Will Grammys Crown Lady Gaga New Pop Queen?

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Pop sensation Lady Gaga will be center stage at the Grammys, especially if a rumored duet with Elton John kicks off the 52nd annual awards show. And, by the time it’s over, she is likely to emerge as the new reigning queen of pop. Her legion of fan think she deserves nothing less, and so does a conservative business newspaper like The Wall Street Journal. Say what? A glowing article in the normally snooty newspaper noted that Gaga, aka Stefani Germanotta, produced a string of No. 1 hits in an otherwise lackluster year for new music talent, outside of, maybe, Adam Lambert. But the paper, which usually disdains pop culture, went further than that. It called her “broader impact on music culture in the space of a year” nothing less than “seismic.” Wait there is more. It also said Gaga may become the model of business success for the industry going forward. That’s a pretty strong endorsement for a New York University dropout who slummed around the Lower East Side in search of a record deal, only to be dropped by her first label, the supposedly savvy Def Jam. In one year, she’s sold 15.3 million digital tracks, and produced four No. 1 songs. “‘Poker Face’ and ‘Paparazzi,’ recalibrated the sound of pop radio with a spacey Euro vibe that’s crept into songs by rock and rap artists,” the article noted. Gaga has been nominated for five awards, including record of the year, and it’s hard to see how the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Grammys, can deny her its top honor, if it’s based solely on the past year. But the group, which is made up of aging fellow musicians and industry insiders, has a reputation for skewing in favor of older, established artists, much like the Academy Awards. This year, artists contending for music’s top award include veterans like Dave Matthews, Beyoncé Knowles, with 10 nominations, The Black Eyed Peas and country phenom Taylor Swift. What’s ultimately significant about the Journal article is its bold statement that Gaga is a “case study” of a successful model for the music industry. “Gaga, 23 years old, has made shrewd use of new digital platforms, while still leveraging the clout of a major label, an institution deemed obsolete by many proponents of DIY culture,” it states. “She is a product of a new kind of recording contract which goes beyond just selling records to encompass everything from touring, merchandise–even her make-up deal. “Though she writes her own material, she is as focused on visual theatrics, fashion and global appeal as she is on the music.” Actually, artists like Madonna, Bette Midler, and even Elton John pioneered that model, and if Gaga has been criticized for anything, it’s for being a Madonna clone. Also, most artists try to avoid the kind of contract that gives a major music label a piece of the action outside of producing, recording and selling music. Traditionally, revenue from touring, merchandise and endorsements has belonged solely to the artist. But with music sales in the tank, major labels have been trying for the past several years to muscle into those areas as well. In that regard, Gaga, or at least her stage persona, has been manufactured by Universal Music’s Interscope Records. Almost any female singer could have stepped into her outrageous costumes, although, make no mistake, Germanotta has genuine musical talent. Indeed, the Stefani Germanotta who used to sing on Manhttan’s Lower East Side was a serious singer/songwriter who valued her musical integrity. Not without some irony, ’70s-era Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant noted after winning the top Grammy last year that it used to mean an artist had sold out. But in an age of branding, merchandising and cross-selling, that term no longer applies. Even an edgy group like the Black Eyed Peas has endorsement deals with major corporations. So, Lady Gaga may well represent the future of music. But the future might be better represented by talented artists like Stefani Germanotta.By TheImproper

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