…Or ‘How to Stop Copying Madonna’s Style and Start Copying Her Marketing Skills Instead.’
In case you hadn’t noticed because you’ve been locked in a prison camp or bingeing on every new Netflix Original Series or are too busy trying to plan Miley’s intervention (or struggling to get those images out of your head), Lady Gaga’s been making a lot of news of late—none of it good.
The Mother Monster has a new album coming out, ARTPOP, and the first single, “Applause,” is a less-then-stellar critical or commercial success. The only thing getting worse notices is the video for the track, which might have worked as unintentional humor if Paula Abdul did it, or Paula Dean.
To make matters worse, Gaga’s having Twitter tantrums and tantrums over song leaks, and she tried to cheat Billboard by having fans clicking on a link that would falsely elevate the song’s status on the charts. Finally, her VMA opening number had all the pizzazz of a Bristol Palin Dancing with the Stars routine. It’s about as pretty as the sad-sap clown face she dons on the record’s cover art.
But, hey, accidents happen and music’s a tough business. Lady Gaga’s a talented artist and a devoted fan of the gay community. So instead of hating, I’m helping. Gaga’s backlash has been creeping up since the song “Born This Way” sounded vaguely re-hatched, and gets worse by the day. So, Lady Gaga, take a cue from Lady Madonna, and follow her guidelines to get your career back on track. And if all else fails, you’ve still got that disco stick!
One: Never Engage In Or Start a Public Feud, As It Will Only Backfire. Between You and I, no one really cares what happened with you and Perez Hilton (Oh, let’s add “never, ever engage in a feud with a guy who’s about as dignified as week-old Kitty Litter.”) But the hateful tweets make us want to send Mike and Carol Brady in to teach you a lesson. And Gags, Perez Hilton now looks classier than you. Lady, I want you to sit down, take an egg off, and re-read that last sentence.
Madge-Ic Act: Back in the BT (Before Twitter) ‘90s, Madonna and gal-pal Sandra Bernhard had a falling out over some Miami model slash club chick. While Bernhard turned it into a modern-day Hatfields and McCoy feud, talking trash about Madonna in interviews and her own shows, Madge kept mum. The result? Bernhard looked bitter and nasty and Madonna came across as downright classy. More recently, Elton John has made a career out of trashing M. Madonna’s response? Silence or compliments, until she finally joked about him on her MDNA tour. In 2013 Bernhard’s hardly a presence, Elton John has turned “Bitter Old Queen” into his biggest hit yet, and Madonna’s the highest paid entertainer of the year.
Two: Never Let the Critics Get the Upper Hand. Once again, G, lashing out at critics within moments of “Applause” dropping a.) Makes you seem like you care what critics think, and b.) Makes your audience realize that the reaction to your song/album has not been good before most of us have even heard it. Put your drink down, get off the club floor, and find that damn telephone, because the clue phone’s for you: We don’t care what critics think, either.
Madge-Ic Act: Madonna has never had a love affair with the critics (“Flash in the Pan,” anyone?). While Ray of Light got some of the best reviews of her career, and was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy’s, it lost to Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. (Madge got Best Pop Album instead.) Madonna told Larry King she thought Hill’s album was great, while the rest of us (or, rather, me) said, “Which album do you think people will still be talking about ten years from now?” It’s been 15 years, and Ray of Light has only grown more popular and respected with time. As for Hill? Put it this way: I had to look up how to spell her name and her miseducation worked… she’s been charged with tax evasion.
Three: Never Play the Passive-Aggressive Card: A poker face may work in song, but get real in real life. Posting a photo of Madonna pointing a gun at you on (gee, what a coincidence) her birthday and directing your comment at someone else makes Sybil seem straightforward. If you have an opinion you’d like to share, express yourself.
Madge-Ic Act: See, “Express Yourself.” And speaking of which…
Four: Never Bite the Hand That Feeds You Ideas: We’ve seen enough of these photos to last a lifetime, so we won’t continue to dwell on your second hand rose poses…
But, when 99.9 percent of the listening population, including a lot of your fans, thinks your song sounds like “Express Yourself,” don’t insult their intelligence by calling the similarities “retarded.” (Guess what? You also managed to alienate every handicapped person in the world too.)
Madge-Ic Act: Madonna has been told she imitates everyone, and some of those people haven’t been thrilled. (Marlene Dietrich called her “vulgar.”) So what gives? Well, for starters, she doesn’t deny her influences, and she showers praise on people like Debbie Harry and even her ‘80s predecessor Cyndi Lauper. So, Gags, when this happens again, throw off the bullet bra and blond ponytail and say something like “Wow! I’m so flattered. She was my idol growing up, so if I somehow channeled her while recording, I can’t think of a more amazing icon to emulate.” If you need to, lie!
Five: Don’t Just Live for the Applause, Applause, Applause: Judging by your rather erratic behavior in the past year or so, it would seem you’re going over the edge of glory. Perhaps you should invest in another hobby besides self-proclaimed “Architect of Fame” and stop paying attention to what people say about you, good or bad. Put on your best paper dress and go out for some fresh air. Do remain clothed, however, because stripping to one’s skivvies does not automatically a sex kitten make. If you’re that enamored of your own body, dance in the dark.
Madge-Ic Act: Madge stopped reading her press years ago, which frees up her time and spares her from having to learn what people actually thought about Swept Away.
Six: Don’t Try To Top Yourself. It doesn’t work for gay men, and it’s not going to work for you. When you started out, the meat dress, the bloody dress, and the bubbles were fun. But once you make a career out of shock value, no one’s shocked anymore and your unpredictable behavior becomes predictable.
Madge-Ic Act: Madonna suffered terrible backlash after her Sex book coincided with her sex-laden Erotica, in 1992. Did she make an even bolder sex statement, or did she apologize and return to her dance roots? Neither. For the first time in Madonna’s career, she did something that was unheard of… nothing. Madonna’s next album, Bedtime Stories, had no controversy, no outright dance tunes, no apologies, and no re-invention other than a few extra pounds. What did it have? The ballad “Take a Bow,” her most successful single to date.
Seven: Show, Don’t Tell: It’s the first thing you learn as a writer, and it’s the first thing you need to learn as a performer. It’s nice to have self-confidence, but telling fans that “Applause” will be “the song of the decade” is a Monster of a mistake. And it’s not the first time you’ve gone this route. Back in 2010 you were quoted as saying Born This Way would be the “greatest album of this decade.” And then the shit hit the fans. For the love of Judas, Lady, when you continue to make these statements you’re not only setting yourself up for failure, but you’re also asking people to hold you up to a standard that only Jesus Christ could fulfill. The difference? He’s been smart enough not to try for a comeback.
Madge-Ic Act: Madonna doesn’t brag about her songs, hits or otherwise. To date, she has 38 top-ten Billboard singles, more than any other artist in history (The Beatles are second, with 34). She did once say that her dad would be proud that she beat Elvis Presley’s record, but other than the occasional off-the-cuff comment, the music pretty much does the talking.
Eight: Get a Sense of Humor: I don’t know what happened, but somewhere between “Paparazzi,” and “Alejandro,” you lost the ability to laugh at yourself. When you said people compared you to Madonna because you look alike, we were laughing at you. If Perez doesn’t like you or the critics don’t like you or Madonna fans don’t like you, F*** ‘em. Speaking of which….
Madge-Ic Act: No one thought Madonna was funny when she did a “F***” Fest on David Letterman’s show in 1994—she was booed throughout and people screamed “get off.” According to later reports, Madonna wasn’t thrilled by her treatment from the talk-show host. But did that stop her from cashing in on her own bad joke? Nope: Madonna next escorted Letterman to the VMAs, and promised to behave. For Valentine’s Day, she appeared on his show again, gave him flowers, and said she’d matured and wasn’t going to say “fuck” anymore. We all laughed, with her.
Nine: Use What You Have: Lady Gaga, one of the reasons you’re so popular is that you’re a terrific singer and musician and songwriter. So why do you keep fans from getting a glimpse of what you do best? You don’t need to lip-synch, and you don’t need to pretend that, rhythm-wise, you’re the love child of Janet Jackson and Prince (it’s a bit more like Janet Reno and Prince Charles). You know what would have really impressed most VMA watchers? Had you performed solo with no “greatest hits” get-ups and no back track vocals and no apparently deep meaning, and just sang your wonderful heart out. That, my lady, would have rendered the rest of us Speechless.
There you go, Ms. G. Take my advice or leave it. But if it’s true that your next single is called “Swine,” you better act fast. I can only imagine the millions of puns and parodies you’re about to unleash on the world, all of them rhyming with “wig.”