He’d never heard of Lady Gaga.
“People keep asking if this is her wine,” he said, pointing to a pink-labeled bottle of Gaga rosÃ© prominently placed near the cash register on the counter of the liquor store he runs in the Highlands, an eclectic neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. “It isn’t, of course, but I was like, who?”
He stood looking at the Gaga rosÃ©, which is produced in California by a winery of the same name and has been conspicuously popping up in stores across the city mere days before the singer is set to perform a March 12 concert at the Yum! Center. A few weeks ago, a friend played him a Lady Gaga tune, he continued.
“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head back and forth. “It’s not my thing.”
Not appreciating Gaga’s music is one thing, but missing out on what continues to be a barrage of coverage and controversy and debate and discussion and adoration and, sometimes, anger about and aimed at the world’s biggest pop star? Whoa.
You only need to jump online or tune in to the biggest television networks to get an idea of how deeply the singer-songwriter is impacting our current culture beyond the traditional ways entertainers affect our world.
“She is the first metapop star, and there’s so much more to her than that,” said Kate Durbin, co-editor of “Gaga Stigmata,” an academic blog. “She’s also a figure who is really harnessing technology and pop culture even capitalism in a way that’s unique and new and forward-thinking that encourages people to “¦ harness the changes that are happening to create our own fluctuating identities where we’re not pinned down to only being seen one way.”
Durbin and her co-editor, Meghan Vicks find Gaga fascinating because of her ability to push “the boundaries and the borders that can be both critical and consumable at the same time. … Gaga is unique in that she is self-conscious of her role as a pop singer and she’s trying to bring a level of artistry to it that’s unparalleled.”
On one hand, as she does in her video “Paparazzi,” the musician will offer a political perspective before turning around to embody the very thing she’s critiquing, Durbin said. “So it’s complicated and messy,” but that is also a critique on real life, she added. “We’re always contradicting ourselves in a lot of ways. We are sort of stuck in a system: It’s neither one nor the other.”
Gaga’s impact, primarily, has been to lend a voice and empower LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – individuals, as well as anyone who has ever felt out of place.
“She’s kind of taken this subversive culture that really was thought of as freakish and brought it into the light and made it popular,” said Lexington resident Erick Moore. “Suddenly the uncool kids are very cool.”
Manual High School graduate and LOGO network reality star Derek Saathoff, who will host The AfterPARTY immediately following Gaga’s concert, recalls feeling different while growing up in the River City. “I know what it feels like. It’s 2011 and people have to be reminded that it’s not equal everywhere,” he said. “I think Lady Gaga is such a great spokesperson for equality. I think with her voice, she’s really done, wonders.”
But will Gaga have the staying power of Madonna or Elvis or Oprah?
That remains to be seen, said Durbin, but it’s clear she’s a major force. “Even if she were to drop off the face of the world tomorrow, we would have a pretty revolutionary figure to still discuss and think about and talk about.”
Get to know Lady Gaga
Birth name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Nickname: Mother Monster
Birth date: March 28, 1986
Highlights: Five Grammys, two Guinness World Records, Billboard’s 2010 Artist of the Year; named to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world; one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful and Influential celebrities in the world and No., 7 on the magazine’s annual list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women; “Born This Way” is the fastest-selling single in iTunes history.
Philanthropy: LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – advocacy
In their own words
“Lady Gaga uses her position, her fame. She doesn’t just go to parties to be fabulous. She walks the walk, talks the talk. She has kind of made it OK to be who you are. …
- JD Dotson
“I went to Nicaragua and all I heard was Spanish, and Lady Gaga sort of became America to me. It was just over-the-top, disco, dancing, sparkles, and she was America to me. She just represented everything I loved about it.”
- Jennifer Salsman
“Louisville is a city of fairness. What better place for Lady Gaga to perform in than a city with a motto that says, “˜Let’s keep it weird’?”
-Chris Hartman, Fairness Campaign executive director
“I love Lady Gaga, I love Chris Hartman and I love Fairness (Campaign). Here we are six months later.”
-Joyce Jennings, The AfterPARTY organizer
“Lady Gaga and I kind of have the same aesthetic narrative going on. She’s so sophisticated, but it’s so over the heads of most people. I’m not the biggest fan, but (I appreciate) that she’s She has turned herself into a one woman hall of fame, a walking art book. She keeps changing so much. … Through Dementia I make paintings and sculpture and art. Like Gaga, I like taking all those elements … and (using them). I basically use drag and couture as the funnel to shove everything else through it.”
“At first I kind of knew about her, but I wasn’t so much a fan because a lot of her stuff was do-it-yourself. Her first looks were kind of rip-offs of the bigger designers, and I kind of took offense to that, but when I saw the “˜Paparazzi’ video and she was standing there in the Thierry Mugler robotic corset, that’s when I was sold because suddenly she’d gone from wearing rip-offs to wearing the real thing.”
“I was lucky enough to be born without that chip in my head to be embarrassed. I love that ability to just express myself. So many people are held back by how they feel other people will judge them. I think the way Gaga portrays herself, I connect in a certain way.”
Category: Cover Stories
About the Author (Author Profile)
Angie Fenton is Managing Editor of The Voice-Tribune, a Blue Equity company. She is also an entertainment correspondent for WHAS11′s new morning show, “Great Day Live!”, which debuted August 22 on Louisville’s ABC affiliate. Additionally, Angie is an entertainment correspondent for the Saturday Morning Show with Ron ‘n’ Mel Fisher on 84WHAS (840 AM) and has served in the same capacity for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks; Breeders’ Cup; and Circuit of the Americas during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November 2012. Angie also serves as an emcee, host, voiceover professional and on-camera commercial talent.
Angie has a bachelor’s and master’s in English from Central Michigan University and began her career as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. She is the youngest of five — four of whom were adopted, including Angie, and none of whom are biologically related. She is also a Michigan native who moved to Kentucky in June 2002. Angie is owned by two dogs — Herbie and Yoda — and feels lucky to have loved and been loved by many more, including Pooch, Jessie, Onyx, Jack and Big Bud, who took his last breath on Christmas Day 2012.