Friday,22 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1331, (9 - 15 February 2017)
Friday,22 September, 2017
Issue 1331, (9 - 15 February 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Who wants to be called Gaga?

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta

According to linguists, “gaga” is a word of old French origin meaning “senile”, “foolish”, “demented” or “dotty”. Now who wishes to be called that?

By the 1900s the word “gaga” entered the English lexicon with a slight twist. Given a softer interpretation, it is now commonly used in the sense of “deep infatuation”, or mockingly, “mooning over”, as in “he is gaga over his bride.”  

Phonetically, the word has an ugly sound. At best it would be used to entertain a new-born baby, with senseless babble. No parent would burden or embarrass a child with such a name, but to adopt it yourself is akin to madness, unless of course it is preceded by “Lady”, as in Lady Gaga, which proves there is a method to this madness, which evades us.

No striking beauty, she made the most of everything without the slightest regard of what others think. Lady Gaga may be a polarising figure, but the public cannot get enough of her, her music, her fashion, her personae.

Invited to be the main attraction, during half-time, at the Superbowl last Sunday, 5 February, in Houston is a major honour reserved for top-of-the-line entertainers.

Lady Gaga did not disappoint. In case you are unaware, in sports this is equivalent to the Oscars in show business. To emphasise the importance of the Superbowl, 140,000 guests have travelled to Houston to attend or cover the event.

Descending from a helicopter in the middle of the field, Lady Gaga, the 70,000 plus attendants and the 111 million US viewers on TV, forgot about the game and were gaga over Gaga.

She said she decided on Lady Gaga because of its “distinctive connotation”. It is puzzling which word is distinctive.

Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, she was born to an affluent Italian yuppie-mobile tech couple Joe and Cynthia Germanotta. Little Stefani grew up in a posh apartment, equivalent to a mansion, in mid-Manhattan. Very musically inclined, as are all Italians, Stefani listened at home to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, as well as Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Madonna and the like. She won a Jazz competition at age 15.

She discovered the piano at age two, unable yet to reach the keys. Her fingers travelled mechanically over them, actually producing melodies. She loved the instrument and piano lessons followed on a daily basis. She was enrolled at the exclusive Sacred Heart Catholic School. She was admitted to the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Her extraordinary career is well grounded in a sound education.

Her talents did not go long unnoticed. Her first album “The Fame” created a sensation and quickly became number one on the pop-charts. Edging Madonna and Beyoncé, she became known as “The Queen of Pop” and within a few short years, she gave us five  albums, all leading the charts. Most distinctive is her duet album with Antonio Benedetto, better known as 92-year-old Tony Bennett, “Cheek to Cheek”. It won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Local Album, nothing less than brilliant.

Some may recall her rendition of the songs of “The Sound of Music” during last year’s Oscars. She brought the audience to their feet and tears to Julie Andrews’ cheeks.

Yes, the Lady’s greatness is real. Her violent passions can cover a whole town and her drive to express herself in the most unconventional most startling manner is one we look forward to.

But “Gaga”? An influence on modern culture, global fame, role model, self-esteem booster for her fans, needs a more appropriate name.

There is more than one version to its choice. She claims to have been inspired by a song by the rock group Queen “Radio Gaga”. Her manager Bob Fusari claims he came up with it, because her voice reminded him of the group’s lead singer Freddie Mercury, and he called her Gaga for a long time. By mere chance “Lady” showed upon his cell phone as a misspelling for “Radio”. Stefani liked it and kept it. Fusari sued for $35 million but later dropped the suit. According to The New York Post it was neither, but a product of a marketing meeting.

The name caught on and her fans took to it. The “Lady” flew with it to unreached heights, envied by all.

Her outlandish sense of fashion landed her on the best 100 fashion icons of the end of this decade, with Michael Jackson, Madonna and the Beatles by Entertainment Weekly. As of 16 January, global sales of her albums reached 27 million and singles 146 million. She is considered the best-selling musician of all time. Now that is a surprise, especially that few remember any of her songs.

The number of her awards is staggering. Did we fail to mention she won a Golden Globe for Acting? Best among them is that she is the first artist to win the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Icon Award. She is only 30.

In 2013 Time magazine picked her as one of the most influential people of the past 10 years. There is more. Since 2011, the University of South Carolina offers a course on “Lady Gaga and the Sociology Relevant Dimensions of ‘The Fame’ of Lady Gaga”, unravelling some of the most sociological relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga. Go figure.

Her greatness is so real it triumphed over her name. Still ugly. Ugh.


“The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck.”

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)      

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