Much Ado About Gaga

By Richard Boughton

First off, and at the risk of appearing hopelessly out of it, I will admit that up until the recent brouhaha over Lady Gaga’s performance (or non-performance) in Jakarta, I didn’t even know who the woman was.

I had perhaps some vague idea that she was a singer, or a dancer, or Paris Hilton’s sister, or Lady Godiva’s sister, or maybe a recalcitrant member of the English royal family, but other than that it was just a name.

Now, thanks to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Jakarta Police, I and perhaps thousands, perhaps millions, of other hopelessly out-of-touch people young and old have become aware of Lady Gaga to an extent greater than we would otherwise have purposed or desired – her music, her poetry, her style, her lipstick, along with the threat she has posed to decent society and impressionable young-un’s all over the world.

A destroyer of morals, the FPI says. A tool of Satan, a messenger of decadence from the West, bringing blasphemous lyrics, shameless bodily gyrations (similar to those seen in the locally grown dangdut) to corrupt the innocent mind of youth, tear at the seams of social order, wile the unwary to the pit of hell. Yes, lyrics such as these:


Oh, caught in a bad romance
Oh, caught in a bad romance
Ra, rah, ah, ah, ah
Roma, roma, ma
Gaga, ooh, la, la
Want your bad romance

and these:

P-p-p poker face, p-p-p poker face
Mum mum mum mah
P-p-p poker face, p-p-p poker face
Mum mum mum mah

Horrors! Sacrelige! Wickedness! Mum mum mum mah!

Really? It looks more like nonsense to me.

Don’t get me wrong. Nonsense has its own place. Consider, for instance, the John Lennon lyrics for I am the Walrus:

Semolina Pilchard
Climbing up the Eiffel tower
Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
Man, you should have seen them kicking
Edgar Allan Poe

Or from Come Together:

Here come old flat top
He come groovin’ up slowly
He got joo joo eyeballs
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker
He just do what he please

But there’s a difference, right? In Lennon’s nonsense there seems yet some kind of peripheral intention lurking just beneath the surface. The language is sharp, infectious, strangely precise in its imprecision, and vaguely dangerous in its invitation to make connections and conclusions (just look at what Charles Manson made of Helter Skelter).

But what can we say about “Mum, mum, mum, mah?” “P-p-p poker face?” It seems to me that if this woman and her corporate entourage are seeking to destroy anything, it is not the moral decency of youth but the heritage of integrity and ingenuity in the music and lyrics of the true artists that came before her – The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Credence Clearwater, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly et al.

Call me old again, but these were artists and performers worthy of significant response, be it admiration or censure, devotion or disapproval. Here were lyrics that challenged through commentary and criticism, through involvement in the real world and the social issues of the time.

Lady Gaga is not stupid. No one makes millions in this world by being stupid. Rather, I will wager that Lady Gaga knows perfectly well how silly she is, and therefore how silly the FPI has made itself, their nation and their religion by taking her seriously. Moreover, she departs Asia, where she was touring, firmly in possession of the high ground, having chosen the sober course of Indonesian withdrawal over the risk of subjecting her fans to the violence promised by the FPI – giving thanks at the same time for the elevation of her “art” beyond any measure it could have attained on its own merit.

And she is singing all the way to the bank.


Filed under: Practical Paradise

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