Celebrities, Music, News, Pop Culture

M.I.A. Rips Lady GaGa a New One in New Interview

Elisabeth Dickson :: Monday, July 26th, 2010 6:30 pm

It sounds like a joke your racist grandpa tells when he’s had a few too many glasses of ‘schewitz at your seder: what do a fundamentalist Baptist minister, a Jewish comedian from Queens, an androgynous Jamaican disco queen and a Sri Lankan pop star have in common? A: Apparently, all of these people despise Lady GaGa.

M.I.A. has joined the ranks of fellow haters Jerry Seinfeld, Grace Jones, and Fred Phelps by publicly slagging on Lady GaGa in a “Time Out” interview, claiming that the 24-year old singer’s journey to stardom “[wasn't] that difficult: to go from the fucking Upper East Side to a fucking performing arts school and on to a stage at the museum of fucking wherever? That journey’s about four miles.”

Considering that M.I.A. is currently on her own “journey” promoting her third album, “Slant Slant Slant Slant Slant Slant Y Slant Slant” (or “/\/\ /\ Y /\”) , it’s easy to dismiss her anti-GaGa sentiments as a grab for headlines, a self-promotion tactic designed to pit avant-garde hipster against avant-garde hipster. And if the lukewarm reviews for her third album and a weak performance at Governor’s Island last weekend are any indication, a self-orchestrated GaGa/M.I.A. feud doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

In fact, it seems that anyone who’s anyone is publicly hating on Lady GaGa, and it seems that anyone who’s anyone has a publicity-related reason for doing so. Unsatisfied with the lack of coverage of his church’s 2009 “AIDS Kills Fags Dead” Tour, Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, who is basically the LeBron James of hatred, decided to kick it up a notch for 2010 by protesting concerts during the Monster’s Ball tour. Phelps then continued to wage war against GaGa by posting video parodies of “Poker Face” and “Telephone” on YouTube that are about eighty times as disturbing as “David After Dentist” and one-tenth as adorable. Both the videos and the protests garnered an enormous amount of press for the church, bringing Phelps one step closer to his dream of partaking in a Monroe Transfer with dreamy CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper.

Phelps is not the only celebrity who has publicly disavowed All Things GaGa: Jerry Seinfeld made headlines last month when he called GaGa “a jerk” after she was moved from the front row at Citifield to his private box for bad behavior. “You give people the finger and you get upgraded? Is that the world we’re living in now?” he told radio station WFAN (barely refraining himself from adding “What’s the deal with that?”) Disco legend Grace Jones, who first popularized GaGa’s flamboyant stage getups and avant-garde pop aesthetic, was also chugging the GaGa haterade when she told “The Guardian” in April that she “would prefer to work with someone who is more original and…not copying me.”

Now, I won’t point out that the celebrity backlash against GaGa doesn’t have merit, because in many cases it does; Lady GaGa is obviously a divisive figure, and the battle against her pantsless, tea-drinking existence was raging long before M.I.A. realized that “Bad Romance” had more hits on YouTube than “Born Free.” Moreover, the celebrity complaints against her are wide-ranging, from gripes stemming from personal experience (in Seinfeld’s case) to cries of plagiarism (Grace Jones); from jealousy over being displaced as a hipster sex symbol (M.I.A.) to vague accusations of satanism that require a level of cognitive functioning found mostly in dogs and horses (Fred Phelps).

But it’s interesting that the famous people who go on record hating Lady GaGa aren’t as famous themselves; that they’re either past the heyday of their success or currently making a bid for continued success. Seinfeld, Phelps, Jones and M.I.A. are very different people who hate GaGa for very different reasons, but they’re all attempting to comment on a phenomenon that, for whatever reason, is more relevant than themselves. “I look at Lady GaGa the way Keith Hernandez watches these kids when they pull the pocket out,” Seinfeld told WFAN. “Do you think he could understand that? He can’t understand that. That’s a new game, that’s kids.” In most of these cases, hating on GaGa is less about “hating GaGa” and more about failing to understand what she represents, what it means when she pulls the pocket out; what the enormous success of a cigarette-glasses-wearing 24-year old says about culture, and what this cigarette-glasses-wearing 24-year old says about us.

Although I admittedly have a pro-Gaga dog in the fight (or a dog in the pro-Gaga fight), I believe that what her success says about us is that we are almost ready to move past ignorance and misunderstanding, that we are almost ready to look past the blood-drenched sex and the sex-drenched blood and the beautiful dirty rich exterior to find something that transcends cultural zeitgeist and contemporary relevance and all the other buzzwords from your average Intro to Media Studies course. I believe that what GaGa’s success says about us is that we are almost ready to embrace her message of tolerance and acceptance of Little Monsters Everywhere, because if Phelps is the LeBron James of hatred, then it follows that there must also be a LeBron James of love, and I believe that pretty soon, no one will give a flying fuck if the LeBron James of love is wearing pants.

In a Tweeted response to the WBC protesters at a show in St. Louis, GaGa wrote, “Tonight love and hate met in St. Louis. And love outnumbered the hate, in poetic thousands. Hate left. But love stayed. And together, we sang.” No disrespect to M.I.A., Grace Jones or other GaGa haters, but the Monster Ball is a whole new game. And it’s one in which love outnumbers the hate, in poetic thousands, and everyone, even Fred Phelps, is invited to sing.