Unusual Names and Number One Hits

Madonna and Lady Gaga occupy colossal space in the cultural spectrum.  One is named after a saint, the other after a Queens song.  Few would question the impact these artists have had on pop music and, frankly, like Prince and others before them, their high-octane names can’t hurt their evolutionary power.  So, why can’t these women get along?   

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Both of them have been the topic of a much discussed feud.  The first one, a staple in pop culture for over 30 years.  The second one, a more ambiguous but equally explosive presence in the pop scene.  But let’s fact it: Madonna is a tough act to follow.  While Madge is the reigning Queen of Pop, there seems to be a general consensus that Lady Gaga is after her throne.  Whether a dethroning is underway or not is not the point. Their unique and explosive impact on our lives makes them kindred artistic spirits. 

Madonna is a tough act to follow because she ignited conversations many moons ago, and has continued to do so year after year. Raising awareness to hot topics like women’s rights, gay rights, political and religious freedom, and among many other things, above all, freedom to express yourself, in any way you’d like; Madonna pushed buttons.  From the start, Madonna climbed to the top of pop culture’s Pantheon and there was no argument, she was a phenomenon, she was the Queen of Pop.

Decades later, when Lady Gaga came on the scene, she was too admittedly greatly influenced by the works of the pop diva.  But there hadn’t been anything as fresh and groundbreaking as Madonna in all that time. There hadn’t been anyone willing to expose their creative insanity in order to ignite controversy, bust open taboos, and once again challenge tired social mores. 

And even though Madonna’s fan base is huge, there are new kids on the block (no pun intended) who have no concept of what the material girl has done for them, kids who don’t understand the difficult fights she was instigating.  Somehow, she made it unscathed.  But she was the first one, and perhaps that is why she was able to push the envelope every time and still come out a winner on the other side.  She was selling records and concerts, but she was also changing lives along the way.

Like Madonna, Lady Gaga aims to reach a wider audience, even though it doesn’t seem like her work translates as well.  Her approach at times too far out and on the verge of desperation, she seems to be stuck within her “monsters”, the majority of them members of the LGBT community, like me.  But she is, unquestionably, breaking new ground, blowing apart boundaries and educating an entirely new generation.  Let’s hope her monster base expands along with her message.  

Elton John greatly criticized Madonna, instigating brawls in the media.  But why?  What is the goal of this man, who did too, revolutionized thoughts and invited discussions.  Shouldn’t he know better and just let artists do what they do best, and let them continue to create thought provoking work in whatever way they please?  And I will go even further now.  If there is a feud between Madonna and Lady Gaga, shouldn’t the two of them also know better?  It’s not about who came first or who is the Queen of Pop, but it’s about their work and the message they are trying to convey.

Even though many will argue that we should not have to deal with a “message” and just be able to enjoy the music and have fun, there is still a message. The goal of these women is in great part to affect change, to make people think in a broader spectrum and to open their minds to different possibilities; each of these women in essence have proclaimed these same goals.  They talk about inclusion and acceptance of others, so why aren’t they more accepting of each other, since they are both working towards the same objectives?

Madonna will not lose her throne. Lady Gaga will eventually have to refresh and find new ways, because the regurgitation of ideas passed will get tired. Madonna has remained a staple in the cultural consciousness because she so cleverly reinvented herself and addressed topics from different perspectives.  She has kept it fresh.  Along the way, she made it possible for me and many other people I know to be who we are and to be proud and vocal about it, with no fear of consequences.  Lady Gaga’s staying power remains to be seen.  Each generation needs its muse and it is in this spirit of cultural evolution that I sincerely hope Lady Gaga has the same lasting impact on the new kids that Madonna has had on me.

There is still a long way to go in this world, but it’s greatly because of people like Madonna and Lady Gaga that we are able to evolve openly and accept each other as beautiful and flawed human beings that we are.