“How not dumb is Gaga?,” asked the New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, in the first flush of Gagamania. Almost exactly a year later, his question still furrows the American brow. Okay, I’ll bite: Not? As in: Not in the least not dumb?

READ the rest of my True/Slant essay on Lady Gaga, HERE.


Lady Gaga; all rights reserved.


Gaga isn’t all that weird, despite her revisionist accounts of growing up feeling “like a freak,” as she told Barbara Walters. Can we get some context, here? Performance artist Leigh Bowery giving himself an enema, onstage, and hosing the front rows at one of his performances with an anal geyser is weird. Painter and curiosa collector Joe Coleman adopting a pickled anencephalic fetus as his son and naming it Junior is weird. Faking your own hanging at the Video Music Awards because you “feel that if I can show my demise artistically to the public, I can somehow cure my own legend” isn’t weird; it’s a time-tested career strategy, straight out of the shock-rock playbook. In his fame-crazed Ziggy days, Bowie worried—in a stage whisper, with all the eager microphones leaning in—about being assassinated onstage and, alternately, fantasizing about what it would do for his career. And the staged hanging was vintage Alice Cooper. Of course, we all know where Alice ended up: playing golf with Bob Hope.

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