If you don’t follow pop culture you might not know that Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are currently going head to head with their latest singles, and both are playing them at the Video Music Awards tonight in the US. I’d read about it in Time Out on Thursday and then Spotify sent an email of new music links so I decided to check the singles out for myself.
When I think about Gaga’s music I find it hard to forget M.I.A.s line that it sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza music, that is, bad, main-room, trance-inflected house. And even though M.I.A. has apparently since softened her statement by saying she loves Gaga’s music despite its retro vibe, there is no doubt that the British/Sri Lankan artist is streets ahead of both Perry and Gaga in terms of producing credible music for anyone but pure pop fans.
So I clicked on Gaga’s latest single, Applause, expecting some euphoric gym bunny tune, and that’s exactly what it is. No doubt it will grow on me a little, but I turned it off after the first chorus. In contrast, Perry’s song Roar is downbeat, with a deep, warm bassline that should lend itself to some quality remixes in any genre, from house to dnb to dubstep and others that I can no longer identify. I don’t like Roar as much as Teenage Dream but I did happily let it play through three times in a row.
Of course there is still the issue of Perry’s squeaky, bubble gum voice, which no doubt some people can’t abide. But the upward lilt of the titular line in the chorus is unexpected, and the lyrics are as inspirational as Firework. Roar is a much better song, though, as Firework (and many of Perry’s other songs) sometimes resemble Lady Gaga’s brand of paint-by-numbers dance music.
So hopefully Gaga’s album will also contain a few gems like You and I. As Elton John said, Lady Gaga is not some nobody from hicksville USA who won a singing competition; she’s a concert pianist from the Upper West Side. Her parents own an Italian restaurant and Gaga herself has been known to cook spaghetti at home, replete in Chanel.
I admire both ladies enormously and I’m glad that in this age of easy-access, disposable music, the release of two songs can still be construed as an “event”.