[Hype Hype Hooray] “Did Lady Gaga Jump The Shark?” and Other Questions She Should Be Asking Her Reflection in the Morning

Every [two weeks?] Jamie Hale takes a long, hard look at the music industry and the blog scene that feeds it. Here, he releases those findings and makes snarky, sarcastic remarks. Admittedly, both Jamie and Knox Road are a part of this scene. So sue us.

I heard this year’s Video Music Awards gave MTV their best ratings EVER. More people watched the channel the other night than have ever watched it at another singular moment. And for the entire broadcast, superstar Lady Gaga, arguably the biggest artist of the day, was dressed as a man named Joe Calderone. Good grief.

I didn’t actually watch the VMAs because I don’t have cable and, to be frank, I don’t care about them at all. But a headline over at Gawker caught my attention the following day. It read: “Did Lady Gaga Jump the Shark at the VMAs?” For those unaware of the pop culture shark-jumping phenomenon, it refers to a moment during which a TV show, actor, musician or anybody popular completely ruins their career forever. It’s a Happy Days reference.

So the question is whether or not Lady Gaga single-handedly ruined her career with this ridiculous Joe Calderone incident the other night. In the short term? Sort of. In the long-term? No. To find out what’s really going on, let’s take a look back into Lady Gaga’s recent, albeit illustrious career.

Lady Gaga’s quick rise to fame began with the release of her debut album, The Fame, in August 2008. That album was really good! It featured some of the most notable dance hits of the decade like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Paparazzi,” and “LoveGame.” You can’t take any of that away from the woman.

She followed up her album just a year later with The Fame Monster. The record is supposedly made up of the material left off The Fame and is technically considered just an EP, but with songs like “Bad Romance,” “Alejandro” and even “Telephone,” it certainly feels like a full-length. Fine! A two-album opus of this brand of glitzy, dramatic and surprisingly well-written pop music!

It was at this time that Lady Gaga made a terrible misstep. What she could have done was take a couple years off, reinvent herself entirely (like we all know she likes to do) and come out with something new. It won’t matter if she spends a couple years out of the spotlight if she comes out with something great and inventive.

Instead, she spent the rest of 2009 and all of 2010 touring, releasing singles and being consistently weird. Would her fans sustain a constant onslaught of Gaga? Didn’t her career, and the world really, need a break? Lady Gaga boldly refused to step down. This year saw the release of Born This Way, officially her sophomore full-length release. The title track is a fine single, but it and the rest of the album pale in comparison to her earlier work. It’s fine for what she’s doing, but it’s the same stuff she’s always had and it’s getting old fast.

What it comes down to, and I’m speaking here as a music critic, is her refusal to be innovative past square one. Sure, she dresses in meats and rides in eggs or whatever, but she’s still a huge pop musician who needs to make fresh music to survive. Fans can get old of an artist’s antics if they are everywhere always and the artist doesn’t just take a break for a year or two.*

So the question was did Lady Gaga jump the shark at the VMAs? As I said, the short-term answer is sort of–she certainly has crossed the line from intriguing to annoying in the eyes of many people. But this incident won’t ruin her completely. She’s bound to jump the shark at some point in the near future, but her stunt at the VMAs isn’t enough to turn off millions of hardcore fans.

That said, I have trouble envisioning Lady Gaga with the same kind of stardom ten years from now if she stays on this track. People have very short attention spans these days, and they don’t like being bored. She can still hang onto her career with some well-needed rest and reinvention, but this Joe Calderone business? Good grief.

*I realize that Lady Gaga might be unrelenting in her costumes, touring and recording as some sort of commentary on the nature of pop music, but she would be forgetting that 90 percent of her fans don’t listen to her music for a greater message. Is it pressure from her label? It’s also possible, although my understanding was that her “thing” was being independent of corporate pressure. Could her career be one big corporate lie? I’m not ruling it out.

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