In 2010, Lady Gaga was indestructible. She ruled the charts with a string of hits like ”Telephone,” took her envelope-pushing Monster Ball Tour around the world, and continually raised the stakes for fashion photographers everywhere with her meat dress and soda-can rollers.
But in the run-up to the May 23 release of her second album, Born This Way, Gaga seems to be stumbling. (Literally: She recently wiped out on stage…twice.) Critics have snickered that ”Born This Way” ripped off Madonna’s ”Express Yourself,” and many fans were left scratching their heads over her new album art (which casts Gaga as an anthropomorphic motorcycle). Is the Lady Gaga backlash on?
It’s hard to tell, especially considering that the ”Born This Way” single sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks despite mediocre reviews. ”It’s tough to decipher what the true audience reaction is,” says Julie Pilat, music director of L.A.’s KISS radio station.
Things are also devolving on fronts that have little to do with music. In the span of a week, Gaga had to apologize for using the word retarded in an interview, was accused by ”Weird Al” Yankovic of blocking his song parody (she later gave permission), and faced protests from religious groups over the video for ”Judas” (which hasn’t even premiered yet).
Of course, the blast of bad mojo could just be the next step in Gaga’s evolution. ”Backlash doesn’t mean your career is over — it means your career has started,” says Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. ”The worst thing that could happen to Lady Gaga is if people quit paying attention.” And she’s in no danger of that.