I Hate Lady Gaga as Bowie - Am I "Rockist" or Right?

I hated Lady Gaga's David Bowie "Tribute" at the Grammy Awards this year.

I don't hate Lady Gaga. Full disclosure, I think she is a very talented vocalist and a decent musician. I admire the work she has done for LGBT inclusion. I authentically like her. This is not personal at all.

It is also fair to suggest that I could not be objective and that perhaps nobody could have done a fitting Bowie tribute that would have pleased me (Peter Murphy).

Normally, I would take a massive victory lap after being right two weeks in a row. Apparently a decent percentage of you agree with me that Maroon 5 and The Life of Pablo are not particularly entertaining (of course, it is maybe just that I understand my audience).

But to clarify, my real purpose in creating this feature was to invert the position of the critic. I wanted to be able to remain critical but share the authority for being critical with my audience. I want to remain aware that I have no special knowledge or information that makes my opinions "more" inherently valid. I know I could be (and often am) wrong.

Gaga Plays Bowie

In case you missed it, or are just a masochist, I have included the clip above.

Let me try to explain, I am not usually deeply affected by the death of people I have never met. When Bowie died, I was down for a week. Bowie was a spiritual Godfather to most of the music that I love.

For some reason, Gaga and Nile Rodgers decided to literally spend about 20 seconds on the Bowie classics that they jammed together like cards in a monte game, the minute you were starting to connect with a song they started another transition and we were into another song.

I personally "hate  the fuckin' Eagles, man" (well not really, but I do love "The Dude") but the tribute to Glen Frey at least had the good sense to let people appreciate the songs of Glen Frey. Sure, they performed less total songs, but you could emotionally connect to the songs that they chose.

Gaga also seemed to be inhabited by the ghost of a bad Elvis impersonator throughout the performance, she was performing, she was dancing (very strangely), but it didn't once remind me of Bowie. Mostly I wondered if she was suffering from a rash (I am still kind of wondering).

By way of comparison, here is Bowie at Live Aid (Live Aid was one of the most significant music events of my high school years - just seeing Bowie perform here made me mist up).

By the way, for anyone who wants to understand why Live music played live is so important, why it can make a difference, why it is an entirely different experience than listening to an album or download, please take a second to watch Freddy Mercury making 100,000 people go absolutely batshit with his presence and amazing voice. It has been 30 years since this concert and I still remember this like it was yesterday, seeing one of the biggest music crowds of all time connected to a performer in a way that I have never seen since. 

No vocal tricks, no dancers, no pyrotechnics, just a singer, a great band, and an audience creating a moment for the history books.

So I kind of hate to put this out, because I respect that Gaga sings live. I respect that she tries to create spectacle and memories with her performances. But there was NOT a memorable moment, IMHO, during her tribute to one of the most influential performers (and live performers) of all-time. I also chose that Queen performance partially because she got the name Gaga in reference to this song (supposedly her producer Rob Fusari gave her the name).

I have no doubt that Gaga is a huge Bowie fan, and maybe the responsibility or the moment was just too much for her. But, I wanted it to be at least a fraction as amazing as the man. And, let's face it, It was not. Fast song and costume switches do not make a memory. Look at the two clips by Bowie and Queen above, magnetism and vocal talent alone made both of those performances - not pageantry. 

I honestly have nothing against pageantry, especially if it adds to the quality of the performance. In this case, both the performance and the pageantry fell flat. I don't mind that Operas have costumes or that Kiss wore makeup (couldn't resist).

I also know Gaga is capable of great performances, in particular, I remember this 2009 VMA's stunner of a performance.

Time To Vote

Anyway, that is it. I am conflicted about this one, I do not (at all) want to question Gaga's devotion to Bowie at all but I do think she either dropped the ball or just came up with a terrible concept for the tribute?

At the end of the day, what is being called "Live" is changing, and not for the better IMHO. Every week it seems the networks offer some new "award" show for awards nobody knows or cares about filled almost entirely with "performances" by people who are doing nothing but dancing to backing vocal tracks (with a "live" mic that lets them say "Hello Cleveland" or whatever). 

Given that the original article that defined Rockism was written about people criticizing exactly this style of performance, I am probably being Rockist here. I just know what can happen when a performer or band reaches that special level where audience and song and performer become somehow larger than the recordings.

If you never play live, you can never reach those heights. 

Anyway, time to vote, the poll will be attached to my Twitter profile all week (@OnPirateSat).

Viva Bowie! RIP Bowie!

David Bowie, Low

David Bowie, Low

As always, you can vote by leaving a comment here or voting on the poll attached to my Twitter profile. Let me know what you think, leave a comment!