Sorry, guys: The pop world belongs to Lady GaGa and Risn Murphy.
Tue Oct 21 2008
Photograph: Warwick Saint
If Lady GaGa didn’t exist, an aspiring celebutard would have to invent her. Fortunately, former LES club kid Stefania Germanotta did exactly that: Having donned a pop-art persona that simultaneously satirizes and romanticizes life in the fab lane, she not only embodies our celeb-obsessed times—she’s en route to stardom herself. GaGa had one of summer’s hottest nightlife anthems (“Just Dance”); has penned songs for Britney Spears’s and the Pussycat Dolls’ new albums; and most fittingly, appeared on the simulated reality show The Hills. So does she plan to fake it till she makes it?
“I truthfully am exactly who GaGa is,” insists the performer, 22, calling from Los Angeles while trying on outfits for her opening stint on the New Kids on the Block reunion tour. “I’m just really fascinated with pop culture, fashion, media and how Americans are so obsessed with celebrities. And when I started writing songs, I realized that was my gift—to write about celebrity and fame.”
It’s a gift that keeps on giving throughout her electrifying debut, The Fame (Interscope). On shiny, aerobic-pop gems like “Money Honey” and “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich,” GaGa flaunts her material-girl status and gets her flash on with relentlessly infectious energy. Best of all is the Gwen Stefani–esque “Paparazzi,” a cheeky paean to the paps, inspired by Lindsay, Paris and Nicole’s DUI busts a few years ago. “Did you see how these girls took these mug shots?” GaGa asks with a laugh. “They were giving you fashion and the pop-pose look. I saw them and said, ‘There’s really an art to fame.’ ”
While not yet goin’ Lohan, GaGa has practically perfected that art herself. Not only does she put on divaworthy multimedia performances, but she also truly seems to believe her own hype, constantly bragging about her innovations and comparing herself to legends like Bowie and Madonna. “But the difference between Madonna and I,” she adds matter-of-factly, “is that she reinvents herself from album to album, whereas I reinvent myself every two weeks.”
Hyperbole aside, it’s hard to deny GaGa is making a mark on the pop world. Just last month at MTV’s Video Music Awards, Christina Aguilera seemed particularly, uh, inspired by the younger diva’s fashion and choreography. “Oh my goodness, honey! You’re really going in on me!” says GaGa, laughing. “I don’t want to say she copied me and I don’t believe she did,” she demurs. “If anything, I was excited to see a big superstar doing something different.” The same, of course, could be said about GaGa.—JD
Check out videos from Lady Gaga for "Just Dance" and "Beautiful Dirty Rich" on youtube
TALES FROM THE CLOSET Murphy triest various styles on for size.
Photograph: Ewan Spencer
It’s all too easy for pop music to go horribly wrong: One underwhelming chorus and your song turns from killer to filler; one wrong accessory (or lack thereof, if we’re talking underwear), and sassy becomes skanky. For a master class in how to do it right, just look at the fabulously, stylishly sexy disco queen Róisín Murphy, who’s making her long-awaited NYC solo live debut this week.
As half of Moloko, the Irish-born, smoky-voiced vixen scored a pair of classic Eurohits with 1999’s “Sing It Back” and 2001’s “The Time Is Now”; after the group broke up, she recorded 2005’s avant-pop Ruby Blue with electronica savant Matthew Herbert. Last year, Murphy released Overpowered, an intoxicating tour through various dance-music genres, from Moroder-style electroglide to Chic-infused disco. Neither record came out in the U.S., which speaks volumes about this country’s utter inability to take female pop musicians seriously.
It doesn’t help that Murphy, 35, is so hard to peg. She knowingly winks to high art (the video for “You Know Me Better,” for instance, is a tribute to Cindy Sherman) and sneaks in experimental touches in her sleek dance-pop, but she can also be earthily goofy in a manner not usually associated with women orbiting the fashion world (her latest single is a cover of Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love,” recorded for a Gucci ad). “Subversion is a fabulous tool in any kind of performance,” Murphy suggests. “To confound is just great. And it’s very easy for a woman in a way: Doing anything outside the box for a woman is kind like, ‘Whaaat?!?’ ”
Asked about her image, the singer is quick to correct the phrasing: “Not my image as such: the image. When I get dressed to go out and I get shot by a paparazzo, I didn’t dress for that photographer,” she continues, laughing, “I was living la vida Fellini. But then you have to put your sensitive little imagination in the brutal glare of reality.”
Performers famous for engaging in this tricky balancing act between the mundane and the outlandish are often tarred with a certain label, used as both praise and a put-down. But Murphy doesn’t care—or rather, she gleefully embraces the term. “People call me a diva, and I’m quite happy to accept that I am one,” she says. “Being a diva means creating complex stories that go beyond what people are expecting. Bring it on!”—EV
Róisín Murphy plays Mansion Fri 24.
We already knew Róisín Murphy has good taste, but in case there's still some doubters out there, just look at her impeccable list of faves and icons:
Jackie Moore: “This Time Baby” (Watch on youtube)
Favorite music video
Björk: “All Is Full of love” (Watch on youtube)
“For me, the pinnacle of the art form; it has been downhill ever since.”
Most underrated style moment
Margaret Thatcher’s bouffant (Watch on youtube)
Most underrated music artist
“My Uncle Jim, pitch-perfect, band leader, player of every instrument, with a voice like thick, velvety Guinness.”
[Okay, so we couldn't find Uncle Jim on YouTube.]
Most memorable live moment
“Seeing Sonic Youth in Manchester when I was 14. I can’t describe the joy of seeing Kim Gordon moshing with the boys and stage-diving.”
(Watch on youtube)
The Night of the Hunter (Watch on youtube)
The French Connection (Watch on youtube)
Chinatown (Watch on youtube)
Dead Ringers (Watch on youtube)
Some Came Running (Watch on youtube)
Underground (Watch on youtube)
The Birds (Watch on youtube)
Lawrence of Arabia (Watch on youtube)
“Also, I love The Sopranos and The Wire as much as any movie, if not more.”
Róisín Murphy videos:
"You Know Me Better"
"Let Me Know"