I was cranky at 11:45 after spending 45 minutes in stop-and-go traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge. It seemed like everyone on Long Island was trying to push their cars into Manhattan. I prayed that some supernatural force would strike upstate lawmakers blind and replace them with legislators who know that fewer cars in Manhattan + more money for the MTA = real growth for NYC. Then I prayed to make it to Lady GaGa’s show at Terminal 5 on time.
The doors opened at 11. Three opening acts made up the bill, and I figured each one would be 15 minutes, so by the time I rolled in at 12, I was prepared to be homicidally angry, worried that I had missed her altogether. But luck was on my side. She waited for the witching hour to start the show, and I had just enough time to grab a drink and wade hip deep into the sweaty, writhing flesh pond surrounding the stage before beats started pumping out of the PA.
You may or may not know this about me, but I am not a gay man under 25 or a 16-year-old girl. That is to say, I didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. But as I told one friend, incredulous that I like Lady GaGa, it took me years to grow out of my angsty, emo youth and into a mature appreciation of bubblegum pop. It doesn’t hurt that she writes and performs her own songs, or that her songs are edgy and sexy in a way that Britney and her ilk can never be. Those girls play at kinky. Not Lady GaGa. Consider these lines from “Poker Face”: “Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun / And baby when it’s love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun.” It reminds me of Adam and the Ants’ early S&M inspired singles of the Dirk Wears White Sox era. That should not surprise, considering the New Romantics and Lady GaGa are both inspired by “Ashes to Ashes” era Bowie. All of her songs pitch that vibe, and someday I’ll do a full essay on her lyrics to show you.
Hot hot hot! It also doesn’t hurt that she’s got “it”: stage presence, wit, charm, charisma, and a hot body. I liked hearing the music on the radio, but to hear her do a version of “Poker Face” solo on the piano proves she’s miles above fakers and lip-synchers like Ashley Simpson (and Britney).
I am also a big fan because she is a native New Yorker who spent some years in the same downtown neighborhoods that I run around in. I can only kick myself now for not seeing her perform before she blew up on the radio. She is proof to me that 1) New York City is still the cultural capital of the US, and that 2) what is happening now downtown (and in Brooklyn) — Burlesquers, Jazz Agers, and The New Cool Hipsters — is the groundswell of American cultural renewal in the 21st century. Will Lady GaGa will be a Madonna for the new millennium? Or could she be the beginning of something even better?