Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Lady Gaga a jerk and a plagiarist, or just a jerk?

The great "Weird Al" Yankovic has a devastating and effective parody of Lady Gaga, written after her latest bit of corporate tedium, "Born This Way," entitled "Perform This Way." Here is the clip:



If you're anything like me, and I hope for your sake you are, you have listened to this song about ten times today. It's probably Mr. Yankovic's best song since "White & Nerdy." It has everything you look for in a parody -- it is a biting examination of the original work, it effectively critiques the creator of that work, and the phenomenon of fakery that surrounds her.

Ms. Gaga, apparently, does not like it. On his blog, Mr. Yankovic has laid out the ordeal he went through in creating this magnificent piece that surpasses anything Ms. Gaga has ever done. He pitched the idea to Ms. Gaga's management -- she's so cutting edge she has management -- and:
We eventually got a response from the Gaga camp: she would need to “hear it” before she would approve it.
...
I was right in the middle of my Australian tour and I didn’t have a whole lot of free time, but I cranked day and night until I had a set of finished lyrics.

We send the lyrics to Lady Gaga and wait on figurative pins and needles for her to give us the go-ahead. After a few days, we get our answer: “She actually needs to hear it. Otherwise the answer is no.”
Mr. Yankovic cut short his family vacation to actually record the song so that Ms. Gaga could hear it, because he "decided [he] would faithfully jump through as many hoops as Gaga deemed necessary."

And then after sending the finished song to Ms. Gaga, she declined to give her approval for Mr. Yankovic to include the song on his latest CD. So, the egomaniac basically strung him along for weeks, and then crushed him. Because he is a basically good-natured guy:
My parodies have always fallen under what the courts call “fair use,” and this one was no different, legally allowing me to record and release it without permission. But it has always been my personal policy to get the consent of the original artist before including my parodies on any album, so of course I will respect Gaga’s wishes.
Being as he creates parody, which is protected speech, Mr. Yankovic doesn't actually need to get the permission of the "artist" he's parodying. But he does it out of respect for them. Ms. Gaga used that to mess with Mr. Yankovic.

A little later in the day, TMZ reported that Ms. Gaga "didn't reject Weird Al Yankovic":
Weird Al ripped into Gaga on his blog this morning -- claiming the egg-encased pop star strung him along for weeks while he tried to get her approval for his parody "Perform This Way" ... and ultimately rejected the proposal.

But sources extremely close to the singer tell us, "There must have been a misunderstanding because [Gaga] is in no way trying to block the release of the parody."

According to sources, "She's busy touring and hasn't heard the song yet. Her manager hasn't had a chance to play it for her yet" -- adding, "She's a huge Weird Al fan."
You will note that the "sources extremely close to the singer" told TMZ that Ms. Gaga was "in no way trying to block release of the parody." That's big of her, considering she could not in any way block the release of the parody, being as it is legally protected fair use, as Mr. Yankovic pointed out. And Mr. Yankovic had by that time already released the song on YouTube.

But Ms. Gaga looks like an even bigger jerk in all this, if she has surrounded herself with "people" who don't inform her of Mr. Yankovic's intentions, while at the same time jerking Mr. Yankovic around.

It's one thing if you don't appreciate Mr. Yankovic's unique and compelling satirical style. We all have our own taste. But if you don't want Mr. Yankovic to do a parody, at least have the courtesy to tell him that up front. Prince, for one, doesn't like Mr. Yankovic, and has never approved any of his songs for inclusion on any of Mr. Yankovic's records. It happens -- some people don't find it flattering to be the subject of such an enterprise.

And now, it appears that Ms. Gaga has given her "approval" of Mr. Yankovic's work:
Gaga’s manager has now admitted that he never forwarded my parody to Gaga – she had no idea at all. Even though we assumed that Gaga herself was the one making the decision (because, well, that’s what we were TOLD), he apparently made the decision completely on his own.

He’s sorry.

And Gaga loves the song.
Well, Ms. Gaga still looks like a jerk. Even worse, a stinker. Why would she retain the services of such a "manager"? That man is a creep who deliberately manipulated Mr. Yankovic, who was earnestly trying to accede to the wishes of a cretinous bastard who was acting, as Ms. Gaga herself might say, "retarded."

Oh, yes. Ms. Gaga used the word "retarded" to attack the claims that she might have stolen the tune for her song from Madonna's "Express Yourself." A lot of people think that Ms. Gaga's tune sounds suspiciously like Madonna's.



Madonna seems to have passive aggressively come out and said as much, herself:
For some strange reason that I can’t quite understand, Maddy seems intent on reminding us of how amazing her song Express Yourself is.
...
[M]aybe Madonna uploaded this clip in response to some of the criticism that Lady Gaga has been taking from pretty much everyone with ears that believe that her new single Born this Way sounds exactly like Madonna‘s Express Yourself.
Maybe Ms. Gaga was afraid that a parody of her song might expose its similarities to Madonna's. Then again, perhaps Ms. Gaga was doing a parody of Madonna's song -- in which case, it is protected as "fair use."

So, is Ms. Gaga a jerk and a plagiarist, or just a jerk? The answer is in Mr. Yankovic's lyrics:
I'm strange, weird, shocking, odd, bizarre
I'm Frankenstein, I'm Avatar
There's nothing too embarrassing
I'll honestly do anything
She is a publicity-seeking semi-talented, occasionally clever gimcrack, who insists she's "shocking." Anyone who is photographed giving the finger to the camera is the opposite of "shocking."

"Hope you won't think it's cliché if I go nude today"

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