Lady Gaga dans la course pour être la prochaine Madonna.
Reyhan Harmanci, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Pop quiz, pop culture fans. Whom does this best describe?
Bottle blonde. Platinum-selling album(s). Gay following. Ambiguous sexuality. Ubiquitous paparazzi target. Undeniable pop savvy. Appeared on "Saturday Night Live" in October to wrestle another famous musician.
And the fashion - dear Lord, the fashion. Not something you want to try at home or outside of home or ever, really.
Did you picture Madonna, or did another image surface, perhaps of another young woman who doesn't like to wear pants?
For decades now, the media have been on a quest to anoint "the next Madonna." A quick Google search unearths more than 79,000 hits for that phrase - everyone from Rosie Perez to Rihanna has been mentioned. Madonna herself has participated in the search from time to time, while still making albums, releasing videos, bedding young models, scaring the world with the tightest quads in the music business - in general, still being Madonna. Her staged kiss with Britney Spears at a 2003 music awards show certainly signaled a contender, although Britney, sadly, proved unfit for the title. (Who knew that mental stability was in the job description to replace Madonna?)
But Lady Gaga has come closer than any past wannabes. Gaga and Madonna have much in common: Young women with Italian roots, they both abandoned regular names - Madonna Louise Ciccone and Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, respectively - in favor of trademarked monikers. They both eschew conventional looks in ambitious bids for global fame. And both have the pop music chops to make it work (check out Gaga on "Gossip Girl" Nov. 16).
Recently, it has seemed that Gaga could even out-Madonna Madonna. At the MTV Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga changed at least five times, every outfit more absurd than the last, while Madonna gave a speech in a demure black dress.
Let's examine the evidence for Gaga's supposed ability to fill those Gaultier cone-shaped bras:
Humble roots. Early footage of Madge and Gaga tells a similar story: talented (but not virtuosic) singers with pop flair ditched their brown hair and former lives to begin the climb. Gaga, born in Yonkers, N.Y., didn't have quite so far to travel physically to join lower Manhattan's club scene, but as an early video of her performing at the NYU dive bar the Bitter End (and looking for all the world like Alanis Morissette) demonstrates, she has traveled light-years fashion-wise.
Professional training. One aspect of Gaga's history that is not Madonna-esque is her vocal training. Gaga was accepted at age 17 at the Tisch School of the Arts - one of just 20 in the Clive Davis music program. From there, she caught the ear of studio exec L.A. Reid. Madonna went a different route - showed up in New York with $35 in her pocket and a background in dance. But, to be fair to Gaga, she was dropped from her label and had to remake herself in lower Manhattan's burlesque scene before she actually got her music recorded. In both cases, Madonna and Gaga show ambition as their dominant trait.
Iconic style. Pretty young things trying to make pop songs are a dime a dozen. Gaga and Madonna (Gaga obviously having Madonna as a potential model) distinguish themselves through their use of avant-garde, weird, objectionable, ugly but undeniably individual fashion. In Madonna's case, it seems that her early looks came fairly naturally to her: The Material Girl was already rocking lace gloves, kicky boots and red lipstick in her daily life. Gaga's look isn't quite as organic; she formed a fashion group - Haus of Gaga - to mold her style. Whereas millions of girls could run to the store and cut the fingers off their gloves to be like the Material Girl, you (hopefully) won't see many tweens walking around the mall in a leotard, carrying a teacup (as Gaga did on her trip to England this year). In trying to subvert conventional notions of beauty, as she describes it, Gaga might be going too far on the costume tip to be on Madonna's level of media penetration. Madonna managed to be an aspirational dresser. It's hard to imagine anyone voluntarily putting on a lace face mask and hitting the town.
Staying power. This will be the real test. Madonna is known for reinvention, her ability to dictate and then ride trends, musical and otherwise. Madonna may have put out some mediocre to bad albums lately and overdone the cosmetic enhancements, but it's hard to ever count her out. As long as the original Madonna is still making headlines, there's a good chance that the "next Madonna" is the woman herself.
Source: SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle.