Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#2: Lady Gaga

You see new stars in the music world make their splash in the mainstream genres of country-western, rhythm and blues, rock, and hip hop. It would be quite amazing to see a musician from the offbeat fields like classical or jazz to have the highest number of views on youtube or dominate the iTunes sales. That is what makes Gaga’s accomplishments all the more spectacular. From the further offbeat world of electropop we are witnessing one of the most talented musicians to emerge on the scene in decades, with both commercial and artistic success.

How does Gaga command all this attention? It’s not just her outrageous costumes or her catchy lyrics. She has a talent for creating music that only a handful of people possess. Her sense of tempo and phrasing are unmatched. These are not things you can learn from a music teacher. You’re either born with it or develop it on your own. I can only think of one musician who has that same innate sense: Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Even though their music styles and instrumentation are completely different, I swear I can hear faint echoes of Page’s influence throughout Gaga’s music.

Gaga’s singing voice can send me into orbit. She has a way of working the raspy lower tones in her voice in a manner that is reminiscent of John Lennon singing “Hard Day’s Night”. Her frequency range is impressive and dynamic range is awe-inspiring. She can sing in a soft, whispery doll’s breath or belt it out like an opera singer. To hear such a tiny woman blow her pipes in that manner can send a chill down my spine.

Gaga already has an impressive repertoire of songs she has written and recorded herself and also for others. Unlike many artists who have one or two good songs per album and a lot of filler, Gaga has had multiple hits off both the Fame and the Fame Monster.

Gaga is so talented she has several unreleased songs from earlier in career that are every bit as good as Poker Face or Bad Romance. These were leaked to the internet in various ways, mainly by a hacker who calls himself ‘Burim’. These songs, including “Wonderful”, “Retro Physical”, and “Fashion”, are some of my favorites. Here is “Captivated”, sung by a pre-famous brunet Gaga at a talent contest at NYU:

Gaga has made a connection with her fans in a way that has never been done before. She makes us feel like every one of her successes are our successes too. I have attended three monster balls and was floored. The woman knows how to perform. For a couple of hours you can forget about life’s problems and go completely bonkers with her.

So here she is, only two years after releasing her first album, bracketed at #2 between two of the greatest rock musicians ever.

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