‘Bad Romance’ to ‘Born This Way’: Why Lady Gaga Failed

Sarp Yavuz, Staff Writer

Does anyone remember the last time they listened to Gaga?

Madonna once called Lady Gaga’s single “Born This Way” reductive in comparison to her own 1989 single “Express Yourself” in terms of core progression and lyrical content. This statement is true, but more importantly, by last year, Gaga herself had already become reductive.

Let’s take a look at the rise of Lady Gaga. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that her advent took place during Madonna’s absence.

Hot on the heels of the Madonna’s international summer banger “Celebration,” Gaga rose to glory with “Bad Romance” back in October of 2009. This Gaga single was revolutionary for pop music and we all chanted “Rah-rah” gleefully. “Telephone” followed, which catapulted her into the world of mainstream pop along side Beyoncé, as the two challenged mass society with their music video. In less than 10 minutes we watched them reference Kill Bill, make sandwiches with Wonder bread and mix poison made from Tiberium into maple syrup.

“Alejandro” first aired on the radio on April 20 2012,and its video, which came out June 8 of that year, was so dark and off-putting that it gave viewers the chills, despite the weather being over 100 degrees. In spite of Steven Klein’s directing and the attractive men with bad haircuts, this time we didn’t want to keep watching. Lady Gaga had taken us to a darker place, but it seemed as though this aesthetic had lost its appeal sometime between October and June. Gaga’s rubber cassock and rosary beads, which she swallows, were cheap tricks too similar to Madonna’s characteristic style.

Abrupt silence followed for almost a year. Although “Dance in the Dark” was released to the radios in the fall of 2010, it never made it as a single. Gaga’s next album, Born This Way, which she announced as Cher held her meat purse at the MTV Video Music Awards, was not released until May 2011. The video for the lead single of the same title was likewise difficult to watch: This pop star who once grinded on inflatable orcas (“Just Dance”) was now making us look away with pained expressions.

I had nightmares involving kaleidoscopes and gooey birth scenes and aliens after watching the video.

Take a look at what followed “Born This Way”: “The Edge of Glory” was an epic song with a video so simple it missed the minimalist mark and went straight to boring. “You and I” was a failed mash-up of mermaids, steam punk and rural Nebraska. As for “Marry The Night,” it tried to be “Bad Romance” and tried to have a coherent narrative, but was too focused on Gaga’s struggles as an artist — how people told her she succeed. With the exception of the Paco Rabanne hat/mask she wore in the final scene, when she was floating in space, this video was also a flop. There was too much darkness.

Gaga simultaneously received criticism and praise. People talked about this woman they regarded as a visionary, though she in fact was regurgitating Grace Jones and Madonna to kids who had never heard of those two women.

Ironically, it was not this regurgitation that led Gaga to her demise. It was her fatal approach to the influx of commentary that cut her stardom short.

Where there was criticism, Gaga chose to listen her “Little Monsters”; countless teens and preteens telling her how much they loved her — her “art” — perhaps without really understanding what was happening in the music videos either. When people critiqued her, Gaga’s attitude was dismissive, and in her conviction that her work was successful she consequently lost the mainstream pop throne that she had briefly sat upon.

We became tired of the 25 year old who repeated herself endlessly and cried about her struggles. Her self-declared fabulousness waned.

There is a reason we still listen to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” but have stopped listening to “Bad Romance.”