Lady Gaga – Forgetful Super Bowl Performance
First, I want to say that I am a big fan of Lady Gaga. I’m sure many agree she has real talent. She’s a good songwriter, has a great voice, knows how to speak to an audience, and beyond all that, is a very authentic good person with a very big heart.
What I am having trouble with these days is the seeming vapid culture in pop music where one is “entertained” for the moment (maybe) but the performance is forgotten as fast as the enjoyment of eating a piece of cotton candy.
It’s been a few weeks since the Super Bowl. Is anyone talking about Lady Gaga’s performance? How it touched them, how it meant something to them? Did anyone talk about it longer than the day after, or even the day after that? And what did they say? “Great fireworks, nice swing? Nice flip move?? Cool dancing??” It was indeed a spectacle, but to my eyes only big and lavish with absolutely no meaning or staying power—no take away–I felt no movement in my heart.
Here is someone who possesses the talent to convey real emotion, has the ability to leave us with something to think about, yet chose to eschew all of that in favor solely of the big spectacle, which seems to be the flavor of the moment for pop stars. Think about it, even after the Grammys, when it comes to pop we are drowned in who-can- top-who for the greatest spectacle. What’s worse is that afterwards we find ourselves talking about that spectacle instead of the talent — Adele being the exception to the rule.
WHAT TALENT did we see during Gaga’s Super Bowl performance? Most, if not all, of her songs were pre-recorded, so there could be no real emotion or connection with her singing to the crowd and to the millions of others watching on television. The fact that her entrance came from above dangling on cables is nothing new, her aerial moves were awkward at best (no Cirque Du Soleil breathtaking breakthroughs here), costumes, fireworks, and dancing–nothing extraordinary that we haven’t seen before, and I would argue, in many cases done more creatively and much better by others.
What we saw was someone going through the motions of lip-syncing her hit songs while trying to keep up with the fast paced show that demanded costume changes and the performer hitting her marks at the exact moments the music changed. At times it even looked like a race through one of those obstacle courses you see on the one of the new reality TV shows. Sadly, my biggest memory of the whole performance is that of the Pepsi logo in lights because of the novelty of how it was done with drones.
And then it got even worse. Directly after the performance we were transported to some sort of “newsroom” where a young gal reported on what social media was saying about Gaga’s performance–as if we needed to hear the immediate response on Twitter, etc., to somehow legitimize the so-called “great” performance.
Rule number one: If you are going for spectacle, “Go where no man has gone before,” as they say in Star Trek, and something that Lady Gaga used to excel at (remember her entrance in the egg?!). With a budget like they had for this event, some creative thinking could have gone a very long way.
Apparently Gaga was asked by the NFL not to be political. She agreed and kept her promise, which I really respect. But what about some other kinds of universal messages and/or goodwill feelings that could have been conveyed, which are so needed in the world today? When you are on a stage that big with so many people watching from around the world, you could easily offer some words of hope or encouragement, show an up-lifting video—something that would offend no one and at the same time bring us closer together as human beings and even perhaps unite us as a nation.
In a world where we seem not to be able to communicate with one another easily and often find ourselves talking past each other, the Super Bowl is a natural forum to produce something memorable, something that folks could keep in their hearts for a while, something of import.
Music has that power. Moreover, Lady Gaga possesses that power to communicate and is a person we can look to for human connection. We got a glimpse of that when she said hello to her mom and dad. I just wish she could have said hello to us all.
Eric Clapton – Time To Think About The Fans, Eric
Again, I want to underscore here that I am a huge Eric Clapton fan. So much so that when I first seriously began learning blues guitar his style was the one that moved me the most and the one that I emulated in the beginning of my journey into the blues. Those triplets that are so ingrained in his style are now a major part of my own repertoire of blues licks and phrases. He is one of my all time favorite guitar players.
How excited I was to learn that he was going to tour once again (who knows, perhaps his last) with a show that also features Jimmy Vaughn–who’s simple style I love so much, along with Gary Clark Jr.–a young, up-and-coming real blues guitar talent.
How bummed I was to learn how much the tickets cost. Just the like the Rolling Stones, Clapton has chosen to take all the money he can get his hands on leaving nothing on the table. The best seats are $500.00 or more, the next best seats (which were the ones I thought I would get) are $375.00 apiece. The “cheap” seats are in the $280 range. Can I afford to go? Yes, but honestly that’s not the point. These seats cost more than a round trip ticket to Los Angeles to visit my family! These prices are an insult to me and any other fan that isn’t a millionaire or billionaire. If I went at any of those prices, no matter how good the show was, I would be sitting there feeling very taken advantage of.
What an awful feeling–being taken advantage of by someone who you feel so connected to, someone who has meant so much in your life, someone who you truly love in a musician’s spiritual way. And as fans, that is very much how we feel about our music heroes.
The real pity here is that Clapton isn’t a totally selfish person. He gives a lot of money to various charities not to mention his own Crossroads rehab center that he funds with money brought in from his Crossroads festivals. But he is going to come off like he is taking advantage of his popularity. Streisand did the same thing—in fact, even worse.
I believe too many artists, including my faves, the Rolling Stones, have lost sight of the fans and what it means to have a real relationship with them. Further, I believe when money trumps everything else we begin to lose some of our finer qualities as human beings.
Consider Bruce Springsteen. He is an absolute religion to his fans. He could charge whatever he wants and get away with it—but he doesn’t, and he never will.
And that is because BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN RESPECTS HIS FANS. He knows that without them he is nothing—it is that magical connection between artist and fan that makes it all work. He does four-hour shows with multiple encores. When you walk out of a Bruce show you not only leave with the biggest smile on your face, you feel like you got wayyyyyyyyyy more than your money’s worth. And, that’s what makes you love him even more, and make’s you keep coming back. You don’t even think about the money, because Bruce takes that out of the equation, he doesn’t force you to have to make a choice to go to his concert or take a family vacation.
During the heyday of Pink Floyd it was the same. Now here is a band, with all that production—the lasers, movies, pyrotechnics, moving robots on stage, etc., etc., who could have asked for much more than they did for ticket prices. But they never took advantage. Because they spoke to the masses with their music, they wanted to share their music with as many people as possible. Did they want to make money? Yes, of course. In fact, they enjoyed making a lot of money—but never at the over-expense of their fans. They did it the right way, with respect. Want to make more money? Add a second show. Yes, that means more work but it also means you don’t charge triple the normal price of a seat. And here’s an inside fact that hardly anyone knows. If a laser or some other part of the production broke down in a medium size market, while most bands would wait until they traveled to a major city to get it fixed where it would be much more inexpensive, Floyd would have the parts flown in (very expensive) so that every fan would not miss one element of their show. That’s pride and a professionalism put before the almighty dollar.
When Eric Clapton first started, he discovered that everything he thought about doing had all been done before. Blues artists like Freddy King, Albert King, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, and others, had said everything there was to say, and in a most authentic way. He hoped that if went down this road that just maybe he could get lucky enough to emulate them, and do a bit of his own thing to be able to make a living playing the guitar and singing the blues.
Lo and behold he did, and moreover became one of the greatest blues guitar players ever, with a style worthy of passing on to the next generation. But the next generation must be able to get into the show to see him for it to be passed down!
I’m not saying that Eric Clapton isn’t worth the money, it’s just, where’s the priority? You can still make a ton of dough, but why not try making yourself available to everyone no matter what side of the tracks they’ve grown up on?
In fact, how’s this for a priority? How’s about you make a deal with the promoter to give up a couple rows of seats that can be won by lottery for students at key music schools in and around the city? Students can barely afford food and housing much less tickets to a show.
The arts are so important to our fabric as human beings—music is a natural part of our lives.
We must put art and the exposure to it, the sharing of it, above money, and make that a priority. And who better than the artists themselves to set the example?
© Paul Rappaport 2017
Note: Rap’s Rant is a column based solely on my opinions and does not necessarily reflect those of CDJ.