This is part of a weekly series called in which The Lantern’s Ty Anderson offers his take on the week’s pop culture news.
My earliest memories of Lady Gaga stem from my mother. By many accounts, my mother is a relatively normal individual. She cooks, she cleans, she scrapbooks. In many ways, she’s like any other mom. But there was a dark time. A solid set of three years when Mom referred to me solely as “Alejandro.” In the wee hours of the morning, she would tiptoe down the hallway, enter my bedroom, slowly fade up the lights and wake me up for school with a deep, creaking “rah-rah-ah-ah-ah.” Her phone played “Telephone” every time it rang, and she danced to “Born This Way” as she drove me to school each morning.
She would stay up well into the night watching Lady Gaga music videos on repeat. Never mind the fact that she couldn’t sing a single lyric correctly from any Gaga songs: She loved the bold beats, the flashy costumes and the wild and unmistakable persona that was Lady Gaga.
But as much as my mother loved Lady Gaga, it wasn’t an obsession she wanted to share with me.
Mom was not a strict parent. She never held back when a string of swear words was in order, she never asked where I was going when I left the house, and she never once expected me to look away during that scene in “Titanic.” But there was something about Lady Gaga, some sort of taboo mystery that lit a fire in my mom.
Historically, Lady Gaga isn’t the most relatable celebrity. Lady Gaga is the stage name of Stefani Germanotta, a fact you’d have never known a few years back. Gaga lived and breathed her stage persona. As far as the public was concerned, there was nothing behind the ghoulish dance moves, the meat dresses and sexual overtones, except for more ghoulish dance moves, more meat dresses and more sexual overtones.
Lady Gaga was a fascination. A puzzling pop phenomenon in a world with a short attention span.
In time, the act got old. As morbidly interesting as it was to watch for what Gaga would do next, it became a chore once the world realized that none of it made any sense.
As a society, we value people to whom we can relate. Look at the celebrities who are constantly making headlines, the ones with the most fans and the biggest followings. Look at Jennifer Lawrence. Look at Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Ellen Degeneres. The people who let us into their everyday lives are the ones that are most universally liked. Even though we’ve never met them, we believe that we know everything about them.
For instance, I know that Taylor Swift was born on December 13, 1989. She has two cats, Meredith and Olivia. Her childhood best friend is named Abigail, she enjoys drinking whiskey sours, her brother’s name is Austin and she loves to bake (she made the most delicious looking cinnamon eggnog-frosted chai sugar cookies last September. I believe it was the 29th).
Taylor doesn’t know who I am and would likely file for a restraining order if she knew how much time I invest in Google-searching various aspects of her life. But thankfully she does not know, and so I can continue pretending that she and I are close personal friends with a bond based in mutual understanding and respect.
But I could never do that with Lady Gaga. No matter how much I could have tried, I would have never known Gaga the way I know Taylor, because Gaga didn’t let people in. She insisted on maintaining the mystery. And that’s why people got bored. The over-the-top vocals and friggin-weird outfits that gave birth to her fame were ultimately what dug her grave.
Her last major album, “ARTPOP,” was not-so-lovingly nicknamed “ARTFLOP” with critics calling the songs uncreative and boring. She then went on to record some obscure jazz album with Tony Bennett, and she subsequently went into hiding for like six months (or so it seems).
Enter 2015. We’ve seen Lady Gaga get engaged. We’ve seen Lady Gaga appear on the red carpet in a “normal” gown, with normal make-up and normal hair. We’ve seen her perform, stripped from any facades, overwhelming backbeats and flashing lights. We’ve seen Lady Gaga for what she is — a human, rather than a freak show.
Ironically, the latest news for Gaga is her inclusion in the upcoming 5th season of “American Horror Story.”
I was a little nervous when I heard word of her involvement, but I think it makes sense. Lady Gaga has a background in theater. Despite my mother’s attempted censorship, I have seen Gaga’s music videos (sorry, Mom), and she does know how to act. Heck, she’s spent the majority of her career “acting.” She very well might fit perfectly within the series.
Anyway, AHS had a rough season this past year with an unorganized storyline and unlikable characters. In my unprofessional opinion, the upcoming season is the make-or-break moment for Ryan Murphy’s once-beloved horror anthology. But more importantly, I believe that it’s the make-or-break moment for Gaga. Her career has had a rocky couple of years, and AHS season 5 will either bring her back to the surface of pop culture relevance, or seal her tomb.
Is this natural career progression, or is Gaga aware of her fleeting popularity and attempting to rekindle it? I’m not sure, and this could very likely be some sort of last-ditch effort to rebrand herself in an ever-changing industry. But nevertheless, I’m excited to see where it leads. Who knows, maybe Gaga will pull a reverse-Miley and flip from singing to acting. Only time will tell.