I’m afraid I agree with Camille Paglia

I’m one of those people, who likes all types of music. My iTunes account contains everything from Mendelssohn’s Elijah to Sonny Landreth‘s smooth, bluesy slide guitar, to Broadway tunes to Snoop Dogg’s 1993 Doggystyle. Yes, I’m random and eclectic. I like everything, including Country, rap, Broadway, metal, and classical. I have everything from Glee soundtracks to Rock of Ages.

You know what I don’t have? I don’t have a single Lady Gaga song.

From the very beginning, when she burst on to the scene, I was sort of repulsed by her. When you’re forced to pay more attention to the weirdness than to the voice, the lyrics and the music, you know there’s something wrong. From the weird performance-artsy attempts to be overly original, to the stupid looking, unflattering outfits meant to do little more than generate talk, the one thing I paid no attention to was her music.

You know, when someone looks like this, it’s tough to think about anything other than the spectacle.

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Music? What music?

That’s why Camille Paglia’s latest column in the Sunday Times resonated with me.

Paglia feels, as I do, that Gaga’s continuous attempts to outweird herself are tedious. Not only that, but she sees past at what the uptight culture snobs turn their noses to show Eminem as imaginative and much more profound and creative than nearly any performer working today.

With amazing candor and clarity, Eminem has shown the full spectrum of male emotions on his albums, from a cooing tenderness toward children to ranting arias of betrayal and revenge. We see in him the agonizing ambivalence that is one of the principal engines of obsessive art-making from Michelangelo to Picasso…

Gaga with her constant costume tat fatigues the eye. Eminem in his simple hoodie looks like an ascetic monk, fed on apparitions and devoted to art.

I agree. Most people I know label Eminem misogynistic, disgusting, thuggish, classless and crude, but he’s so much more than that! Eminem is satire and a condemnation of everything hypocritical and snobbish in society. His prose is real and raw and yeah, sometimes it’s offensive, but it’s also profound and poetic. There’s nothing pretty about Eminem’s rap. I remember listening to the lyrics of “Stan” – a song he performed with Dido – so miserable and psychotic, as he raps through the mind of a stalker who fixates on Slim Shady (Eminem’s alter ego) and thinking, “This guy is a poet. He’s not a rapper, he’s a poet.”

Dear Slim, you still ain’t called or wrote, I hope you have a chance
I ain’t mad – I just think it’s FUCKED UP you don’t answer fans
If you didn’t wanna talk to me outside your concert
you didn’t have to, but you coulda signed an autograph for Matthew
That’s my little brother man, he’s only six years old
We waited in the blistering cold for you,
four hours and you just said, “No.”
That’s pretty shitty man – you’re like his fucking idol
He wants to be just like you man, he likes you more than I do

Dido’s haunting music and refrain added to the melancholy of this song, and I could actually see the rain pounding against the windows as Slim Shady’s demented fan gets gradually more unhinged. The last refrain is a reply from Slim Shady, advising “Stan” to get some counseling, apologizing for not writing sooner, and expressing his hope that “Stan” doesn’t turn out like a recent news report.

“I seen this one shit on the news a couple weeks ago that made me sick
Some dude was drunk and drove his car over a bridge
and had his girlfriend in the trunk, and she was pregnant with his kid
and in the car they found a tape, but they didn’t say who it was to
Come to think about it, his name was.. it was you
Damn!

When I compare this to Lady Gaga’s rambling that could have well been written on some kind of hallucinogen, I understand why she has to rely on her absurd appearance and desperate histrionics, I understand why Camille Paglia says Eminem is one of the most creative artists out there.

A hybrid can withstand these things
My heart can beat with bricks and strings
My artpop could mean anything

Could try to sell you out or I
Could show you all the reasons why
my artpop could mean anything

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to see why Eminem doesn’t have to rely on weirdness and extravagant spectacle to get his message across. It’s painful, sometimes enraged, sometimes loving, sometimes caustic and sarcastic, but always creative. His appearance is severe – no odd costumes, no weirdness, nothing to detract from the ingenuity of his message.

It’s the obvious love Eminem has for his daughter…

Hailie, I know you miss your mom, and I know you miss your dad
When I’m gone but I’m trying to give you the life that I never had
I can see you’re sad, even when you smile, even when you laugh
I can see it in your eyes, deep inside you want to cry

versus…

Boy, we’ve had a real’ good time
And I wish you the best on your way
Eh eh
I didn’t mean to hurt you
I never thought we’d fall out of place
Eh eh, hey ey

It’s anger with the Iraq war…

Let me be the voice in your strength and your choice
Let me simplify the rhyme just to amplify the noise
Try to amplify the times it, and multiply by six…
Teen million people, Are equal at this high pitch
Maybe we can reach alqueda through my speech
Let the president answer a higher anarchy
Strap him with an Ak-47, let him go, fight his own war
Let him impress daddy that way

versus…

I’m the one who’s been coming around looking to loving you
You’re the medicine,
I need to heal the way you make me feel

I’m gon’ be manicured
You wanna be manicured
Ma ma ma manicure
She wanna be manicured

Is it really difficult to see why Eminem breaks all barriers, destroys all stereotypes and shows rap as everything from searing social commentary to catharsis – a cleansing of deep-rooted pain – in a very public forum to biting commentary about our society? You don’t have to agree with his politics or his views on society, but they’re creative and clear, saucy and sardonic, honest and hilarious!

Sometimes, I wanna get on TV and just let loose, but can’t
But it’s cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose
“My bum is on your lips, my bum is on your lips”
And if I’m lucky, you might just give it a little kiss
And that’s the message that we deliver to little kids
And expect them not to know what a woman’s clitoris is
Of course they gonna know what intercourse is
By the time they hit fourth grade
They got the Discovery Channel, don’t they?

Meanwhile, Gaga’s sneering, arrogant, vapid lyrics and pounding electronic music invite you to lose yourself in nonsense and pretend there’s something profound in her exaggerated extravagance, and if you don’t get it, you must be too shallow to understand her pretentious message!

Meh, no thanks.

I may not agree with Eminem’s politics, but I’m intelligent enough to appreciate his talent for prose.

And while Gaga peddles mediocrity under the guise of pretentious profoundness that you must be too plebeian to understand, Eminem simply puts all of himself out there, and for better or for worse, I appreciate the honesty.

UPDATE: My sweet friend just posted this video on Facebook for me! Weird Al Yankovic hits another one out of the park, and reminds us that Gaga is about as original as the latest RoboCop reboot.

Yeah, it’s been done before. By Bowie. By Madonna. Even by Britney Spears. Wearing a meat dress adds a measure of Ick! to a sad, hackneyed routine.

5 responses

  1. Sorry, Nicki, but I don’t see Eminem as a “poet” any more than I see Lady Gaga as a lyricist. Neither of them are “musical” as I understand the term. “Rap music” to my thinking is the ultimate oxymoron. Rhythmically pounding, jungle drums isn’t my idea of “music.” Lest you think I’m some sort of music snob, let me assure you that I love real MUSIC. Classical, original rock, musical theater, even some country-western. But it must be MUSICAL.

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    1. You are allowed to have a difference of opinion. I happen to believe Eminem is definitely a poet, and the way he sets his lyrics to music is intelligent and musical. My opinion. He puts a lot of thought into his music and he’s an amazing talent. YMMV

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  2. I totally agree… I have been an Eminem fan since the Slim Shady LP and have always said he was a poet (a very,very profane poet).

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  3. “When you’re forced to pay more attention to the weirdness than to the voice, the lyrics and the music, you know there’s something wrong.”

    Yeah, when you have to be weird to *get* any attention, then you have no talent. If you *have* the talent you don’t need to weird everyone out to get the attention. Personally, I don’t like Eminem’s stuff, but there IS genuine talent there. Some of his lyrics are quite powerful.

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  4. Hey anytime an Eminem song is performed in Klingonaase, then he gets my vote. I don’t like all his stuff, but then again there are Lady Gaga songs I like. I could just do without some of the theatrics.

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