Monday, September 27, 2010

Pop Goes His Heart

Like so many youngsters the YouTubed world over, my child has become obsessed with a certain musical phenomenon. I was slightly concerned at first, but soon realized that to fight this fandom would be impossible. A few Google searches reassured me that I am not the only parent dealing with this. However, I maintain that my situation is unique. And I'm not afraid to say it.

My toddler appreciates Lady Gaga on a much deeper level than your toddler.

It started innocently enough, with the "Bad Romance" video. One day, shortly after the video's release last November, Westley just sort of noticed the action on my laptop screen. A moment later, he wanted to "see dat again!" Then he wanted to watch it again. And again. I was pretty sure he enjoyed the video not as a couture-fueled postmodern commentary on sexism in the music industry but rather as a...ooh, pretty dancers! And a kitty!

But then, after watching "Bad Romance" 37 a few times, he studied Gaga and her dancers emerging from what are clearly white, car-roof storage containers and determined, "Day hatch out dare pods!"

I thought, Why, yes. They are "hatching" out of their "pods."

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: this was Westley's first bit of film analysis! He may not have much experience with visual media or its criticism (and tying his shoes is still a distant dream), but he can still offer up an interpretation of something he sees on a screen. An obvious interpretation, yes, but he wasn't even two at the time. My all-but-abandoned film theorist self threw a little party with 35 mm streamers. (Although I still wonder how Westley came to understand the idea of "pods" in the sci-fi/horror sense.)

That was 10 months ago. Since then, Westley has become quite familiar with the segment of the Lady Gaga canon that I've deemed suitable for toddler consumption. Some might call it a surprisingly large segment, given Gaga's penchant for taxidermy and iron underwear. But I don't have a problem with iron underwear. Taxidermy is a gray area, and violence is a separate issue all together. We don't "do" killing at our house. Rob has been known to tell Westley that a gun is a hair-dryer. But abstract, telepathic firey death seems to have been avant-gardefathered in.

Westley latched on to Lady Gaga's distinctive fashion pretty quickly. "I wuv her pwetty boots!" he half-exclaimed, half-sighed while watching Gaga's performance of "Telephone" on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. (Incidentally, Westley calls go-go boots "Gaga boots.") It wasn't long before he was inspired to create a fashion installation of his own.
Ballon Fashion
Westley Oliver, Balloon fashion, Late Spring 2010.

Ballon Fashion
Perhaps a commentary on male ego and desire in pop music?

Ballon Fashion
Pop...because of the balloons...and...never mind. (Though the shiner is a nice touch, I think. Celebrating the grotesque. Very Gagaist.)

After several months of Gaga fandom, Westley also discovered a passion for unconventional millinery.

Cone Hat

The thing that I'm sure sealed the deal, however, is all too easy to miss in the current musical climate, when practically everything on the radio - including Gaga's own ridiculously catchy singles - has some sort of synthesized hook. This girl has some serious piano chops, and my kid knows it.

While I'm not suggesting that Lady Gaga compete in the Van Cliburn Competition (although I totally want to see what she'd wear!), it doesn't surprise me that the boy who used to want to watch Olga Kern play Rachmaninoff on a daily basis would love this.

Rob claims that Westley's Lady Gaga adoration is my fault. Which it sort of is. Yes, I scour YouTube for performances that might be particularly well-danced or especially piano-intensive. And I admit that when Westley asks me to sing "Bad Romance" at bedtime (which he does most nights) I acquiesce. However, I'm not responsible for his moments of musical insight. Upon hearing Cyndi Lauper for the first time, Westley listened thoughtfully for a few seconds, then cocked his head to the side and said, "She kinda wike Wady Gaga!"

I thought, Dude, you have no idea.

Except that clearly, he does!

Over the past few months, I've started him on a steady aural diet of Elton John, David Bowie, and Queen, with some Ace of Base and Blondie thrown in for good measure. And it's starting to take, although - and I'm cringing a little as I type this - Westley still vastly, vehemently prefers the Butterfly Boucher cover of "Changes" (from the Shrek II soundtrack) to the Bowie original. He has also deemed Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" far superior to Lady Gaga's "Boys, Boys, Boys." Personally, I think it's like comparing apples to lawn darts.

I'm currently looking for a music appreciation and theory class for preschoolers. Or an experimental haberdasher in need of an apprentice.