When ‘Just Dance’ came out in April 2008, I instantly dismissed it as another average pop song sung by another inconsequential female artist. With the release of ‘Poker Face’ later that year my opinions remained unchanged. As 2008 turned into 2009 and 2009 into 2010, however, the behemoth that now is Lady Gaga has steadily risen in gestating an opinion of utmost respect.

A few Saturday’s ago, walking around the east end of London nursing some seriously sore heads, the topic of Lady Gaga was thrust upon my sorry soul by a pal and his girlfriend. The topic turned into a discussion, a discussion into a heated debate, a heated debate into a all out row and, after a pause in proceedings for a cigarette and a toilet break, an all out row into an agreement to disagree. Phew.

The argument stemmed from the perspective that Gaga is simply a highly produced puppet engaged in the business of proliferating the wares of corporate sponsors with outrage (rather than music) as the centre piece of her modus operandi.

Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, rose to prominence – and her first record deal – through the underground clubs of Manhattan’s Lower East side. With some heavy networking, a few ardent supporters and a heavy helping of motivation, Germanotta found her extroverted feet. The stage name and brand that is Lady Gaga was born.

Since then, Lady Gaga has become the biggest pop star on the planet. Paralleled with Madonna, she has been dressed by the leviathans of modern fashion, Fred Butler, Alexander McQueen, Armani to name but a few, she’s picked up 3 Brits, 2 Grammy’s and (most notably) 2 NME awards, her official channel has been viewed more than 121 million times on YouTube, she has received more column inches than pretty much any other musician over the past 12 months and has had the most heavily product placed music video in history – the accolades go on and on.

The above, however, is not in question. The argument is that she is just the front person for big business driven, brazen and contrived attempt to make money. I don’t deny the brand that is Lady Gaga is a micro-managed machine. To trot the globe to such an extent and to to publicise the brand with such fine detail across so many mediums whilst adopting such a vast array of promotional tools, takes a heavy team of savvy operators. The question is, does this make her any less of a musical talent or does the money machine behind her and the vast array of businesses, artists, designers and fellow musicians that want to work with her act as the ultimate corroboration of talent.

In answering the above, some parallels can be drawn with Shaun White – the American gold medal winning snowboarder. A child protégé on the slopes, Shaun White was adopted by Red Bull as one of their many extreme brand representatives. 6 months before his Vancouver win Red Bull, in connection with an up and coming extreme snow sports resort in Colorado, threw their might behind building Shaun his own half pipe with the idea that he’d develop a brand new move to be unveiled at the Olympic final. Red Bull promoted White and the project – code named Project X – with the finest of modern quill’s and insomuch followed brands such as Sony, Nike, Ford and countless others in the successful cross fertilisation of traditional and social media promotional campaigns, controlling White’s public statements with military precision and enthusiastically caressing the eyes and brains of potential Red Bull consumers.

In Vancouver, White unveiled the ‘Double McTwist 1260’ and won Gold.

So, he was a talent. That talent has been proliferated by big business’ need to sell carbonated soft drinks. Does this machine make him a lesser athlete? Does this machine diminish respect in his ability? I argue, no. In modern capitalist societies, the best in any arena will be adopted by marketers to sell the products of the real creative industries, manufacturers.

In a world of aggregated news, micro blogging, monolithic amounts of artistic output and short attention spans, the necessity for musicians (and brands) to constantly change has never been greater. Lady Gaga is a brand responding to the real time demands of the digital revolution. Stefani Germanotta is an icon, a very special musician and a leader in brand marketing in the digital age.

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