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Turn and Face the Strange Changes: In Defense of Gaga

Tuesday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that Lady Gaga will perform during the much anticipated David Bowie tribute that will air during the Grammy Awards ceremony on February 15th. Following Bowie’s death in January, a great deal of speculation arose over who would pay the most meaningful tribute to the Thin White Duke. Ultimately, Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich went with the six-time Grammy Award-winning pop star (who has performed nearly flawless tributes in the past), while many people cried foul.

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According to the New York Times, Ehrlich had spoken to a number of musicians who reached out to him in the past few weeks, “some of whom might have made sense; the vast majority didn’t.” Nevertheless, the Internet reacted begrudgingly to Gaga being given the honors, but Ehrlich defended his choice citing the time of Bowie’s death made scheduling very difficult. It’s hard to say who could ever possibly say the right goodbye to the man who radically transformed the music industry as we know it over the span of several decades. For many of Bowie’s fans from the beginning, and even his younger fans, Lady Gaga does not seem like the appropriate musician who will memorialize him at the music industry’s biggest night. To that I say, why wouldn’t she be?

Since her origins in the late 2000s, Lady Gaga has been a force to reckon with in pop music. Her debut album, The Fame (sound familiar?), was released in 2008 and rocketed Gaga into stardom and media attention. Captivated by her beyond eccentric fashion choices, audiences all over the world watched her with a watchful eye, both adoring and cringing. Her subsequent albums explored the realms of sexuality, fame, and religion, and stirred controversy left and right. Lady Gaga had become a superstar in her own right, grabbing the world’s attention visually and audibly.

lady-gaga-1024Gaga’s music is her defining feature. She cites David Bowie as one of her biggest inspirations, and it’s evident. She has taken a daring approach to her songs, which address her sex life and sexuality, self-liberation, and even religion. Her work has often been seen as taboo, much like Bowie’s. However, she has demonstrated her versatility in music styles, too, releasing an album of traditional pop duets, Cheek to Cheek, with crooner and fellow New Yorker Tony Bennett.

An icon in and of herself, Lady Gaga has received endless praise for her contributions to the music industry since the inception of her career. She has crafted brilliant music and communicated the message of personal freedom and liberation in both her lyrics and her public image. She is not only inspired by David Bowie’s music, but also his aura. What we see in Lady Gaga is not another David Bowie. Another David Bowie would not be asked to give him a farewell tribute at the Grammy Awards. While it is a rather strange change to commemorate his death at the ceremony, Gaga is Bowie’s transcendental influence living on even after his death. In choosing Lady Gaga to perform, Ken Ehrlich has chosen one of the generation’s most influential artist who would’ve never been one without Mr. Bowie.

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