Commentary: What have we learned from Lady Gaga?
This Little Monster is exhausted. Thank God Lady Gaga’s album, “Born This Way,” finally came out today. I don’t think I could have handled one more day of the endless promotion cycle Momma Monster has been on for nearly a year.
I’ve been writing about music for more than 15 years and I have never seen a promotion as exhaustive and as long as this one. The campaign began last summer when Lady Gaga debuted “U & I” on the “Today” show. Officially, the promotion started with a New Year’s Eve tweet heard around the world announcing “Born This Way’s” May 23 global release date.
We won’t know for a week or so if all of Lady Gaga’s hard work paid off (although we’ll have a pretty good idea in the next day or so of how the year’s most anticipated release is tracking). The high water mark she’s undoubtedly trying to surpass: the million copies that Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now” sold in its opening frame last fall. In the U.S. alone, word is that LG’s label, Interscope, has flooded the brick-and-mortar market with more than 2 million physical copies so there shouldn’t be any shortage issues. The entire album download is also available for 99 cents— yes, the full album—through midnight Monday on Amazon.com.
By the question is have we simply seen so much of Lady Gaga that we’ve gotten our Gagas out already? If hard work ensured sales success, she’d be selling 10 million copies in the U.S. alone and “Judas” wouldn’t have taken a nosedive at pop radio. Instead, for many of us, it feels like there’s no need to buy the record because we’re getting 24/7 Gaga-vision as it is. All we have to do is turn on our TV, go to our Twitter feed, head for our computer to play Zynga’s “Gagaville” or check out Vevo to catch all things Gaga. Or even just watch for the latest Google Chrome commercial.
One question has already been answered. Lady Gaga has likely missed her mark in the promise she made during a concert stop in Gdansk, Poland in November that “Born This Way” would be, as she declared, “the greatest album of the decade.” Reviews have ranged from glowing to moderate. Ours falls in the moderate category.
Since it’s clear that Lady Gaga is going to ride the promotion train until the wheels fall off, let’s see what we’ve observed:
*Mae West once said “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” We’d say Lady Gaga surpassed that dictum months ago. Fatigue long since set in...not for her, for us. Go on a promotional march that lasts as long as a presidential campaign, but don’t expect us to hang in there with you.
*Tuning in to see Lady Gaga appear on TV is no longer appointment TV. If you miss one performance, she’s just like a bus, there’s another one right around the corner. Having said that, clearly some folks still care as this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” was up 21% over last year’s season finale. Of course, it’s impossible to know how much of that is attributable to LG or host Justin Timberlake. She’s even on “The View,” for God’s sake.
*When Lady Gaga tweets/announce any hint of “news,” she is greatly rewarded by the media. Some of this is a byproduct of the internet age, which has created a gaping maw that demands to be fed every hour. We bloggers are complicit partners in posting every breathless update on Lady Gaga, feeding off her and each other in some big circle jerk.
*Lady Gaga may be radio-proof. First single, “Born This Way,” soared to No. 1, becoming the 1000th No. 1 in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 (Really, is there anyone else who has that kind of luck?), but second single “Judas” debuted at No 10 before betraying Lady Gaga and slipping back down the chart. Things look more promising for “The Edge of Glory,” which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but the rock track is not really in line with what Top 40 is playing right now, so it may be a struggle to continue gathering airplay steam. Therefore, Lady Gaga has certainly hedged her bets by going around radio whenever she can.
*Has Lady Gaga set the new standard for promotion? Will this become the norm? We say no. There really are no other acts right now that command this big an audience, while maintaining such a cult-like fan base. As proof, we leave you with this final word from an uber-fan. It’s hard to imagine even a Justin Bieber fanatic feeling this way.Bless the Little Monster who requested absolution from Lady Gaga today: “I’m so sorry Mother Monster that I couldn’t buy your album today. I feel as if a part of me has just died. Your music resurrects me. I promise that I will buy your album at the soonest opportunity. Love you Mother Monster.”