Lady Gaga – Applause

Year :
Grace Jones / Robyn / Falco

I have to image that the life of a pop star, while having its obvious perks, is a tough job nevertheless. There is the stress of public appearances and constant scrutiny, the demands of creating a product, and so on down the line. Many crack under the pressure. Let’s face it, America loves to see the mighty fall and at day’s end, celebrities, too, are only human.

Lady Gaga might be an exception though. At least, the idea of Lady Gaga might be. Her entire persona exists around the idea of being addicted to (and empowered by) the limelight. The aforementioned hard stuff is her wheelhouse. Take exhibit A, “Applause,” which doesn’t even take on the subject matter so much as completely embody it. “Applause” announces itself immediately with a singular purpose: get pumped for Mommy Monster and show your love.

Given that, there’s only a handful of appropriate situations to really rock out to this song:

  • At a Lady Gaga show
  • At a Lady Gaga cover show
  • Vigorously dancing while imaging oneself to be Lady Gaga, perhaps while at Zumba
  • Recklessly speeding

After five listens, though, I can’t stop thinking about what a completely, fundamentally bizarre song “Applause” is. Aside from the fact that, by Jove, Gaga has brought back the sound of Austrian pop sensation Falco, it seems like even she might be under a certain kind of pressure. And, it’s one that’s not common to the pop star: the pressure to make Art.

It’s right there in the lyrics:

I’ve overheard your theory
Nostalgia’s for geeks
I guess sir, if you say so
Some of us just like to read

One second i’m a kunst
Then suddenly the kunst is me
Pop culture was in Art now ART’s in POP culture, in me!

Let’s get one thing out of the way, I had no earthly idea what a “kunst” is. Turns out it’s just the German word for art (ok, so maybe it’s not Falco thing, but a German thing). But, I could have sworn Gaga was singing “Koons,” as in equally reviled and celebrated pop artist Jeff Koons. I wish it was “Koons,” too, because it would have been a perfectly accurate self-assessment.

Koons was know for playful but willfully tacky send-ups of what art is supposed be. Lady Gaga could have been a Koons creation made flesh—pure artifice and pop-sensibility blown out to an epic scale. Gaga is, in fact, collaborating with Jeff Koons as part of the promotional push for ARTPOP and so it may very well be that this more than just an accidental homonym.

Artistry is a heavy burden, though. The designation of Artist was foisted onto Gaga more for her overall approach to performance than due to any single aspect of her music. I think there’s a case to be made there, though I’m certainly no art critic. At the end of the day, Art (as in gallery art, museum art) is what the art world says it is—and that’s even further complicated by who made it, when, and why. Trying to make art because you need to live up to expectations generally does not lead to art-world approved material. At the same time, there’s a tautology at work: If someone who’s voice matters on the subject is proclaiming that Lady Gaga is making art, then she’s making art. There’s a strange, arbitrary simplicity to it all.

At the end of the day, though, I feel like the joke’s on me (i.e., the casual observer). Could be that the forthcoming ARTPOP is as much a dive into what it means to be art as Gaga’s first albums were about fame. We won’t know until its November 11th release date. Until then, I’m not completely sold on “Applause” as anything more than a very insistent dance track. On the other hand, we are now all listening to Falco again. Could be that we are all just puppets in Lady Gaga’s hands. Holy hell, I can’t believe this song is about to be a hit.

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(@YahSureMan) is the Founder of The Daily Soundtrack and Bark Attack Media. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

3 Responses to “Lady Gaga – Applause

  1. August 18, 2013 at 11:53 am, Barbaras said:

    Can’t be disabused of the more obvious double entendre for Kunst, perhaps? Not that I’d use that word in polite company.

  2. August 20, 2013 at 1:27 am, Alex Lupica said:

    God, Gaga, don’t be such a kunst about it.