Lady Gaga, Pussycat Dolls and a Taxonomy of Vacuous Pop

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i think when it comes to the success of pop we're really going to start seeing two distinct strains:

-megastars who are promoted traditionally, like britney who had no promo budget because she was always in the tabloids, or chris brown scoring a huge hit out of a commercial jingle. i guess rihanna is the outlier here, but usher and pcd were both promoted really traditionally here and didn't live up to sales expectations. i'm not sure how many huge vacouous pop stars are going to appear in the ways we are used to.

-more artists in the t-pain/akon/ne-yo/dream writer/singer etc. mode, though even this may be dying out as neither t-pain or akon are really taking over this year and someone like sean garret flopped earlier last year

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

or i guess we have seen these strains i suspect that they will continue

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

megastars who are promoed untraditionally, jeez

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:16 (nine years ago) Permalink

Jim Steinman is probably looking for a younger band to take on the Bat Out Of Hell franchise haha

Pfunkboy Formerly Known As... (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:16 (nine years ago) Permalink

jazmine sullivan wrote her own huge r&b hit this year, whereas ciara, keri hilson and cassie have all had huge megawriters behind their singles which have all been relative flops

dunno if this means anything though

xp to myself

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:17 (nine years ago) Permalink

hang on keri hilson had a megawriter behind her single? b-b-but she IS a megawriter! she's part of the clutch, the only reason she has a career is because she's doing a ne-yo-style move out from behind the curtain. wtf is the point if you're just going to hire someone else?

lex pretend, Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:20 (nine years ago) Permalink

maybe she's trying to groom a new her

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:21 (nine years ago) Permalink

wtf yeah i totally blanked about hilson breaking in as a writer

she didn't write energy though

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:22 (nine years ago) Permalink

but she did hire the producers of "no air"

i think energy is great though so :/

jordan s (J0rdan S.), Thursday, 23 October 2008 23:22 (nine years ago) Permalink

kind of back to the original topic of the thread...listening to a few of the scherzinger's finest moments over the years, i'm struck by how incredibly versatile she is, and this is because she commits so fully herself to whatever style she's working in at whatever moment. she's so subservient to aesthetic - particularly formalist within an ultra-formalist genre - everything's in the correct place and done in the correct way. 'i hate this part' is their epic groove/ballad, so we got those opulent extended syllables and flowing half-rhymes culminating in heartbroken semi-whispers. 'bottle pop' is their blackout-style banger so all vocal pyrotechnics are abandoned in favour of robotic intonation. 'stickwitu' is all tender candyfloss, the breathlessness of 'whatever you like' makes it overwhelmingly visceral, &c &c.

lex pretend, Friday, 24 October 2008 09:34 (nine years ago) Permalink

'whatever you like' is such a great lost banger, the video was amazing too and t.i.'s verse is so raw and sexy. "somethin' 'bout that cock, you think you got me wanna see what's goin' on"

lex pretend, Friday, 24 October 2008 09:37 (nine years ago) Permalink

T.I. said that?!

Annoying Display Name (blueski), Friday, 24 October 2008 11:09 (nine years ago) Permalink

Always the romantic.

Eric in the East Neuk of Anglia (Marcello Carlin), Friday, 24 October 2008 11:13 (nine years ago) Permalink

I would imagine breaking a manufactured pop band in this day and age is a very expensive and highly risky activity unless you have a ready-made marketing tool like a popular TV show there in advance. In today's market, its not really surprising that British record companies don't really bother.

Matt DC, Friday, 24 October 2008 11:33 (nine years ago) Permalink

no it's nicole singing about t.i.'s cock obv

lex pretend, Friday, 24 October 2008 11:34 (nine years ago) Permalink

i'm also v fond of this lost scherzinger track, a duet with rihanna called 'winning women' which exhorts women to represent their culture, keep their last names and buy homes in geneva

"where the word DIVA DIVA means VIVA VIVA, we run las vegas"

lex pretend, Friday, 24 October 2008 11:45 (nine years ago) Permalink

great thread.

I think as far as the US and where-did-all-the-boy-bands go, the rise of the Jonas Brothers/Miley Cyrus/High School Musical Disney seems to me to have created a cut-off point as far as market demographics. Whereas in '98, the Backstreet Boys and *Nsync would appeal to the tweeners, it still had appeal for high schoolers and even college girls. The Disney thing seems to have a cut-off at around 13 or 14 (pulling ages out of a hat, here, admittedly), and they've got the young'ens sewn up. Past that, you're going to get slightly "edgier" Katy Perry stuff, so the market doesn't exist for that kind of across-the-board boy band. Plus American Idol neatly manufactures groups for the other demographics already, without having to spend the money (Daughtry, etc...). A fascinating look at how the US sees (or the industry tries to sell) "pop" these days is MTV's Friday night show (can't recall the name), where they have a few live performances and premiere videos (IN THEIR ENTIRETY is the hook they give) and interviews, and the way that Rihanna, the Jonas Brothers, PCD, Ting Tings, Maroon Five, Slipknot, and No Age all (uncomfortably) occupy the same space. Not to mention it's hosted by Pete from Fall Out Boy.

The gay aspect of the taxonomy leaves the US a bit wanting for pop stars that can fit into the molds described. Britney holdover, PCD seems more of an abberation, and...anyone else? Not wanting to go back to the old argument of "America doesn't understand camp", but...

Gukbe, Friday, 24 October 2008 12:49 (nine years ago) Permalink

two months pass...

wow lady gaga really is the absolute pits isn't she?

Plaxico (I know, right?), Sunday, 11 January 2009 04:32 (nine years ago) Permalink

this whole thread: tl;dr

miss precious perfect (musically), Sunday, 11 January 2009 04:34 (nine years ago) Permalink

i hear this stuff all day at work. lady gaga is 10000x better than 'i hate this part', which makes me want to kill everyone

Lemonade In Hammocks (electricsound), Sunday, 11 January 2009 04:38 (nine years ago) Permalink

Tim F, Sunday, 11 January 2009 06:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

lady gaga is 10000x better than 'i hate this part', which makes me want to kill everyone

there is no statement more wrong than this!

lex pretend, Sunday, 11 January 2009 11:24 (nine years ago) Permalink

Conversely, Lady GaGa's "i'm interesting and arty" angle relies totally on her post-facto justification of it, there's nothing in her music or performances that would point to it. What's the opposite of the the Trojan Horse? The Emperor With No Clothes.

^^this was a very prescient criticism (though as the UK's been spared gaga until now, i've only had to start thinking about her in the past couple of weeks) - people like fergie and the scherzinger are really instructive points of comparison. fergie is the genuinely unpredictable, zany, out-there artist than gaga says she is (how much more inventive and ridiculous is the dutchess than the fame?), and as tim says scherzinger is so permanently ON as a vocalist that gaga just pales in comparison. but fergie and nicole have these extremely vacuous public images, and afaik have never said anything interesting about their artistry in interviews, or gone on about warhol as if by invoking his name they can grasp something of his essence.

apart from the performative/sonic side of it all the other unpackable aspect of gaga is the way she harps on about money fame boys shallow shallow money fame boys in her songs, which i should love, but really the way she acts as though it's some giant art project is so extremely tiresome. you can just hear her trying to layer on the irony ("do i mean it? yes! no!" I DON'T CARE) with heavy hands and fists of ham, much like calvin harris. and then think about genuinely great paeans to shallowness like lil' kim's 'the jump off' and again gaga just doesn't match up.

lex pretend, Sunday, 11 January 2009 11:35 (nine years ago) Permalink

I think 'Just Dance' is a very good record and its success doesn't surprise me. I like the way it has both an r&b and rock element to it (eg the neanderthal, cymbal-laden beat on the chorus). The fusion works very well on that particular song (and the chorus is massive). I listened to a couple of her other songs ('Beautiful Dirty Rich' and 'Poker Face') but found them to be feeble by comparison.

I think she is trying to be the new Madonna. That's the closest comparison I can see. When Madonna first appeared on the scene there was a similar sense of her early songs being very closely related to the funk/club music of the day, but also that she was trying (too) hard to be 'more' than just that. I've never been a big Madonna fan and that 'trying too hard' thing is one of the things that's always annoyed me about her (along with a lot of her songs being just short of very good - as actual songs).

Unlike Madonna, Lady GaGa seems to be quite a good singer technically, but, when you listen closely, rather too conventional for my taste.


I missed the earlier discussion about changing artist formats (groups vs solo artists) and I think there is a big, and very obvious, point being missed. Things change primarily because they have to change, to stop being boring. The boyband format, and also the three or four man (or woman) r&b group, died out (or receded) because it became boring, through overkill.

Every format runs its course, be it musical style, or the format of line-ups. When something begins to lose popularity, the labels notice that sales are down. The aspiring artists find they are not getting signed doing whatever it is so they have to shift to something else, or not get signed. Obviously it's more complicated than that (influences bouncing around), but the audience's liking for, or boredom with, whatever it is is what, to a large degree, drives change (in the form of rising or falling sales).

dubmill, Sunday, 11 January 2009 12:11 (nine years ago) Permalink

i think "just dance" is an all time banger but i dont know if i care much about gaga herself. i think the song is extremely well-written in terms of getting across the feeling of being really fucked up and not caring about anything but dancing. you don't really hear lyrics as straightforward as "I love this record baby but I can't see straight anymore/ Keep it cool, what's the name of this club?/ I can't remember but it's alright, a-alright" on pop radio and i think that's the song's biggest strength, esp. compared to awfully generic shit like "hot n cold" and "womanizer"

you down with challo.p.p.? (J0rdan S.), Sunday, 11 January 2009 12:25 (nine years ago) Permalink

it's the same reason why that veronicas song sticks out to me besides being sonically bonkers. "i feel so untouched right now" is arresting in the same manner to me as "i love this record baby but i can't see straight anymore"

you down with challo.p.p.? (J0rdan S.), Sunday, 11 January 2009 12:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

this is an interesting point from tim's OP

"Just Dance" reminds of "Piece of Me" but sounds so rote and bored-with-itself in comparison.

i think this is otm but (not to jump through too many backwards logic hoops here) it's kind of what makes the song attractive to me (lyrically at least). gaga seems bored with everything BUT dancing i.e. "what's the name of this club?/i can't remember but it's alright" - which i read as "this club kinda sucks but let's dance" which i like along with "i lost my phone but let's dance" and "what's the name of this record idk let's dance" etc etc

as it being sonically boring - yeah idk i could feel that. the keyboard bit at the beginning sounds exactly like lollipop/low

you down with challo.p.p.? (J0rdan S.), Sunday, 11 January 2009 12:31 (nine years ago) Permalink

also the radio down here has been playing the remix with kardinal offishal subs out the o donnis verse and the bridge iirc and is way better imo

you down with challo.p.p.? (J0rdan S.), Sunday, 11 January 2009 12:32 (nine years ago) Permalink

I really like the theme of "Just Dance" and (unusually for a pop song) I think the lyrics look a lot better written down than when they're sung.

Tim F, Sunday, 11 January 2009 13:13 (nine years ago) Permalink

At work, I have started a very successful rumour about Lady Gaga having a penis.

Cape of Good Hope: ILX's New Home of Cricket! (King Boy Pato), Sunday, 11 January 2009 13:29 (nine years ago) Permalink

"I don't know what you're talking about"

Tim F, Sunday, 11 January 2009 13:32 (nine years ago) Permalink

think some of the paint is coming off that action figure's legs

Local Garda, Sunday, 11 January 2009 13:48 (nine years ago) Permalink

hey Tim I don't know if you've spoken about it elsewhere but what do you think of natalie basingthwaite's "alive"? it's probably my favourite non-indie thing of '08 next to the presets..

Lemonade In Hammocks (electricsound), Sunday, 11 January 2009 23:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

I quite like "Alive" - of all the schaffel-pop efforts of 2008 it's the one that most openly and slavishly copies the blueprint put down by Rachel Stevens in 2004 (ironically, people used to claim Rachel of just copying Goldfrapp), but it's probably the best of the bunch too.

Tim F, Monday, 12 January 2009 01:16 (nine years ago) Permalink

four weeks pass...

on the one hand it;s nice to be proved right.

on the other, GNNNNNGGGHHHHH when will she just fuck off fuck off fuck off fuck off.

lex pretend, Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

it's weird because she is gross. who would want to have sex with her

happy house of representatives (J0rdan S.), Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:01 (nine years ago) Permalink

She has ALWAYS been more annoying than Katy Perry!

nosotros niggamos (HI DERE), Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:01 (nine years ago) Permalink

"I dig way down into my soul and I find that place where I was born to be an artist, and it carries me through. I am everything about what I do. Every marrow in my bones and blood is for this work. GaGa is the greatest creative journey of my life."

lex pretend, Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:03 (nine years ago) Permalink


lex pretend, Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:04 (nine years ago) Permalink

She is pretty gross.

The Reverend (rev), Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:07 (nine years ago) Permalink

"I dig way down into my soul and I find that place where I was born to be an artist, and it carries me through. I am everything about what I do. Every marrow in my bones and blood is for this work. GaGa is the greatest creative journey of my life."

― lex pretend, Wednesday, February 11, 2009 3:03 PM (4 minutes ago) Bookmark

lemme point out that she went to NYU

happy house of representatives (J0rdan S.), Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:08 (nine years ago) Permalink

Just like Dalton from Road House.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:11 (nine years ago) Permalink

i am not sure why i dislike lady gaga as much as i do. as tim said, she has all the elements necessary for an infatuation for me but somehow she just pushes it all too far. as with the popstars i do like, which include britney, there still some human element i can cling to. britney became more interesting as soon as she became more human. with lady gaga it all seems a bumbling art project gone wrong. i like robotic voices but only if they are presented by something which seems human. also the name. urgh, so so so wrong.

Nathalie (stevienixed), Thursday, 12 February 2009 19:06 (nine years ago) Permalink

ugh hipsters?

The User Formerly Known As Pfunkboy Latterly Known as.. (Herman G. Neuname), Thursday, 12 February 2009 19:09 (nine years ago) Permalink

that quote could've come from any solo girl out there. big deal.

i like the mask she wears in the new vid (esp. as it hides her annoying hair).

O Supermanchiros (blueski), Thursday, 12 February 2009 19:11 (nine years ago) Permalink

I am still somewhat convinced she is a tranny.

nosotros niggamos (HI DERE), Thursday, 12 February 2009 19:40 (nine years ago) Permalink

I don't think so. She styles herself like one.

The Reverend (rev), Thursday, 12 February 2009 21:13 (nine years ago) Permalink

Oh it's very clear that she isn't, or that she's had surgery if she has, but almost everything about her screams TRANNY!

nosotros niggamos (HI DERE), Thursday, 12 February 2009 21:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 12 February 2009 21:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

I might like her more of if she was a tranny. Except then I think: the drag queens who are like Lady Gaga I'm not so much into. I prefer my drag queens more... blowsy? Mrs Havisham-esque?

Which is why that chick from Scissor Sisters going solo probably would have been a better version of Lady Gaga than Lady Gaga is, esp. if she'd gone hyper-commercial too.

She'd be like the tranny version of Fergie, rather than the tranny version of Christina Aguilera's new look.

Tim F, Thursday, 12 February 2009 21:19 (nine years ago) Permalink

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