…and in the other corner of the Empowered Super Pop Diva Battle….
artist: Lady Gaga
It almost seems scripted. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry premiere their first releases from their respective third major music projects within a week of each other, and both records are power pop anthems with noisy titles.
Commercially, Katy appears to have won round one. “Roar” ascends to #1 on next week’s chart, while “Applause” slips to #6. Artistically, I think it’s a draw.
Katy’s is the more accessible record–“Roar” is an optimistic, spunky, and altogether agreeable record. But we’ve already covered that ground.
By contrast, Gaga’s sonic atmosphere is predictably dark, almost sinister. There’s no apparent reason for her evil-genius vocal inflections, except that she’s always kind of presented herself as an evil genius on record; knowing Gaga, it’s probably a self-knowing wink at how much of a drama queen she is.
The point of this goth/dance/pop meditation is that Gaga is addicted to the adulation of her fans, and the brief verses are peppered with self-important commentary on her aesthetic.
Producer DJ White Shadow embellishes the track with well-placed 80s-style blips and distortions. The result hearkens back to The Fame, which hints that Gaga may be pulling back from the arena rock aspirations of Born This Way.
But getting back to the Katy Perry comparison: it’s intriguing that Gaga sounds infinitely more in control singing about dependence (“I live for the applause’) than Katy does singing about independence (“you’re gonna hear me roar”). Facing your perceived weaknesses head on, Gaga seems to be displaying, is empowering; Katy seems intent on convincing everyone how triumphant she is, which ironically makes her come off weaker.
Which, if you read my review of “Roar,” is my fundamental gripe with Katy. She doesn’t appear as self-directed as before. Gaga, like her idol Madonna before her, can never be accused of that.
The link to Madonna is inescapable for Gaga. In fact, I have a theory that Gaga is actually the secret lovechild of Madonna and Marilyn Manson.
Think about it.