either way, the Vivian Girls Rock and are here to stay! I just love it. It’s back to basics, DIY style. Just good old rocking out with your friends in your basement. Can’t get any better than that!
I saw them a few months back as well when they came to Seattle. They rocked the house, and had so much fun. I had a blast as well just chillin’ and reliving memories of myself jamming with my girlfriends. The band was hanging out at the bar, and I was in the booth beside them and still didn’t have the guts to go and ask for a picture or autograph. I know. I am always conflicted because I don’t want to be “one of those fans” but I’d love to meet them and hopefully say something cool and inventive, instead of “You guys are awesome!” Which is true, but ya know.
Here are a few pictures from the Seattle show on April 30, 2009:
Girl Don’t Tell Me
And their websites:
And here’s an official video from their self-titled debut album:
I’ll have a vinyl review for you here in a bit, but first awesome news! Lady Gaga is a feminist! She mentioned this in a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times. You can see the details here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/music/la-ca-lady-gaga13-2009dec13,0,632518,full.story and http://www.bust.com/blog/2009/12/16/qim-a-feministq-says-lady-gags.html.
I got to see Lady Gaga last weekend in Vancouver, B.C. She was amazing, and I cannot express how much she just rocks! Her singing, dancing, and overall appreciation and love of music and her fans…..it is just what music needs right now. Here are a few pictures from the show:
Le Tre Femme – Open Up The Safe / You Better Get Back (1968) on 20th Century Fox Records
There are so many girl groups from the 50s and 60s that have gotten lost, forgotten, or no one but those who randomly go through the 45s at some dusty record shop know about. Enter this group, “Le Tre Femme” a Northern Soul female group from the 1960s.
From the little I can find about them online, they were a trio singing group from Philadelphia, PA and they only released 1 single, “Open Up The Safe / You Better Get Back” on Uptight Records/20th Century Fox. They were a “bar band” of you will, touring around the local area, though it appears they were ignored by most disc jockies at the time.
I happened to have this 45 without knowing it, until recently. As I stated in previous posts, I have been going through my collection and getting rid of some things I don’t want. I kept this one because it sounded like a female group. I listened to it, and boom! Yes, it is! And very much like a Crystals or Shirelles type of music.
Northern Soul, was a music movement in the late 50s-70s in the Northeast Part of the US that fused imported British beatnik music with american Soul and R&B, with the mod culture scene. The music tended to be a little bit faster than other similar music of the time. Fashion was important as well. Think go-go dresses for women, suits for the guys, Vespa scooters, sunglasses, cropped hair, and being “cool.” Oo, I kinda like this! I may need to look for some more Northern Soul Artists.
The 2 track 45 is a great treat though. “Open Up The Safe” is so much fun! It has a nice, psychedelic rock organ in it, get still plenty of bass and horn soul! The backing vocals are very nice, complimenting the lead, with some violin strings in the mix too. It’s got it all! The main theme of this tune is about a girl telling her love that they need to “open up their heart” which is like a safe. Their love is hidden away “under lock and key.” The girl tells them they want to be their love, so hence, open up your heart and don’t be afraid! Kinda reminds me of “Open Your Heart” by Madonna.
“You Better Get Back” is full of spunk. Horns and a nice upright bass fill the background. The vocals are soprano, and include a nice bit of “ooos, and ahhhhs.” There is even a little bit of clean guitar as well. Oh, I love that classic clean guitar sound of the era! The main theme of the song is telling your lover to come back to you. That you’ll miss her loving arms and kisses, so you better come home soon! I like that! Very much declarative, and standing up for yourself! You know your worth girls! Mod on!
Open Up The Safe
You Better Get Back
Not much on the internet to hear by them, but this is what I could find:
And this is a great website all about the mod culture then and now!