"The Sin" by Franz von Stuck, 1893.
The rise on the U.S. and World Billboard Charts of Katy Perry’s single “E.T.” finally pushed me into writing this blog. The song’s lyrics immediately bring to mind last year's hit from Lady Gaga: “Bad Romance.” (In 2010, I was immediately disturbed by the songs lyrics and the imagery in the music video.) But now, back to Perry; her song contains the lyrics: “Kiss me, kiss me / Infect me with your loving / Fill me with your poison.” I think this is a first, for a pop-song, a strange homage to alien abduction. As a side note, the alien abduction phenomena, I believe, is directly linked to forms of demonic possession, with their always overt references to sexual experimentation on humans by strange beings. Then Lady Gaga’s song goes like this: “I want your ugly / I want your disease...” The desire to be infected or possessed is all the more odd when viewed as a statement on post-AIDS epidemic morality. I am also reminded of vampirism; especially as portrayed in the old British-Hammer Studio productions of the 1960s. Christopher Lee, as Dracula, always seduced his female victims first; making them come to him. They wanted to be taken over. There was a strange reenactment of classical vampirism at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Like a succubus from the past, Madonna appeared with Brittany Spears on stage and performed a ritualistic kiss. It was almost as if a deadly spirit had been transferred from the aging sex symbol to her younger protégé; contaminating a new generation.
What I find interesting about Lady Gaga, is that the darkness or perversion of her persona and music are completely upfront. With Perry and Spears, everything is more or less sugar-coated; (Perry‘s “California Gurls” video is the penultimate example;) although “E.T.” is certainly a departure for Perry. For this reason, Perry and Spears' brand of demonology is all the more sinister. Just as the famous painting, "The Sin" by Franz von Stuck of a seemingly beautiful woman, their illusion of beauty hides the dark reality. Now, back to Lady Gaga: unlike Perry and Spears, Lady Gaga is not descended from Madonna, but from other shock-rockers like Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. But distinct from her male counterparts, who produced nothing that was not ugly, Lady Gaga is able to infuse glamour and even some beauty into her imagery. For instance, in the video for “Bad Romance” there are close-ups of Lady Gaga crying, where she almost looks beautiful. But then the video cuts to images of her nude back with bulging ribs and vertebrae. The glamour of evil is left raw and exposed. Like the vampire‘s prospective victims, you can turn away or embrace it.