In the two decades between 1989 to 2009, the three worst pop hits, in chronological order, were A) Milli Vanilli's "Blame It On The Rain"; B) Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way"; and C) Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." Musically speaking, those songs blow massive amounts of chunks.
Lady Gaga is a disgusting metaphor for our times. She is a successful mimic who has snatched fame by abandoning her own actual talents, then copying Madonna, while projecting a public image of out-of-control megalomania.
What's particularly appalling about Gaga is she is the most extraordinary kind of sell-out. She has musical skills, but you'd never know it from her tunes.
If you YouTube "Lady Gaga piano," you'll find a video of her performing a solo-piano version of "Poker Face," and you can tell how talented she is, because (with a resonant, signature voice) she performs it totally differently -- sounding tone-for-tone exactly like early Regina Spektor! (But Gaga's lyrics still suck.)
So, the mimic Gaga could be as good as Spektor, feasibly. Instead, she decided to go for big money singing torturous singles so childish in lyrics ("rah-rah-rah-rah-rah"), they are meant to get stuck in your head as simply as nursery rhymes.
That mimicry is ghastly. Not only is she jacking Madonna's visual catalog of (especially) German Expressionism and cliched haggy gay-male iconography, Gaga's "Alejandro" sounds disturbingly similar to both Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" and Ace of Base's "Don't Turn Around." Even her name is unoriginal, harking Queen's old single, "Radio Ga Ga."
That's why I always call her Lady Gagme. She is the putrid parrot of pot.
But to be fair to her, I've spent the past few months asking musicians and comedians what they think of Gaga. Here are four other takes.
MUSICIAN RICHARD CHEESE
"Doug, you have to stop calling her a musician. If you call her a musician, you're not going to be able to compare her favorably. But if you put her into performer category, she's pretty good. And if you put her into obnoxious clothes horse, she's No. 1. You've gotta change your parameters."
COMEDIAN DAVE ATTELL
"I guess you have to get up two or three days ahead of time to put all that stuff on her face. ... I think she's more Lady than Gaga, if you ask me."
COMEDIAN DOM IRRERA
"What is the deal with her? Why is she so big?
"Today, Mama Cass or Aretha Franklin would have never been stars. They would have been backup singers to some beautiful little chick.
"I was at a Super Bowl once, and the levels in talent are so incredibly vast. I saw Britney Spears sing. Her voice was so thin. And then Justin Timberlake came on, and he was good. But Steven Tyler came on, and he was just on a completely different level.
"When you listen to Freddie Mercury sing -- who the (expletive) is better than that?
"So I'm not goo-goo over Gaga."
ENGLISH BEAT SINGER DAVE WAKELING
"There's something about Lady Gaga that uses the media (similar to) Greenpeace.
"They have this notion called 'The Mind Bomb.' ... If you have a video of seal pups being hit in the head, that's more effective to show people than to write a beautiful essay about why it's unfair to kill seal pups.
"And I think Lady Gaga does that. There's a great use of imagery -- the familiars of our subconscious. There's a touch of anarchy to it, which I enjoy.
"So much of (pop culture) has become really tamed and really well-controlled. You might as well come out and do an interview with your (commercial) sponsor before you break out into your song. It smells and sounds bought-and-sold. It's like that calming music everyone listened to in World War II. They were all listening to ballads whilst the bombs were going off. I have that same feeling listening to stuff on the radio. It's diluted on purpose to just give (people) something to listen to while they wait for the end to come, before the final shoe drops.
"There doesn't seem to be much sense of rebellion, or revolution, or anarchy -- whereas I do see elements of that with Lady Gaga, which is a redeeming factor, at least.
"It's almost like a pastiche or a send-up. I think there's something more subtle behind it. It's going to be interesting to see how the career goes. It's difficult to become more outrageous with every step."
Doug Elfman's column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman @reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.