Religion Within The World Of Gaga

Religion Within The World Of Gaga

Theodor Adorno famously stated in his paper “On Popular Music” that there are “the two spheres of music”, being that of “serious music” [non-standardized] and “popular music” [standardized].[1] He believed that popular music was standardized for that very reason, it was being given to the masses there-for it couldn’t possibly be complex, as people wouldn’t understand it. However, within popular music the very themes that some of its artists, such as Lady Gaga challenge are complex and should there-for beg the question, can popular music also be serious music?

One of these complex themes is recurring throughout Lady Gaga’s work, and is that of religion and through certain songs on The Fame Monster it was a motif explored with great intention of causing debate.

 

Don’t say I hate institutionalised religion – rather than saying I hate those things, which I do not, what I’m saying is that perhaps there is a way of opening more doors, rather than closing so many.

Lady Gaga (2011)

 Despite being from a strict Italian Catholic upbringing, and studying at a Catholic school in Upper West Side, New York when she was younger, Lady Gaga appears to have mirrored that of her predecessor Madonna, in the “Catholic Girl, Gone Bad” image, and continues to challenge religious sentiment throughout her work, noticeably within Alejandro from The Fame Monster. Gaga has stated the song derives from her “fear of men” [2], however, within the music video for this song she used some questionable religious influences, and combining those with dark and chilling militant imagery, it seems Lady Gaga was using more than relationships as inspiration for this piece.

The main moments that appear to reference that of war begin at the start of the video, in which the camera shows numerous men, sitting at tables, dressed in full length, dark militant jackets and hats, reminiscent of Nazi Soldier attire and shortly afterwards we see these same men, dressed in very little, chanting and marching towards the camera. At one point shortly after this it also shows a man, again wearing very little, but this time wearing a soldiers hat, attached to strings, like that of a puppet. The strings could represent a number of things including, the relationship story within the video as the female involved is trapped and being controlled by the male she is with and they could also represent Gaga’s commentary on those in the military being controlled by those above them and acting on command, not thought.

The militant theme throughout this video hasn’t gone unnoticed by other viewers, Montgomery (2010) stated, “[Alejandro] is influenced by the smoky, darkly decadent art and fashion of Weimar Germany. [The] economically difficult era that preceded Hitler’s rise to power,” and although the era in which Montgomery mentioned is pre World War Two, it appears the imagery used also has the capability to reference that of the disciplined and conformist landscape that was Nazi Germany in the early 1940’s.

This music video cleverly combined these themes with that of religious symbolism, but in a rather more risqué way. At the 5.15 mark in the video, between shots of Lady Gaga in a nun outfit being lifted up and down by the group of the before mentioned soldiers, she is shown to the viewer in a nuns habit, swallowing a set of rosary beads, arguably eating religion itself. These images caused a backlash in both the religious community and social media, with Katy Perry posting on twitter, shortly after the video was released, stating; “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedienne telling a fart joke[3] and the Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, in an interview stated, “Lady Gaga is playing a Madonna copy cat, squirming around half naked, abusing Catholic symbols. [She] has now become the poster girl for Catholic bashing,”[4]

By bringing all these issues to the attention of her audience and beyond, Lady Gaga appears to have reached out to the more unlikely of people, as in the Lous Theroux 2011 documentary in which the journalist is following the highly controversial West Borough Baptist church, the audience can see the members of this group dancing, singing and preaching to “Telephone” by Lady Gaga. Naturally they have changed the lyrics of the song to suit their own religious agenda, but the very fact this closed off, right-wing group, are even aware that this artist exists suggests she has become a part of culture itself, achieving far more than the regular artists of today whom are receiving number one hits one day, and checking into the Celebrity Big Brother house the next.

[1] Hird, L. (2011). Theodor Adorno – On Popular Music. Available: https://lucyhird.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/theodor-adorno-%E2%80%93-on-popular-music/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

[2] Fuse, 2012. Lady Gaga’s Quest For Fame, Humour In Music, Anti-Bullying, Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ5UQOMlEQo. Last accessed 12th April 2015.

[3] Roberts, S. (2010). Katy Perry suggests Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’ music video uses blasphemy for cheap entertainment. Available: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-suggests-lady-gaga-alejandro-music-video-blasphemy-cheap-entertainment-article-1.181860. Last accessed 16th April 2015.

[4] Catholic News Agency. (2010). Lady Gaga dismissed as ‘Madonna wannabe’ for ‘Catholic bashing’ music video. Available: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/lady-gaga-dismissed-as-madonna-wannabe-for-catholic-bashing-music-video/. Last accessed 16th April 2015.

 

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