Last night at Mapleton we were hosting a high school group from the local area. You can always tell when a high school group is in, rather than the dominant weekday clientele of primary schools. The volume levels are a bit higher, the tone of half the voices is lower and the movies in the hall go later and are louder. But strolling around the campus you’re also reminded of the awkwardness of adolescence, that half world between childhood and adult where we slowly feel our way towards independence.
All of a sudden parents and teachers aren’t the sole, or even most important guiding voice. The opinion of your peer circle grows in importance and so does the influence of popular culture. And at the moment there’s few artists with a hold on the teens like Lady Gaga. And last night she fired the next shot from the breech of her latest album – a single entitled Judas. She’s been pumping it for ages on Facebook, complete with scarlet cross, just in case you were in any doubt of its religious connotations.
Predictably it’s irresistibly catchy. This is all thumping beat, floating synthesizer, real nite club dance floor stuff that throws its talons into your sub conscious and crawls around for ages. And while I think there are significant differences between Lady Gaga and Madonna, it continues their parallel trajectory. First Album/Like a Virgin vs The Fame- a catchy mish mash of preppy dance tunes designed to attract attention and kick start a career. True Blue vs The Fame Monster a hellish descent into broken relationships padded out by songs advocating the kind of lifestyle that leads people there in the first place.
If Judas is any guide Gaga’s Born this Way will be her Like a Prayer moment. It’s a bit like Groundhog Day watching the Judas video recognizing that it’s cynically designed to stoke up moral outrage in the buckle of the American bible belt. Cue Lady Gaga washing the feet of Jesus with her hair extensions to mimic Madonna dancing in front of burning crosses. We’ve also got the Christ of colour and a very homoerotic moment shared between Jesus and Judas. Oh, and did I mention they’re all bikers? At least Jesus seems immune to Gaga’s seductive charms in this video, though Gaga, Jesus and Judas sharing a spa is sure to raise as many eyebrows as Madonna making out with Jesus.
I’m sure you get the picture, I’ll leave the analysis of the video, its loads of hackneyed biblical references (the disciples as riven bikie gang) to the conspiracy theorists who are convinced Gaga is a stooge for one world government (which might put her in good company with Rob Bell in the eyes of some).
So what’s it all mean for the apparently impressionable teens staying with us at the moment, who over the next few weeks will fuel its meteoric rise to Number One and will hear it wherever they go in public places and on their iPods?
Well the first point is I’m not so convinced they’re worthy of impressionable tag. Gaga might channel Madonna, but the reality is she’s treading a trail blazed now for over sixty years, since Elvis wiggled his hips to gospel music. Like a knife constantly turning in flesh, the capacity to shock these days is diminishing. And while Judas mimics the shock tactics Madonna used 22 years ago, it certainly doesn’t out do them. Sure it might be new and fresh to a generation who know Madonna as some weird old hag that used to sing in the 1980s. But I think today’s teen are getting somewhat inoculated and savvy to cheap thrills. They’ll like dancing to the song but I suspect the storm of controversy will largely pass them by – it’s aimed at making older folk gnash their teeth in a way to keep it in the news and generate sales.
(I would love to see what would happen if the cynical controversy of a video of Judas’ ilk was treated with the contempt it deserves, and stony silence from those upset by it. What if it tanked in silence, and so did the next one. Would a discipline of silence be enough to bring about a global change of tactics, where shock no longer sells? I can’t see this happening by the way, and I realize I’m also breaking the cone of silence with this blog, but anyway ……)
Take out the cheap religious iconography and this is not a song or video about Jesus, Judas or the apostles. This is really a self-centred song about Lady Gaga and her ongoing relationship woes. She also seems to contradict her message in the single Born This Way – that we ought to celebrate what we’ve got (Express Yourself anyone?) How’s this for an insight into the Lady’s struggle with her own self esteem?In the most Biblical sense I am beyond repentance Fame hooker, prostitute wench, vomits her mind
Actually, this sounds exactly like the person Jesus was accused of hanging around.
We’ll also get an insight into her jaded views on love and relationship:I’ve learned love is like a brick, you can Build a house or sink a dead body
Wow, that will have the blokes queuing up.
But the most telling line is this:I wanna love you, But something’s pulling me away from you Jesus is my virtue, Judas is the demon I cling to
Which is really just a crude way of confirming the apostle Paul’s poetic assessment of the human condition at the end of Romans 7.
“My own behaviour baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do but doing what I really loathe. In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonising situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature?”
Thankfully, unlike Gaga, Paul provides us with a solution for this torment:
“I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord. No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.”