Lady Gaga’s lyrics are underappreciated, eclipsed by persona

Lady Gaga’s outrageous outfits, unusual hairstyles, and complicated music videos get a lot of media attention — but her lyrics are extremely underappreciated. People probably think of dancing, drinking, and sex when they think of her songs, but her latest CD has some songs that deal with deeper themes in the lives of women, and to some extent men.

Her first CD, The Fame, admittedly was mostly surface-based songs about dancing, partying, love, sex, and fame. This is not a dig at Lady Gaga, as I love her first CD and listen to it over and over and over again. But as I listened to her latest CD, The Fame Monster, I realized that it tackled deeper themes, which are often overshadowed by the catchy, amazing beats and Gaga herself.

A few examples:

1. “Monster”

As Amanda Hess pointed out on her Washington City Paper blog, The Sexist, “Monster” is a song that directly addresses date rape. Gaga sings about a guy who looks like a “wolf in disguise” who looks oddly familiar. Though she acknowledges and consents to dancing together in the club, she shows early on in the song that she isn’t looking for a hook up:

He licked his lips/Said to me/Girl you look good enough to eat
Put his arms around me/Said “Boy now get your paws right off me”

It’s a creepy image, but it’s one many women can probably relate to — you engage in some conversation or some dancing with a guy at a bar or a club, then the creepiness level spikes and he tries to get fresh. Later, Gaga continues about how she wanted to only dance but ends up in a different situation:

I wanna Just Dance/But he took me home instead/Uh oh! There was a monster in my bed/
We french kissed on a subway train/He tore my clothes right off/
He ate my heart then he ate my brain

This stanza acknowledges that Gaga only wanted to dance but was taken — perhaps against her wishes or will, considering how it’s phrased that he took her home instead — away from the club, where her clothes were ripped off.

Although some might interpret this as intense passion, it easily seems like the “He ate my heart then he ate my brain” could be seen as very serious — she liked him enough to dance with him, so he won her over with his charm and then took advantage of her, as he “ate her brain” and traumatized her.

Of course, this is only one interpretation — just one message board about the lyrics elicits numerous responses, such as that it’s about fame, obsession, attachment to a man, and even a, um, largely endowed man. I can’t access MTV.com (where one commenter linked to her talking about it), but these all are valid given the lyrics.

Some lyrics websites also list her as saying “you little monster” in the background, which would somewhat pollute the date rape scenario because “little monster” is her affectionate name for her fans.

2. “Speechless”

“Speechless” is my favorite Lady Gaga song. I could probably watch her and Elton John’s duet on the Grammys on constant loop for the rest of my life. At first it seems like a song about a woman in love with a man who won’t commit, or spends too much time drinking, or even is abusive. Turns out the song has a deeper meaning about Gaga’s father.

She feared he wouldn’t get life-saving surgery for a heart condition — he originally didn’t want the surgery — and would also call her after drinking and make statements that left her speechless:

I can’t believe what you said to me/Last night when we were alone
You threw your hands up/Baby you gave up, you gave up

[…]

Could we fix you if you broke?/And is your punch line just a joke?

Many people have commented that she actually sings the words “Is your drunk line just a joke,” although the song does sound like she says “punch line” on the CD. “Drunk line” makes sense in the context of her own inspiration, as she is receiving drunken calls from her father and is confused about how to deal with or handle the things he is saying.

The way she says “baby” in the first stanza makes it seem like she is talking about a lover, but the person giving up is easily her father, who didn’t want the surgery and whom she viewed as simply “giving up” on life. Her fear of her father dying was so great that she exclaims that she will never talk or love again if his actions lead to his own demise.

Although Gaga has allegedly claimed this meaning as the original inspiration,  I originally thought it could be about domestic abuse (psychological and/or physical). She could easily describe a rocky relationship — arms thrown in the air, a man slurring at her, and her line “punch line” made me think of physical abuse. She constantly is trying to fix him in the song, and is so devoted that she doesn’t think she can talk or love another person the same way.

This explanation could still hold water even if the line is “drunk line,” as alcohol abuse in a relationship causes countless problems. Plus, some have attributed the lines: “Some men may follow me/But you choose ‘death and company'” to be a reference to the New York City bar “Death and Company,” as Gaga grew up in NYC. This could be a hint at a man choosing alcohol over a relationship.

Either way, it’s a beautiful song that deviates from the heavy, fast-paced dance beats of her other songs, and it honestly deals with an aspect of life — death or the fear of death — which everyone encounters.

3. “Dance in the Dark”

Gaga has been straightforward about the meaning of this song, which many women can likely relate to:

[It’s about] a girl who likes to have sex with the lights off, because she’s embarrassed about her body.

The entire topic of body issues might get lost in the beat, but it’s an important one to make — and it’s one I’m glad Gaga was straightforward about. I’m especially glad Gaga is the one to sing about it, because she is open about her sexuality — most people probably assume that with her thin frame, she isn’t at all embarrassed in bed.

Two things here: 1) Gaga was overweight growing up, and actually was bullied because of this and other physical attributes. In connection with this, 2) Weight isn’t just a physical state — it’s a mental state. It’s why people with eating disorders think they are fat when they look skeletal, and it’s why many people who undergo a dramatic weight loss — e.g. gastric bypass — still see themselves as overweight even when they are thin.

Gaga herself allegedly starves herself and has lost about 20 pounds since becoming a pop icon, so as a co-writer for “Dance in the Dark,” it’s easy to see that she can likely relate to the insecurities women feel about showing their bodies to their partners:

She looks good/But her boyfriend says she’s a mess/
She’s a mess/She’s a mess/Now the girl is stressed/
She’s a mess/She’s a mess/She’s a mess/She’s a mess

Baby loves to dance in the dark/’Cuz when he’s lookin’/
She falls apart/Baby loves to dance in the dark

This first stanza is especially important because it not only highlights how when he looks at her naked, she completely feels uncomfortable and “falls apart,” but it illustrates how this man tears this woman down. She looks good, but her boyfriend — who should be a supportive person — is telling her she doesn’t look good.

Women often rely on how men view us as the building blocks for our self-esteem, which leads us to be self-conscious inside the bedroom because men send so much negativity outside the bedroom. It’s a social commentary about how women stay with guys who are emotionally and verbally abuse about how they look:

She looks good/But her boyfriend says she’s a tramp/
She’s a tramp/She’s a vamp/But she still does her dance/
She’s a tramp/She’s a vamp/But she still kills the dance

These three songs are the songs with the best lyric/theme combination, but they are also the most underappreciated.  None of them is mainstream yet, which is a shame because merely increasing awareness and starting discussion about these topics would be great.

Lady Gaga’s songwriting ability — the ability to combine lively, creative music with engaging, catchy lyrics that hold deeper meaning — is overshadowed by her overall unusual demeanor and innovative style. In a world where pop music lately is mostly one-note of either falling in love, heartbreak or partying, these songs add much needed substance and social commentary, without sacrificing anything in return.

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One Response to “Lady Gaga’s lyrics are underappreciated, eclipsed by persona”

  1. Aaliyah Says:

    Thanks you. Lady Gaga ❤

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