Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gaga versus M.I.A.

It seems that there may be a war brewing in the world of pop music, and all of us will have to pick sides.

Sri Lankan-born, U.K.-based madwoman M.I.A. has been asked about Lady Gaga, and what she had to say is very honest, and (more to the point) not especially flattering:
"People say we're similar, that we both mix all these things (influences) in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same! None of her music's reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza music, you know? She's not progressive, but she's a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I f**king do! That's a talent and she's got a great team behind her, but she's the industry's last stab at making itself important - saying, 'You need our money behind you, the endorsements, the stadiums'. Respect to her, she's keeping a hundred thousand people in work, but my belief is: Do it yourself."
Now, M.I.A. isn't really mean to Gaga, but she does say what's become rather obvious to me - her "originality" isn't what I used to think it was - it's wholly  manufactured.  (This is especially prominent in her new "Telephone" video, which tries to act ironic about product placement but fails spectacularly.  How could you, Miracle Whip?  HOW COULD YOU?)

I'll admit it - there was a time when I thought Lady Gaga was doing something pretty amazing to pop music.  My attitudes towards her are best described in this graph:

I started by making fun of the ridiculous that is Lady Gaga, with eventually became a begrudging liking.  For a couple of weeks there, I actually considered myself a Gaga fan.

And then reality set back in, and I stopped that madness right where it needed to be stopped.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Gaga's new album is going to be pretty boring, because her second album, The Fame Monster, was pretty freakin' boring.  One decent song with a decent pop hook (the first single and first track on the disc) and a bunch of drek.  I'd imagine the same will probably be true of her next album.

However, this next graph best describes how I feel about M.I.A.:

Yep.  M.I.A. is a genuinely new artist, creating a music unlike any I've heard before.  It's a weird mix of pop, rap, Bollywood, electronica, and myriad other weird things - and I think it's brilliant.  I mean, this is a girl who can incorporate years (nearly decades) old Pixies lyrics into her music with aplomb and chutzpah.  I can't wait for her new album to come out this summer, because if it's anything like her first two, it'll be worth checking out for sure.

So in this coming war between M.I.A. and Gaga, I'm squarely in the M.I.A. camp.  It's that whole "unironic fandom" thing.


  1. Intersting write up. I am not familiar with M.I.A. yet. I recognize the name, but can't say I have heard anything by her. Gaga, on the other hand, drives me nuts.

    Though I do have to admire the "performance art" aspect of her whole gig. As a spectacle, she has been manufactured well. Don't respect her as a music artist, but as a walking sideshow, there aren't many better. I will have to check out M.I.A.

  2. You have to give Gaga credit though, she knows exactly what to do to get herself noticed, played, and idolized. And that in and of itself if pure genius.


    She so weird. But when the samples from Bollywood movies start, she's so awesome.