How the Art of Lady Gaga Probably Means Something

This might be Lady Gaga singing a song. Image from Wikipedia. Her songs probably mean things.

At times one must dismiss the lyrics or audio visual content of a work in the mainstream media as silliness or even pandering to the masses with maybe a modicum of meaning. Such is the case with many a song on the radio during these confused times. Academic consensus has fortunately determined that anything by George Strait fits into this category, as do the songs “Happy Birthday” and “Amazing Grace.”

What is less clear is where the songs of the venerable artist Lady Gaga stand. It is the assertion of this article that the work of Lady Gaga most probably means something.

Consider her song “The Cat (The Fame Remix)”

Cats, cats baby/ The cats, cats/ We live for the cats, cats baby/ The cats, cats

Thus we begin our task of establishing whether or not Lady Gaga has any meaning with this bit, and it is not hard to find meaning in this song. Notice how words are repeated, and how the meaning of the word cats disassociates from the word “cats.” Is this an exercise in the deconstruction of the very idea of semantics? If so, it is a genius move, and it is doubtful that it has anything to do with the rest of the song’s association with cats and the luxury of Hollywood lifestyle. No, Lady Gaga’s lyrics here certainly mean something.

A similar case can be made with the song, “Alejandro.”

She’s not broken/ She’s just a baby./ But her boyfriend’s like a dad, just like a dad./ and all those flames that burned before him./ Now he’s gonna fight your fight, gonna cool the bad.

Now few would venture that these lyrics make even the least bit of sense. Something about fire, something about fighting, something about dads, and something about boyfriends. Brave is the intrepid explorer who would dare search out meaning in such a forbidding jungle. But we must. Notice how there are several words that start with “F” and only one that starts with “C.” Here we might begin to decipher the song. The “F” may be a cunning reference to “Foucault” and the “C” a reference to “conservativism” as a foil to the great post-modern Nietzschean. From there the song pretty well explains itself.

And finally we take her song, featuring Beyonce, another enigma, called “Telephone.”

Stop callin’, stop callin’,/ I don’t wanna think anymore!/ I left my hand and my heart on the dance floor./ Stop callin’, stop callin’,/ I don’t wanna talk anymore!/ I left my hand and my heart on the dance floor.

What can one do but fall down and declare the cause lost with this song? One would think that the war for finding meaning in Lady Gaga’s songs is ended with this most decisive battle. There are references to anatomy, to “callin'” to rhythmic posturing with the word “dance” and even to architectural allusions with the word “floor.” Yet what we must realize is that for such an insightful thinker as Lady Gaga is, we can conclude that even this song has meaning, something that will inspire future generations to search their very hearts and souls, to unpack for years to come, even though we dare not try now, we put our trust and faith in the idea that Lady Gaga’s songs have meaning.

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Greek Philsophers Sing for American Idol (Part 3: Aristotle)

Aristotle, an American Idol contestant. Image from Wikipedia.

Ryan Seacrest: “And now we’re down to our final contestant for the night. This philosopher has worked tirelessly under the shadow of both Plato and Socrates who have gone before him, but he has his own ideas and, as we will see, the judges have praised him for his own sound. Ladies and gentlemen, Aristotle!”

[Aristotle sings, “The Reason” by Hoobastank]

Randy Jackson: “Not bad. A little pitchy. A little p to the itchy, but not bad. There was maybe a little more vibrato than I liked, but overall, it was a strong performance.”

Jennifer Lopez: “You’re all such great performers, and you all have such great elocution. I’m just amazed at all these performances. They’re just great.”

What Steven Tyler Meant to Say: “Aristotle, I think this song was really just meant for you to sing. It somewhat reflects your writing on ethics. ‘I’m not a perfect person.’ This simple phrase betrays that your will is not perfect and intact the Kant might suggest. There is no 19th century Divine Light that suggests all you have to do is look in your self. There is genuine change here, because you’re not a perfect person. And you also have a goal, of becoming a more loving person, a person more suited to loving the object of your love. ‘I’ve found a reason for me/to change who I used to be/a reason for all that I do/and the reason is you.’ Naturally another person cannot be your telos because you cannot be another person, but you can make your telos the person best suited to love the object of your love. Now this isn’t entirely suited to your idea of man’s telos being found in the sphere of the intellect, but you do have to sacrifice something to popular appeal, even if it gives you a more pragmatist tone.

“The song also suggests that knowledge and wisdom lead to this teleological development. ‘I continue learning,’ you sing. It’s phronesis if there ever was any. Overall, great job.”

What Steven Tyler Did Say: “You know, sometimes you’ve got to follow the rainbow after the storm cloud. And that’s exactly what you did. You didn’t let butterflies get in the way. And I liked the references to phronesis.”


Greek Philosophers Sing for American Idol: (Part 2: Plato)

The judges form American Idol: Season Greek Philosophers. Far left, Steven Tyler, noted rock star and respected philosopher. Center, Jennifer Lopez. Right, Randy Jackson. Image from Wikipedia.

Ryan Seacrest: “With Socrates done for the night now we turn to one of his philosophical students for another musical performance. Ladies and gentlemen, the great Plato!”

[Plato sings, “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey]

Randy Jackson: “Dawg that was amazing. A little pitchy, but those last few notes, man, incredible. That’s a tough call, going with what you feel and singing a song that traditionally comes from pop divas. You’re like a diva, bro. Like a divo.”

Jennifer Lopez: “Randy is so right. Look at me. I’ve got goosepimples. I get them a lot. But my dermatologist tells me they’re strictly from listening to amazing music. And I love what you’re wearing. That straight laced tunic might be thousands of years old, but it looks so good on you baby. Good choice.”

What Steven Tyler Meant to Say: “Plato, people don’t give you enough credit as a serious musician. I can’t count how many times people have said that you wanted to become authoritarian in the Republic and control ballads and such because music has so much power. You at least give music the respect that it deserves. And that famous quote that people attribute to you: ‘Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song,’ I don’t know if that’s your quote, but it suits you, because on finding a song, you definitely found yours. You could’ve selected Peter, Paul and Mary’s ‘Plato’s Song,’ or Jack Johnson’s ‘Slow Down,’ or half a dozen obscure bands that make reference to your Cave. But you chose a less self-serving song and went with the more enduring part of your writings that have soaked into the cultural subconscious. I’m talking about soul mates, that many of us have a partner who once roamed the Forms with us and who we may find here on earth to return to, a spiritual other half that exists so that we really can say, ‘we belong together.’ You make the point perfectly clearer when you sing, ‘When you left I lost a part of me.’ I think I saw you tear up at that point. Many might dismiss the idea of soul mates or twin souls as comic relief from Aristophanes in The Symposium, but you really own up to it. Good job”

What Steven Tyler Actually Said: “Wow. Wow wow wow wow. Just, wow man. You just, wow. I mean really, wow.”


Greek Philosophers Sing for American Idol (Part 1: Socrates)

Some of the contestants for American Idol: Season Greek Philosophers. Image from Wikipedia

Ryan Seacrest: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen! Don’t be distracted by the enormous Coke-a-Cola Bottle swirling behind me. They’re sponsors. We like them.

Now last week we said goodbye to Epicurus and Pyrrho of Elis in an intense double elimination round. Epicurus seemed stunned, but Pyrrho seemed to say he just doesn’t care anymore and doubts the integrity of the whole system.

That was last week and now we’re down to America’s three favorite Greek Philosophers: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Let’s see what they have to offer.”

[Socrates sings “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”]

Randy Jackson: “Socrates, I knew from the first moment we met that you were going to be great, and this song proves it. It’s a gutsy move but you pulled it off. It was a little pitchy at first but you pulled it back in and really did a great job pantomiming climbing a ladder at the ‘scaled these city walls’ part.”

Jennifer Lopez: “Randy is absolutely right. You gave me chills, goosebumps, look at them. They’re all over like some sort of rash. Good job.”

What Steven Tyler Meant To Say: “Socrates, I love the way you’re always striving to follow questions to the end and leave your readers in a state of aporia. You let your

interlocutor know that there is no easy answer, and even with believing in the gods and social informed notions of justice, you ‘still haven’t found’ what you’re looking for. Brilliant. You hold true to the statement that what you’ve always said: ‘I know that I know nothing.’ Still the paragon of wisdom, Socrates.”

What Steven Tyler Actually Said: “Socrates, man. Man. You took it all out of left wing with that one, and I don’t think anyone expected it. You are the real you, man, and you’ve got to stick to it.


Ask Country Music: How Can We Fix the Federal Deficit?

Keith Urban, part of the vanguard of economic theory and practice. Image from Wikipedia

Sometimes, to understand the real opinions of real Americans, to gather the pulse of the American populace, one must put one’s ear to the chest of the United States and listen to its heartbeat. And nowhere is this heartbeat heard clearer than in the collective cultural unconsciousness expressed in country music.

To almost every question, country music has an answer, and in listening for the subliminal messages of country music we can be sure to understand the attitudes of the American people. It’s an important exercise for politicians of every stripe who want to adequately represent their constituents.

At the present moment then, we consider the question: how can we fix the federal deficit?

1) Some country artists such as Easton Corbin express a solid state of pessimism about the state of U.S. prosperity.

I could write a thousand letters
Call a hundred times a day
Or try to drown my sorrow at the bar
I could go down to the church
Get on my knees and pray
But it still won’t change the way things really are
Won’t bring you back again

Clearly what Mr. Corbin here expresses is that Western prosperity in general as already gone, and already gone to Asia, and that no amount of cultural reaction and effort can turn the tide of today’s Eastern Dynamism it “won’t bring you back again.” The well known fact is that China owns much of the United State’s trillion dollar debt. No doubt Corbin would approve of abandoning traditional free market thinking and head at American prosperity in general through real world policies a la Clyde Prestowitz and maybe even getting used to the decline of the dollar.

2) Conversely some artists such as Lady Antebellum, in the song “Need You Now” suggest that the U.S. economy should not stray too far from its guiding principles of free markets and social mobility:

It’s a quarter after one
I’m all alone
And I need you now
Said I wouldn’t call
But I’ve lost all control
And I need you now
And I don’t know how I can do without
I just need you now

If these lyrics mean anything, they mean calling on the familiar and trusted methods that have lead to the greatness of the United States and to weather the storm and trust that the manufactured prosperity of other nations through government intervention will not stand the test of time. And this should be pursued even if it hurts in the meantime.

Yes I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all

It’s a sentiment that those at the right leaning RealClearPolitics.com believe in, suggesting that the debt ceiling will go up and all will go on as usual. We call on our old lovers, as the country song says.

3) Finally, country music seems to veer further from both the pessimism of Corbin and the complacency of Lady Antebellum. Keith Urban, in the song’Til Summer Comes Along, suggests prosperity will return, using the metaphor of a girl who may come back with the seasons.

You had to go, I understand
But you swore that you’d be back again
And so I’m frozen in this town
‘Til summer comes around

In the meantime, hard work, budget cuts, maybe even higher taxes will be necessary to ensure that we are ready to receive our economic lover.

I grease the gears, fix the lights, tighten bolts,
Straighten the tracks
And I count the days til you just might come back

It is such hard work that the U.S. populace in general will need to aspire to if it wishes to maintain its unique place as a world leader in post-modern history.


The Poisons of Pixar: The Toy Story Trilogy

A logo for the destruction of friendship, from Wikipedia

The Disney Corporation’s most noxious entertainment has only come into existence within the past 16 years. The giant money making machine slowly poisons our children. And it poisons them with Pixar.

Our expose against Pixar may well begin with the first, foremost and most iconic production: Toy Story.

One may think that the computer animating organization’s flagship product, Toy Story, is typical of the group and therefore harmless, that it is a story about friendship told through the clever and magical interaction of children’s toys. It is typical, but it is far from harmless.

What happens to friendship when children grow up? Does Toy Story not teach that all of the lessons of friendship are but instruments of the imagination, that they can be put away when one grows older? Does Toy Story not teach that friendship itself is nothing but pretend? Does Toy Story not teach that friendship only exists for the consumer and those who can afford the Mr. Potato Heads and astronaut action figures which roam across the screen? One may suggest that the friendship of the toys amongst themselves in the movie are meant to be the model friendships, and not the friendship of the toy owner Andy and his toys.

Yet in the song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” it is the toy Woody’s friendship with the boy Andy that is glamorized. And does anyone ever enquire as to where Andy’s human friends are? Far from a affirming the importance of friendship, among the highest forms of social good according to Aristotle, Toy Story turns friendship into a consumer good, a product, available to the rich alone. Karl Marx’s warnings go unheeded, and yet another intangible good is fixed with a price tag.

This veneration of a commercial product as leading to happiness is further affirmed in Toy Story 2. The toy collector who removes Woody from a garage sale is vilified, even when the toy collector promises glory and the betterment of the world by putting Woody and the toys that go along with Woody as a part of a collection to a toy museum in Japan. The end of the movie even relishes in the toy collector’s financial woes after he is unable to complete the transaction with the Japanese museum. It’s a subtle attack on those who would work for the greater good, and an attack on Japanese culture for sure.

And finally, in Toy Story 3, the vicious cycle continues, with the toys going to another owner in the end, ensnaring the unwitting child in materialism, consumerism, and a generally friendless existence until college, if the new owner follows in Andy’s footsteps. They are dangerous footsteps to follow, and parents should take care to make sure their children stay far from them and avoid the perils that Pixar promotes.


Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” An Existential Mandate

From Wikipedia

Forget You – Cee-Lo Green’s catchy tune, submerges the listener in a refreshing pool of motown bliss. That is evident. But what the Top 40 charts cannot disguise is the central cry of the song.

It is a call to exercise our full power of volition, to cast off social attachments, to harness the will to power and will to truth through the will to good music and literally forget anything that would stand in our path to authenticity.

The song itself speaks of a girl who will have nothing to do with the singer because the singer is not rich. The singer is not powerful. The singer is not famous. By now, the singer is probably all three of those things, but the message remains. There is an obstacle, and what the singer proposes to do to over come it is literally, to forget it.

Can there be a harsher insult, than to act and live as though the problem never existed. The entirety of the work of Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” could be examined in this light, where the existential hero must not only push existence up the hill forever, only to have it rolled down again, but he must push forever even forgetfulness of existence up the hill, even though life constantly gives us reminders that the great boulder is there, maybe in the form of the aforementioned ex calling to get her stuff back.

But no! We forget her.

Camus is not the only existential writer who has something to say in this matter. Miguel de Unamuno, the famed Spanish existentialist, has written in “Abel Sanchez” of the theme of envy, taking on the classic story of Cain and Abel, and the Cain character in the book finally dies bitterly, and it is a bitterness that comes as a result of not being able to forget the death of the brother who had it all. Unamuno’s Cain could not forget the object of his envy.

From Wikipedia

Thus it is that Cee-Lo Green tackles Unamuno’s existential dilema with the harsh, at once destructive and creative words: Forget you!

That is the cure the singer of Cee-Lo Green’s song proposes when he cannot overcome his competitor, the Xbox to his Atari, because the other guy has more money.

Consider also the play “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sarte. A group of dead people are in a room which is hell. It is the very presence of other people, people judging other people, that makes hell what it is. The only relief any characters experience is in forgetfulness, as in when the dead people realize that the living have forgotten them. Yet the people in hell are not able to forget those they are with. They do not have the strength, the Nietzschean power of will, to do what the singer does when confronted with his gold digging ex: to Forget You!

To those familiar with the so-called uncensored version of the song, which switches a different “F” You for the one discussed above. Yet a clear-headed examination, as done above is that the words “Forget You” merit more censorship than the other. In one, mere contempt is expressed, in the other, a call for existential prowess deserving of the Übermensch. It is a message that one would do well not to forget.