Is Lady Gaga revolutionizing pop music?

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Lady Gaga has been causing quite the stir. And not just lately. Her career has thus far depended heavily on controversy, speculation, and public perception: Is she bisexual? Is she a hermaphrodite? Is she subverting sexual norms? Is she the next Madonna? Would you call her music progressive?

If anything is clear, Lady Gaga has high ambitions. As she said in a Rolling Stone interview: “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but I’ve made it my goal to revolutionize pop music. The last revolution was launched by Madonna 25 years ago.” That TIME recently named her one of the “world’s most influential people” certainly helps her cause. In addition to talking about her “vision,” “destiny,” and “spirituality,” Gaga tells TIME: “I want so much for it to go beyond the music for my fans.”

However, the hype is not without its critics. Last month, M.I.A. spoke out against Lady Gaga in an interview with NME:

Again, there’s Lady Gaga — people say we’re similar, that we both mix all these things 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 fucking do! That’s a talent and she’s got a great team behind her, but she’s the industry last’s 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.

And over the weekend, Joanna Newsom had some choice words to share about Gaga in a Guardian interview:

I’m mystified by the laziness of people looking at how she presents herself, and somehow assuming that implies there’s a high level of intelligence in the songwriting. Her approach to image is really interesting, but you listen to the music, and you just hear glow sticks. Smart outlets for musical journalism give her all this credit, like she’s the new Madonna. Although I’m coming from a perspective of also thinking Madonna is not great at all. I’m like, fair enough: she is the new Madonna, but Madonna’s a dumb-ass!

After the interview, Newsom sent a clarification email to the Guardian, expanding on her thoughts:

I may have contradicted myself. My problem isn’t actually with Lady Gaga. But there’s not much in her music to distinguish it from other glossy, formulaic pop. She just happens to wear slightly weirder outfits than Britney Spears. But they’re not that weird — they’re mostly just skimpy. She’s fully marketing her body/sexuality; she’s just doing it while wearing, like, a ‘fierce’ telephone hair-hat. Her sexuality has no scuzziness, no frank raunchiness, in the way that, say, Peaches, or even Grace Jones, have — she’s Arty Spice! And, meanwhile, she seems to take herself so oddly seriously, the way she talks about her music in the third person, like she’s Brecht or something. She just makes me miss Cyndi Lauper.

So, what’s your take on Lady Gaga? Has she been successful at revolutionizing pop music? Is her image/music derivative or progressive? Is her image perhaps more important than her music? What exactly is Lady Gaga trying to do?

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