By SEAN DALY
Times Pop Music Critic
For someone who considers an egg to be a viable form of transportation, Lady Gaga plays it relatively safe when it comes to her music. Such is her wackadoo aura and tabloid-teasing mischief that her songs are often considered just as "out there."
But they're not. At all.
Gaga is a populist in Salvador Dalí's clothing, a smart but straightforward musician who just happens to wear meat to awards shows.
Now, now, Little Monsters, I'm not bashing your glitter girl: Gaga's pop is catchy, clever, disco-ball fun, and her Saturday show at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa will most certainly be a hellzapoppin' spectacle of crooning, shenanigans and creative glue-gunning — and that's just the rambunctious crowd.
But let it be known that Gaga is neither daring nor excessively provocative in her primary occupation, her music nothing more than glam-slammy '80s New Wave (Missing Persons, maybe, or that creepy dude who robo-covered Puttin' on the Ritz), all made and sold with modern amenities and 'tude. It's tough to become the queen of Astro Skate when you're an avant-garde weirdo seven days a week.
Here's the truth: Even though new single Born This Way is a disappointing Madonna extract in every way — the most offensive thing might be that bad Vogue rap in the middle — I actually like most of Gaga's music. It's not challenging, but it's a darn good time.
For instance, there's no amount of cranial scouring that will ever get all the vestiges of Poker Face out of my head. Bad Romance is brilliantly layered with guttural hooks that demand future listens (including that speaking-in-tongues chant, by far the Lady's finest touch as an artist). Alejandro is loopingly beautiful in its ABBA-esque sheen. And I fully expect the album Born This Way, due in stores May 23 (and rumored to have heavy-metal touches), to be rife with imagination and delicious sonic earworms. Pop radio, a fallow landscape indeed, is a better place with Gaga in it. Seriously.
Her most innovative musical decision might be her strict creative independence — not so much what she does, but how she goes about doing it. At a time when such peers as Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney and Beyoncé all cling to the same polished hitmakers and insiders — your Dr. Lukes, your Max Martins, your Stargates, producers responsible for most of the hits on the radio — the 25-year-old Gaga has opted to make two albums and an EP with unknown artists, such as Danish songwriter-producer Jeppe Laursen.
She's not a follower, that's for sure. In an age of homogenization and artifice, Gaga pushes the boundaries just enough to come off as totally refreshing and different. Her songs may not be revolutionary, but her spirit is purely independent. And in this day and age, that's more than enough.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.