23 million albums and 64 million singles. Grammy awards. Voted one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2010. The young 20-something has managed to catch the eye and the ear of, not only her generation, but the world. But what exactly does Stefani Germanotta have to say to the world? What is her message? Most people look at her garish outfits or her bizarre behaviors and view her as a freak or a genius or an artist. My belief is that her performance belies what is truly at the heart of the matter. We must look beyond our reactions to her styles and look deeper at why she sings what she sings.
In our attempt to pull back the layers of this artist, I would first note that she has asked that we do this. In her 2009 hit single “Paparazzi” she sees the world fawning over her and telling her that they’re her “biggest fan” while all the while missing that she is in great danger (which she pictures variously using symbolism of a monster, illness, and a dangerous relationship). People are caught up in chasing her fame, but they fail to recognize the struggle that she has inside. Part of her bizarre outfits and crazy stage shows likely mask the personal frustrations of a girl who can’t even look herself in the mirror. She can’t have anyone see her for who she really is and so she hides herself (“Dance in the Dark”) and puts on her “Poker Face.”
As we pull back the curtain on her lyrics, we see why she remains hidden in giant eggs and meat outfits. Lady Gaga bares her soul about a number of struggles and let downs in her life. Her desire for sexual gratification has led her down a reckless and dangerous path of empty relationships. Countless songs point the listener in this direction. In “Bad Romance” she finds herself trapped in a controlling sexual relationship. In “Alejandro,” her desire to take in a healthy relationship leaves her empty and scarred. When it’s all said and done, she just keeps returning to harmful relationships as portrayed in “Monster.” This return is evidence that she has made men her “religion” in her bondage parable “Teeth.” She needs someone who can pull her out of her addiction and destructive lifestyle. She cries out for someone to “change me,” but help never comes. The ups and the downs of her romantic life and career end up leaving her in an emotional prison of sorts (“Telephone”), where she is trapped and can only attempt to find short-sighted avenues to seek revenge.
All of her frustrations put her, as described in “The Edge of Glory,” dangerously “on the edge” as she recklessly pursues something meaningful in life. She believes for an instant that she has captured something meaningful in what she describes as a “moment of truth” only to fall off the edge and back into her life of emptiness and lies. Her resolve to this is “Just Dance.” When life is a wreck and you don’t know what to do, “just dance, [it’s] gonna be okay.” In a drunken fling she gets “hosed” in order to escape the reality of her frustrated life. In stark contrast, she looks at the near-death experience of her dad and stands “Speechless.” She doesn’t know how to cope. The sadness and struggles of life have closed in on her and she sees no escape.
“I am beyond repentance,” Gaga continues in her “Judas” epic. She’s lost her moorings and is hopeless now. She knows that Jesus is still “pulling” her away from her destructive life (imagined as Judas), but she won’t give up her desire to “cling to” Judas. This, she demonstrates, is the reason for the frustrations of her life. She has given up Jesus for Judas.
The story of Lady Gaga matches the personal experience of many teens, college students, midlife crisis cases, septuagenarians, and so on. Even in the Bible we find the story of the wisest and wildest king that ever ruled Israel. He had 1,000 wives, loads of money, an impressive following, and was a total genius. Who wouldn’t want to have everything that Solomon had. He wore the best and was, no doubt, thronged by the paparazzi of his day, but in the end he passes a very similar verdict on it all as does Lady Gaga. He summarizes it like this: “everything is meaningless” (Ecc. 1:2). After talking about his attempts to find happiness in wine, wisdom, home improvement, wealth, and women (Ecc. 2:1-9) he sums up:
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Chasing the wind. What a letdown! This is the end of someone who chases anything that this life has to offer. This is what Solomon and Lady Gaga have to tell us. This is the warning shouted by those who are surrounded by fame and glory to us who ignorantly pursue what they have already achieved. Let us consider the pursuit of something eternal. None of us is beyond repentance. We can still reject our infatuation with Judas. We have all betrayed Jesus, but He will take us if we but return to Him in faith looking to Him to take the punishment for our betrayal. Only in Jesus will we find escape from the life of frustration and empty recklessness presented to us in the music of Lady Gaga.