Joe Calderone – Too Much?
It was the VMAs, and Lady Gaga was performing. She has never been the artist to just give a fun dance routine and perform the big hit. She likes to come out in eggs and to suspend her piano in mid-air. And this is the VMAs, an awards show where artists consistently try to shock and awe the public. It’s the place for anyone to make a statement, and Lady Gaga has consistently stepped up to the plate when that sort of opportunity presents itself. So everyone, quite rightly, expected something spectacular and eyebrow-raising.
What we all got was Jo Calderone, a grease monkey who was apparently recently scorned by Gaga and has not too nice things to say about her. This isn’t his first foray into the spotlight. Jo is also a male model and has appeared on the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan. He also has his own twitter feed. When Lady Gaga becomes Jo, apparently she doesn’t break character at all. During rehearsals and back stage, it is said that she would not answer to anything but Jo and stayed in her greasy disguise the whole night. That’s commitment.
As the cameras scanned the faces of a variety of celebrities in the audience during Jo’s monologue, the looks on their faces conveyed exactly the thought in my head. That thought being, “Uh…..what?” She’s said it a million times. Lady Gaga doesn’t believe herself to be a pop star, she considers herself an artist, and she feels a responsibility to the public to continue to push the envelope and keep us all on our toes. But, this…was just kind of weird. However, couldn’t that be the slogan for her entire career? The real question is was it weirdly horrible or weirdly amazing?
To be clear, this isn’t groundbreaking. She is not the first person to either create an alter ego, or to perform as that alter ego. For example, Garth Brooks became a creepy Chris Gaines, and most recently Beyonce became Sasha Fierce. It makes sense that when a hugely famous artist starts to feel like they are only expected to produce one type of music they create an alter ego that can work in a different genre without harming the personality – or the brand – they have previously created. Lady Gaga is all about glam. Her persona is all about fashion, style, outrageous hair, and thought-provoking outfits. Jo Calderone is the complete opposite.
The monologue was awkward. She was trying to do some post-modern commentary on her own stardom, mocking how overblown her celebrity has become. But it dragged on, and it felt like she was overindulging the drama nerd within. It completely mirrored a run-of-the-mill community theatre audition. That’s not what the people came to see. As evidenced by the omni-present “Woo”s emanating from the crowd, people came to hear Lady Gaga sing and so that they could dance along. It’s what she’s known for. It’s what we want. Having to listen to that monologue seemed self-indulgent on her part. She was after all, just talking about herself in the third-person.
That being said, Lady Gaga is incredibly talented. A lot of her songs are pure pop with heavy dance beats, which is great. But she is also a talented songwriter with an amazing voice. I’ve had the debate with plenty of friends who want to say that she doesn’t have any talent. I always point them directly to “Speechless” off of the “The Fame Monster” album. It’s a genuine song that is well composed and well written. The girl knows what she is doing, and the same can be said for “You and I.” It’s a good song. So, in a sense, it was great to see her stripped down and just performing a really good song. Maybe that’s the whole catch with Jo Calderone, strip away all the glam of Gaga and just focus on the music. She doesn’t have to be a fashion icon to give a memorable performance. If that’s the wake-up call she was trying to give us all, I am all for Mr. Calderone.
A lot of times with Lady Gaga though, it feels like she is forcing us all to sit through a bunch of movie theatre previews, force-feeding us her ideology. All we really want though is the music, the feature presentation.