I was a little hesitant to post my thoughts on this because on blogs, the rules of conversation often seem much like those of dinner parties: don’t talk about money, politics or religion, and you’ll be fine. Considering the last time I talked about the latter I almost didn’t have a wedding, I’ve learned to tread carefully around the subject: but I’m also torn, because I’m such a strong advocate for being able to have a voice as long as your intention is never to hurt anyone. Which mine has never been. I was talking with a good friend of mine lately about the phenomenon of cyber-bullying, and he framed it brilliantly: the risk of putting yourself out there is that someone may hear you. Should the fact that no one can please everyone stifle your freedom of expression? Quite the opposite – there will always be naysayers, but you can’t allow others to control your life when in your heart, you know your intent is fundamentally positive.
So. Religion, hmm? The reason I’m posting this today is that something has happened in the world of pop culture that has me fascinated. It’s Easter weekend this week, and Lady Gaga has released a single with the lyrics “I’m in love with Judas” chanted repeatedly over a thumping techno beat. The reaction from religious folks across the globe has obviously been negative, claiming she’s merely attention-seeking and trying to create controversy. In her music video for Alejandro, she dresses as a nun and swallows a rosary. In Judas, she refers to herself as a “holy fool,” a “fame hooker, a prostitute wench who vomits her mind”. It’s not surprising speakers from religious groups are up in arms. “Because of her fame and the influence she has with young people, one would think that she’d learn to back off”, says Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, claiming her release of the single at the start of Holy Week is just “one more example of her ethics, choosing to stick it to the Catholics again.” But are people even bothering to read the lyrics? Are they simply conveniently forgetting that the majority of poems, works of literature, and most definitely songs use metaphors to illustrate a point?
To me, it’s not an attack on religion at all. Gaga has stated publicly that she is a believer (not that it should matter), and her last hit rocketed to the top of international charts with references to “capital H-i-m” throughout verses, along with the line “I’m beautiful in my way, because God makes no mistakes” sung proudly throughout choruses. I think Judas is simply using metaphor to make a record about falling in love with the wrong person – a subject people have been singing about for decades. “I wanna love you, but something’s pulling me away from you; Jesus is my virtue, and Judas is the demon I cling to…” How is this a deliberate attack on the church? I don’t see how it could be anything other than honest. It tells of knowing what the right course of action is but struggling to let go of something or someone you know is a bad influence. And haven’t we all been in that situation at one time or another? Gaga’s creative director for the controversial video (out next week) has spoken up, saying that the Catholic Church shouldn’t be up in arms, since its message is anything but blasphemous. “I will tell you now, first off, I’m Christian, and my career is evidence of God in my life, and I think that most people are already thinking about Gaga and blasphemy and they’re premeditating the approach. I think they’ll be very shocked to find out how huge and really groundbreaking the message is, and how freeing the message is for all the right reasons.” Not forgetting that this all happened in the eighties already – I’m sure Madonna’s music video portraying a black Jesus and people dancing around burning crosses was the subject of just as much speculation then as Lady Gaga’s hit is today. And that didn’t stop her becoming one of the most successful artists of all time.
I’m not the biggest fan of pop music, but I have to give respect to anyone who breaks down the walls of what’s considered typically beautiful, who uses their fame to stand up for the underdogs, who fights against prejudice, and who isn’t afraid to have their voice heard. People stifle their own thoughts all the time, in fame, in life, and even here across the blogosphere. They keep their opinions to themselves and go along with the masses for fear of how other people will react. Throughout history, if nobody had spoken up, half of us would still probably be deprived of the right to vote, an education, or a voice. As a good friend reminded me recently, “you’ve got to take a stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” People really need to stop finding fault so easily, and hand it to those that actually have the guts to speak up once in a while. I love the verse in Judas where she pretty much says “if you don’t like what I have to say, nobody’s making you listen”. Maybe because I’ve so often wondered the same thing about Internet trolls. 🙂
Ultimately, Lady Gaga has inspired a generation to embrace being different, and has stood up for all sorts of oppressed minorities, helping people who were once afraid to be who they were become proud and comfortable in their own skin. I think this is a great pop song, making intelligent use of metaphor to sing about a subject that’s relatable to all. It’s just as good as Bad Romance, and better than Born This Wa-hey. Enough with making mountains out of molehills, people – can’t we just stop finding fault and enjoy a decent record? But why the album cover depicts her inexplicably as half-motorcycle (I suppose quarter-motorcycle would just be silly), I’m still guessing…
What do you think? Are people just seeing what they want to see, and making an artist look bad to serve their own agendas, or do you believe the hype and think Gaga’s gone too far? I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts!