Saturday, January 24, 2009

#8 Lady GaGa, "Poker Face"



Russian roulette is not the same without a gun
And baby when it's love if it's not rough it isn't fun

"Poker Face" has many things in it that could make my attitude toward elements of Lady GaGa songs seem inconsistent. How can I criticize the middle 8 of "Just Dance" for losing all sense of melody and then rank higher a song with verses like this? How can I hate the way "let's have some fun, this beat is sick/I wanna take a ride on your disco stick" of "Lovegame" comes across and then love the lines quoted above and a song that is, as a whole, completely full of innuendo, some clever and some not? It makes sense in my head, but I don't know that I can convincingly sell you all on what the differences are (for the record but briefly, on the first subject "Poker Face"'s verses aren't just whirring sounds and on the second subject the sound of the words is completely different and that line ends up coming across less childish than those opening lines of "Lovegame"). Maybe it helps that the backing track is just better, and everything around it benefits from that.

To engage in a not purposefully but nevertheless probably too obscure analogy, "Poker Face" is the "Brother Oh Brother" to "Just Dance"'s "Cara Mia": bearing a lot of resemblances to its more party-friendly older brother, enough to garner accusations of basically being the same song, but with a few key musical alterations that give the song an emotionally crushing edge. While "Brother Oh Brother" takes the point of view of an injured man warning another of the dangers of getting involved with a heartbreaking girl who'll take advantage of him, "Poker Face" is sung from the perspective of a woman who could quite easily be the one in "Brother Oh Brother." Still, even as Lady GaGa talks of her ability to hide what she's really thinking and feeling from some man to get at his money, even as she vamps her way through a braggadocio-filled middle 8, I can't help feeling like there's something in her tone in the chorus and in the song's slightly darker-than-usual synth backing that gives the song that extra layer, giving a sad edge to all Lady GaGa's boasts of her maneating prowess...an American and man-focused equivalent to the "And if I stop, I'm sickened, it really gets me down/So I step back into the city lights, the queen of London Town" sentiment of "Swinging London Town." As much as she has so much success in manipulating men with flirtation, sex, and fake love, the narrator's not really as in control and invulnerable as she presents herself in the song, and she knows it. After all, even in Russian roulette, there's an equal chance of either participant getting hurt. In amongst all the sleaze, hedonism, and dance-pop catchiness that is Lady GaGa, there's still time for complexity and emotion--and, contrary to what I bet the lady herself thinks, it's best done not on the piano-led ballads of The Fame but on songs like "Poker Face."

Find it on: The Fame

17 comments:

Aaron said...

Love the song (Overplayed though on radio) - Love the vid - but love LoveGame more..

I'm with you though - This dance/pop stuff is her strength - not the ballad type things and I hope she sees that when the next single flops like it's destined to!

Poster Girl said...

Aaron, you Australians are so ahead of us on the GaGa front! We're still in overplaying "Just Dance" mode. Wait, what's the next single? I should really probably know this already...

Aaron said...

Haha - Apparently - It's Eh Eh (Nothing Else To Say) - Not that it's a bad song - but it's just not a single-type track - but we'll see!

And Paul - If you're listening - Yes! I spend HEAPS on imports!!! It's probably more economical for me to move to Europe....

Concert Posters said...

Good post. I saw where she recently said that her songs were a form of escapism from the harsh economic reality. "Be one of the beautiful people, drinking Crystal in the club." The image of wealth and hedonism sells.

I recently got a couple of her posters, see them here

http://concertposter.org/lady-gag-posters/

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She's like playing
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