Mark Ellis innocently sits down to watch some TV with his teenage daughter, and he ends up digging the latest pop sensation.
So I’m watching Bill O’Reilly and he keeps talking about somebody called Lady Gaga. I’m clueless. Bill runs a snippet of the girl in action, and still, I’m nonplussed. Her outfits are garishly off the charts, and the beat sounds like the kind of danceable techno-pop I was never, even in the age of Madonna, all that interested in.
The last time I purchased new music, I was age 48, in 2000, a cassette tape of a metal band called Disturbed. You do the math.
These days, I would be hard-pressed to name one act on the Billboard Top 20. For me, the MTV Music Awards features a cavalcade of unknowns.
Lately I’ve ordered from Amazon the Lonesome Dove soundtrack (awesome), 22 of the Greatest Polkas featuring Myron Floren (I can prove this), and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme Sing More Greatest Hits (check out “Side By Side,” I got chills).
I rocked hard for a long time. Musically speaking, I’ve really mellowed out. You might say, overhearing me crank the volume on Perry Como’s “Impossible,” to the point of somnambulance.
So one day I find my 18-year-old daughter absorbed in a television program which is airing a stream of music that brings me into the family room from my office. On the screen gyrating furiously is, yes, Lady Gaga.
It’s a two hour block of nothing but Lady Gaga videos. I sit down, taking the opportunity to perhaps share something my daughter is interested in, but also to take the full measure of what all the hoopla is about.
First up is a ditty called “Paparazzi.” I should mention that I loathe and despise the paparazzi. I’ve heard it said that celebrities need to worry when the paparazzi stops coming around, but I don’t buy it. I blame them for the death of Princess Diana.
In Gaga’s take, she’s apparently fallen from a great height, and opens the tune sporting a wheelchair and crutches. She’s the metaphoric paparazzi here, stalking her lover. It’s the kind of accident that’s hard to look away from.
One of the first records I bought after reaching middle age was Abba’s Greatest Hits. In Gaga’s “Alejandro,” we are treated to an amped-up version of “Fernando.” I’m not sure which one of the happening dudes in this song is the star, but watching the Lady’s surging tribute, you’ve got to envy him. Don’t miss a single knee-bend.
We’ve all been challenged by intimacy, but few have presented love-gone-wrong as histrionically as Gaga does in “Bad Romance.” Plunging out of an arresting Arabian “rah-rah” intro and featuring the diva’s heat-seeking panther crawl, this ode to ill-advised entanglement recalls the days when no amount of suffering and misery could staunch the hemorrhaging of Eros.
An hour had passed, and I was still on the couch, watching the Gaga block with my daughter. I think she was amused, and might even have thought it was strange that I had watched for so long. Usually I’m asking her to please turn her music down.
But Lady Gaga proved to be a fascinating study in the power of pop music to reinvent itself, find sustenance in derivation, and blossom into something new and transcendent for each new generation. When “Poker Face” came on, it was clear to me why the so-called millennials have christened her an icon.
She rises, dripping from storm-tossed waters, flanked by two mastiffs. The dogs remain implacable, but it is clear they have noticed her.
She humps on a chaise lounge, gambles with destiny, breaks the hearts of all sexual orientations. Even for an old metalhead, this one kicks ass.
The chorus is a triumph, over dance, hook, optics, superstardom.
I’m embarrassingly won over. Lady, you’re terrific.
Bill O’Reilly, you’re on the money again. You should definitely try and get her on the show.