Friday, June 17, 2011

Lady Gaga and philosophy

To my utter shock and bewilderment, I have just found out that neither of the two publishers that run book series on popular culture and philosophy has yet published a book about Lady Gaga and philosophy. In fact, searching the exact phrase “Lady Gaga and philosophy” I got only two hits, one to the twitter profile of someone who lists her interests and ends the list with these two items (as you would), and the other to a philosophy blog which also notes the lamentable absence of this title.

So, while we are all waiting with baited breath to find out what the serial philosophers will have to offer once they have woken up to the semiotic treasure trove that is the work of Gaga, I’ll start compiling a few suggestions of topics they may want to consider:

Is it music? Why Mozart might have written “Bad Romance” if he were alive today (for more about this, see here)

Is it art? The school of gagaism and its position in the development of occidental art

Baby you were born this way: The quest for sexual identity in the 21st century.

I’m in love with Judas: Gaga vs. God

Scheiße Scheiße be mine: the language and languages of gagaism

P-p-p-pokerface: The semiotics of make-up and masks

I am my hair: Hair style as a cipher for personality in postmodern society

I’m on the edge of glory: Feeding the reward system in the age of individualism

Papa paparazzi: Iconography and perceptions of fame

Monster ball: Identification and motivation of fans and followers

Gossip girl: The education of a cultural icon

All suggestions for additional chapters, and indeed authors, welcome.

I notice that Open Court have among their forthcoming titles "Rolling Stones and philosophy" (due to join a male-only club of artists like Bruce Springsteen and U2), so they are clearly catching up and might get round to the Gaga title in a few decades. My favourite title on their list of 59 books is "Woody Allen and Philosophy: You Mean My Whole Fallacy is Wrong?" (2004). The competitors at Wiley-Blackwell have Metallica as their only musical entry. Gaga apart, I really do think one of them should have covered the philosophy of Alanis Morissette by now.

Update June 2012: Open Court now list "Lady Gaga and philosophy" among their future publications, but without a date, so I'm guessing it will be 2013 before it comes out.

Update April 2015: Open Court still has it under "Forthcoming Titles: 2015 and Beyond" at the bottom of the list, now with a release date of 2017. These guys should get their priorities in order. Still no news from Blackwells.

Oh, and as bonus material, here are my random thoughts on the new album, jotted down a bit hastily after the first two or three times playing it:

Would I still enjoy this album if it had arrived in a brown cardboard sleeve and I knew nothing about the artist?
Actually, I think I would. Not all tracks are great, but there is an interesting variety and I sense the genuine artist's urge to express herself in many details. I'm not wildly excited by the first three tracks including the title track, but love the middle section starting with Judas (which I read as an attempt to recapture the glory of Bad Romance).

As someone familiar with several European languages, I find Scheiße interestingly disturbing - it mangles fragments of half a dozen languages into a meaningless but attention-catching pidgin pudding. Gets me every time. My attention tends to wander off after Bloody Mary, and come back for You and I, strangely.

Surely it's not to everybody's taste and will irritate many, but that's what art is supposed to be like. So please ignore the hype and try it with an open mind.

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