One of the most anticipated magazine issues every year, besides the 114 that discuss whether Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston will get back together, is Time’s Person of the Year issue. The criteria, according to Wikipedia, is a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.” Now clearly Time has not always honored that, most notably when Osama bin Laden lost in 2001 (rumor has it he will never attend the awards banquet ever again) to Rudy Giuliani – which was basically the Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas of Time’s POTY. But this year I think Time can get it right.
Many people got talking when the finalists were announced – on my Facebook page LeBron James got a lot of attention (ironically people obsessing over him for the last 6 months thought it absurd that he could be a finalist). But for me the winner should be obvious.
My pick, of the numerous finalists, is Lady Gaga. Now in 2001 Time clearly feared their choice would be seen as an award, rather than as mere acknowledgment and the fear of appearing a joke may stop Time from naming Gaga, so here’s the argument for her.
First off, she won a bunch of MTV video awards and in a year without Kanye West interruptions, that makes her the biggest music story of the year.
Now technically that is basically it for her actual accomplishments this year. She is a hard working performer who has become a major force in music. But that alone would just make her a minor irritant. However, what she represents is basically the direction of our entire culture. Here’s why.
1) She has become the dominant figure on the Internet. All due respect to Mark Zuckerberg, who created the Internet’s most pervasive medium since e-mail, but Gaga dominates all of our pithy forms of communication. Her video Bad Romance is the most watched video on all of YouTube. She has the most Twitter followers on Twitter (President Obama is 5th). In other words, in a society that is increasingly turning information and entertainment into 140 character brain farts and 30 second, seizure-inducing visuals intended to keep the attention of morons, she is the Queen.
2) She takes pithy political stands. In a country that is increasingly mired in a struggle to choose the less complex answer and choice for increasingly complex problems she took the brave stand of asking for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It is nice to use your fame and clout for good social issues and I think that is a worthy cause, but for a pop star who is next in line to lead the Kingdom of Gay Dance Clubs (should Queen Brittney Spears die) I don’t think it is a particularly bold stand. But that is our politics – does it affect me (Gaga’s dancers and fans)? Is it already fairly popular or at least popular enough that I will not feel like an outcast if I join? Then Yes!
3) She could have written the anthem for the anti-Immigration movement. In a country where many people are anti-Immigrant and come out of the woodwork every election cycle, one of Gaga’s big hits of the last year was “Alejandro.” The chorus:
Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Alejandro.
I’m not your babe.
I’m not your babe, Fernando.
Don’t wanna kiss, don’t wanna touch.
Just smoke one cigarette and hush.
Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Roberto
We get it Gaga – you don’t like Latinos. Perhaps you could do a concert for the militias that patrol the border. Just don’t bring your gay dancers.
4) She is a distraction. The days of musical artists being relevant beyond the current minute are here. Unlike Madonna or Michael Jackson or the Rolling Stones or the Beatles artists today are just flashes in the pan, in part because of a lack of creativity and perhaps even more due to our lack of attention span. Madonna would take years to come out with a new album. If Lady Gaga took years to release her next album, her next album would not come out because a dozen copycats would have taken her place. Lady Gaga’s tireless effort is an acknowledgment that she, like the Justin Biebers of the world do not have staying power (at least as musical artists), both because of us, as well as themselves. Madonna could change her image over a decade. Gaga changes her image every commercial break both because we need it to stay focused and she needs to do it to stay in the spotlight. She labeled her album the Fame Monster and that is appropriate – because she is a monster and American consuming society is her Dr. Frankenstein. So her influence is technically our doing, but she should accept the recognition on behalf of our culture.
5) Bad Romance is a pretty good song. Got to give the devil her due.
Of course – if I were a betting man, I would guess that Time will go for an intellectually safe, discussion-creating choice like…