Sunday, July 19, 2020

Kat's Korner: Ellie Goulding and Lady Gaga -- one creates, the other churns

Kat: I love The Mamas and The Papas.  But I don't want to hear a copycat group of them.  I'm saying that I don't mind hearing a group influenced by them but a group that thinks they're going to make a buck off imitating them?  Pass.  I keep thinking of that when I listen to the new albums by Lady Gaga and Ellie Goulding.

Ellie Goulding Store

Ellie is a singer-songwriter whose fourth album, BRIGHTEST BLUE, just came out.  Ellie is British and could be a sound alike of recent British female singers like the legendary Amy Winehouse and Adele or like the great Kate Nash.  Instead, she bravely paves her own road.  You can hear hints of Amy, Adele, Kate, Duff and Dolly Parton -- as well as James Blake, Joni Mitchell, Janet Jackson,  Beyonce, Jess Glynne, Cher and Clean Bandit -- among others.  These are hints, accents.  She makes them nice touches to an already well decorated sound because she's being true to her own voice.

"Love Me Like You Do" may be the best thing about any of those shades of grey -- it stood out on the soundtrack for the bad movie and it may be the Ellie song most familiar to American ears but she her previous three albums all reached platinum status in the US.  "Woman" should be a single from the new album.

"Slow Grenade," the most recent single, is also a stand out.

But it's hard to find any song that doesn't feel fresh and alive on this album.  Maybe "Tides" will be your favorite?

 It's a strong album, one you can listen to from start to finish.  Ellie grabs 101 influences and adds her own spirit and passion to the mix to come up with something truly original.

In "Power," she sings:

I'm not a material girl, everything in your world just feels like plastic
Wearing your crown, it's pulling me down
You just want the power, you're not really down for love
You just want the power

Which brings us to Lady Gaga, or as Dak-Ho mockingly likes to say Lady Ga-Gah!  

She puzzles me on so many levels.  She's never seemed real or genuine for even a moment.  Certainly not in that documentary where she wanted us to see her as real but she only came across as fake and plastique.  As Ava and C.I. observed:

"I'm not just a hole to put it in."

So sniffed Lady Gaga in her infomercial that just started airing on NETFLIX, GAGA: FIVE FEET TWO.

Watching, we longed for a Julie Brown to show up and do a spoof.

There's so much to work with.

This is a self-promotion where even Gaga's grandmother advises her not to be "maudlin."

Too bad she refused to heed the advice.

Gaga, for those who don't know, hoped the MTV awards would jump start ticket sales for her concert tour.  They did not.  Which is why, shortly after the awards, she announced she was canceling the rest of her tour.

That's only one of the many things left out in the infomercial.

Watching her talk about her wardrobe, the need to get back to basics and wear black more often, while sitting with two women and one men, is laughable.

Mainly because Gaga chooses to be topless for this -- for this outdoors segment.

She sports a serious case of Madonna envy and at one point whines that Madonna talked smack about her on TV and not to her face.

How stupid is Gaga?

Madonna said what she said on TV because she was asked about Gaga.

There was nothing pre-planned about the remarks.

Madonna thinks about Madonna.

She probably never realized how disappointing she found Gaga's music until she was asked about it -- and therefore forced to think about it.

While whining for the camera about how unfair she thinks it was for Madonna not to say whatever to her face, does Gaga ever grasp that she's doing what she's griping about?

"Do I look pathetic?" she asks at another point -- and you can practically hear the universe yell, "Yes!"

So true.

Lady Gaga has a single or two that's interesting but I'm not one of her scary, little monsters and I've never felt she's managed to make an artistic statement -- not on any album, not in A STAR IS BORN.

In scene after scene of that movie, she seemed to be playing a different character -- actually imitating a great performance by other actresses.  She didn't so much deliver a performance as offer a mash-up.

As a recording artist, she's grossly overrated. 

"She sells, Kat, she sells!"

She did.  But it's nothing unique or original.

It's ripped-off Madonna.  CHROMATICA, Gaga's latest, feels like Madonna's EROTICA with less originality.  Lady Gaga's made a career out of ripping off Madonna.  Sometimes, it's really obvious -- like how she turned Madonna's "Express Yourself" into "Born This Way" or Madonna's "Papa, Don't Preach" into "Perfect Illusion."  Sometimes, it's a little more subtle.  But I always hear it and it never strikes me as anything but cheap imitation -- the way John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown never made any lasting impact and were always destined to be seen as the cheap imitation of Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band.  

Now Lady Gaga's done better than the Beaver Brown -- they only managed one top ten hit and three more that hit the top forty while Lady Gaga's already had 21 top forty hits.  But if you pay attention to her charting, you notice not only are the albums already selling less and less but also that, if you strip away the duets, she's struggling big time on the singles chart.  It's as though everyone's been growing tired of her attempt to do Madonna drag -- at least since 2014's "G.U.Y." struggled to reach number 76 and 2015's "Til It Happens To You" only managed to reach 95.  

CHROMATICA came out in May and it's still not reached gold status.  Her last big seller was 2011's BORN THIS WAY -- even the heavily promoted soundtrack to A STAR IS BORN only managed to sell 1.148 million copies in the US.  Grasp that Barbra Streisand's A STAR IS BORN soundtrack was a double album in 1976 and offended many with it's huge price increase but still managed to sell four million copies in the year the film was playing at theaters. 

The 'new' album sounds like all the ones before but as though Gaga was either bored or tired -- or both.  When she dons her Madonna drag these days, it's with none of the glee that female impersonators offer when they're onstage honoring and celebrating Madonna.  It's as though even Gaga's grown tired of her celebrity impersonation.  

Has she grown tired of being a musical equivalent of Rich Little?

That's not even the biggest question she prompts for me.  For me, it's since she's carved out a bit of a career -- if not legacy -- by copying Madonna from the 80s and 90s, why doesn't Madonna do the same?  I mean, Madonna's music has left me cold for this decade and the one before.  I'd love for her to do a pop candy album, even as a one-off.  Just give us fans something to enjoy.  It's clear that there's an audience for bad Madonna radio pop so imagine if Madonna herself worked out some radio pop songs?  That could be something to hear.  

She hasn't though.  Gaga's rip off routine hasn't prompted that.  And maybe I should be proud of Madonna for that, for not going for the obvious move and the obvious buck?

Everything about Lady Gaga puzzles me but one thing I do know: if you check out Ellie Goulding's BRIGHTEST BLUE, you won't be disappointed.