Maybe if MTV still did music videos, I would be more aware of today’s music, but my knowledge of Lady Gaga runs to photos of her more exotic outfits and a short clip from the “Bad Romance” video that runs in an Xfinity ad. When I’m working, I have MSNBC or a jazz music channel on, when I’m not popping in a DVD. When it was announced that Lady Gaga was going to do a Thanksgiving special, the jokes ran to turkey gizzard hair extensions and feather dresses. I really had no idea what to expect when we decided to see if it was still on, after a long day of cooking, eating and catching up with people we only see once a year.
Instead of the outrageous Gaga, we spent an hour and a half with Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, complete with family reminiscences and food preparation. Gone was the garish make-up and the crazy costumes. She was dressed in couture and made-up simply and elegantly.
I’ve seen people speculate that Gaga is the new Madonna or the new Michael Jackson. I beg to disagree. How about the new Barbra Streisand? Stephani Germanotta has something that Madonna and Jackson didn’t have – an ability to sift genres credibly. She mentioned having performed at the Oak Room, while dressed in classic torch singer bias-cut satin and draped in white fur, and she gave “Orange Sky” the same smoke-filled room treatment that Lena Horne had. Stephani lacks the eight-octave range of Cleo Laine, but within her range, she’s a solid talent.
Singers impress me when they don’t have to swallow their microphones. There are too many of those – the ones who have to wear headsets because they can’t project. Stephani doesn’t need that. She can lean back from piano and belt out a note Ella Fitzgerald would have been proud of.
That’s the secret, the reason she is not the new Madonna. Tastes in music will change. The “Lady Gaga” persona will fade just the way Madonna did, the way “Thriller” did – but a talented singer can shift with the tastes and survive for decades, just as Tony Bennett has. The key is how deeply attached to the money and the stadiums a singer becomes. Those who become addicted to the fame, suffer for it. Those who live for the music last their entire lives.
Stephani has a way to go as a song writer. She needs to mature in that area. As she herself pointed out, there aren’t enough lyrics to “White Christmas.” Her own compositions tend to be too much chorus and not enough lyrics. That is something I hope she can correct over time. The bones are there, in her songs, they just need more fleshing out, more Brill Building and less Beatles.
Okay, I’m impressed, and I don’t impress easily. The Very Gaga Thanksgiving was not “very Gaga” – it was an opportunity for Stephani Joanne Angelina Germanotta to step out from behind the stage persona and introduce America to the next phase of her career. At least, I hope it was.