Lady Gaga Reinvents the Weird, Not the Wheel

If you’ve got stock in Lady Gaga Inc., sell it. Sell it now. All of it. If there was one thing to be taken from the 2011 Grammy Awards, it’s that Lady Gaga has lost “it” and she’ll be lost in pop obscurity by 2012.

Here’s why:

1. You can’t just show up to the Grammys inside an egg. I get it. Her fans get it. All along, Lady Gaga’s formula for success has relied upon batty shock tactics to force her name into the pop conversation, and so far, it’s been pretty effective. Her base is fully intact after last night, but I think casual fans may have lost interest. There’s a fine line between weird and desperate. Lady Gaga crossed it. In an egg.

2. You can’t create another iteration of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and sell it as your own. My girlfriend, hardly a music know-it-all but a Gaga apologist, pointed out last night some of her earlier work borrowed from Ace of Base. (Compare “Don’t Turn Around” to “Alejandro” — you won’t be the first.) Her latest single, “Born This Way” — which she performed last night — is a two-bit rip-off of Madonna’s classic. She hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but she has reinvented the weird.

3. You can’t dump the producer who created your sound and expect things to work out. RedOne is the genius producer behind hits like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame,” “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro.” No word on RedOne’s role for Lady Gaga’s forthcoming album, but “Born This Way” is clearly missing his signature beats. Artists typically go through producers like dirty laundry, but RedOne’s impact is so integral to Lady Gaga’s sound, it’s hard to imagine her duplicating early success without him.

4. You can’t offend your target audience. Lady Gaga has been a strong advocate for gay rights. However, it seems “Born This Way” is landing poorly with some groups. In a joint statement from several Phoenix-based Latino and LGBT organizations, Lady Gaga was criticized for lyrics in her single:

“Lady Gaga’s plagiarized song ‘Born This Way’ is an insult to minorities who have spent the past several decades trying to overcome discrimination. Her lyrics, which use racist terms such as “’Chola’ and ‘Orient,’ promote further racial stereotyping. We also believe the song will hurt the Gay Rights movement and cause further hate crimes against them. We are asking radio stations to act responsibly and stop playing this poor excuse of a song.”

At best, Lady Gaga’s “gay anthem” comes off as trite and opportunistic. Then again, if that’s her M.O., no one can say she’s in the wrong. It just might harm her popularity in some circles.

5. Everyone has a shelf life. Madonna — the most obvious comparison — has survived several decades because she’s been able to reinvent herself along with her music. Lady Gage, on the other hand, has been tripping on the same antics now for a few years, acting more as a mascot than a musician. In closing:

New Musics: James Vincent McMorrow

I’m not particularly fond of Ray LaMontagne and the bearded-troubadour-types. (Yeah, I get it — you look like a lumberjack but sing like Smokey Robinson.)

On three separate occasions, I’ve fumbled to bring up the Shazam song-identifying app on my iPhone only to find I was hearing this song (again). Enjoy “This Old Dark Machine” by James Vincent McMorrow.

A Deconstruction of P!nk’s “Raise Your Glass”

For some reason, I had pop artist P!nk pegged for a 40-year-old. It seems like she’s been in the public conscience for a long time – too long – and now she has a greatest hits album, aptly titled Greatest Hits… So Far!!!

(Now would be a good time to pause and explain to Ms. P!nk exactly what an exclamation point means. Her younger clone, Ke$ha, could use a similar lesson.)

P!nk’s latest single “Raise Your Glass” is charting at No. 19 on iTunes. It’s a pathetic party anthem riddled with cliches and the kind of disconnect you’d expect from an aging pop star. But she’s 30! Not 40! It’s closer to a new theme song for ABC’s Cougar Town than the high school anthem she’s going for. It’s as if the “cool” mom who buys all the upperclassmen booze went and made a single.

If you haven’t read the lyrics, you’re missing out. The track acts as an audio scrapbook of all the lame-ass things we said back in the ’00s. (The early ’00s, at that.) It’s even worse when you picture P!nk as I did — a washed-up hag making one last harrowing attempt to reclaim her 2001 form.

Have a listen as you read through this muck. Profundities and cliches have been bolded for your convenience:


Right right, turn off the lights
We gonna lose our minds tonight
What’s the dealio?

I love when it’s all too much
5AM turn the radio up
Where’s the rock and roll?

Party crasher, penny snatcher
Call me up if you are gangster
Don’t be fancy
Just get dancey
Why so serious?

So raise your glass if you are wrong
In all the right ways
All my underdogs, we will never be, never be
Anything but loud
And nitty gritty dirty little freaks
Won’t you come on, and come on, and
Raise your glass
Just come on and come and
Raise your glass

Slam, slam, oh hot damn
What part of party don’t you understand?
Wish you’d just freak out (freak out already)
Can’t stop coming in hot
I should be locked up right on the spot
It’s so on right now (so f_ckin’ on right now)


Oh shit my glass is empty…
That sucks!

So, if you’re too school for cool
And you’re treated like a fool (treated like a fool)
You could choose to let it go
We can always, we can always
party on our own…


There’s no such thing as adult onset ADHD, but if there was, “Raise Your Glass” is what it would sound like.

The changing of a decade generally ushers in a new wave of talent and sound, leaving behind many artists, albums and singles we’d rather store away in a box to be labeled “Bad ’00s music.” The current Top 10 on iTunes includes Britney Spears (No. 1), Avril Lavigne (No. 3) and Enrique Iglesias (No. 6) — artists whose careers never should’ve taken off, no less survived into this decade. What in the hell is going on here. I don’t know whether to be mad at P!nk for making new music or the music industry for not replacing her with new talent.

Then again, maybe I’m just too school for cool.

Late to the Trampled By Turtles Party

Thanks to bands like The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, we’re witnessing the resurgance of the banjo in alternative music. But with Trampled By Turtle, there’s no half-stepping. The Duluth five-piece outfit does bluegrass as God intended, and they’ll bring their act to First Avenue for two sold out shows next weekend.

I’m late to the party. Didn’t really appreciate the band until recently when I downloaded their latest album, Palamino. Check it out.

Save the Music — Get Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 2

I’m not much of a Beatles fan. Give me The White Album, you can keep the rest.

The past few weeks, I’ve been working with the promotion of Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 2, a compilation featuring 16 Beatles tracks re-imagined by Minnesota-born-or-based acts. The album features Soul Asylum, Mason Jennings, Meat Puppets and P.O.S., to name a few. The best part: All of the proceeds from the album go to Minnesota public school art and music programs.

Last year, Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 1 raised $25,000. With the state budget deficit hovering at $6 billion, many public schools are being forced to cut back or cut music and art programs altogether. That’s a shame, because now more than ever, students need the opportunity to be creative and exercise their imagination.

Music requires great discipline. That’s why I’m not surprised my youngest cousin, a senior saxophone player for the best high school marching band in the country, has tested off the charts and been admitted to Indiana University to pursue a career in medicine. Every student deserves the opportunity she’s had. We need to save music and art programs — now.

All right, stepping off the soapbox. MBP Vol. 2 is a great album, Beatles fan or not. Give it a spin here. If you buy it, know that the money is going to a great cause.

Atmosphere at First Avenue on Nov. 28

Two firsts on Sunday night: My first Atmosphere show and my first show at legendary First Avenue.

The concert was gravy, because a few hours before the show, I stopped by Fifth Element to buy a shirt. Slug, Atmosphere’s emcee, was hanging out, talking merchandise with the store manager. I have no autograph or picture or cool story to tell. I said, “See you tonight, man.” He said, “Aw, cool, thanks.”

For just a moment, I felt like an 11-year-old girl. I’m rarely star-struck, but that was pretty damn cool.

50 Tyson’s Sudden Fame Raises Concerns Over Handlers

I live about three blocks from Edison High School, where one of the most popular rap artists on YouTube is a senior.

Antonio Henderson-Davis, 17, is better known as 50 Tyson. His viral YouTube videoshave been viewed more than 10 million times, he’s been featured on Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 and even landed a record deal with former NBA point guard Troy Hudson‘s label.

One more thing: 50 Tyson has autism.

On Sunday, the Star Tribune ran a feature on Henderson-Davis and the story is now free online. It’s a gripping tale about the autistic teenager, bombarded by newfound fame, whose eager to please. He’s surrounded by watchful parents, concerned teachers, supportive classmates and handlers, like Hudson, who may or may not have his best interests in mind.

You can read the story here. And if you do read it, I’m curious what you think. Please come back and comment.