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: