Lady Gaga Killed Pop Music In 2008, And Then Brought It Back To Life


Dance and it will be okay, maybe

Twenty-first-century pop music can be divided into two parts: Before Gaga (BG) and After Gaga (AG). The crash landing of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta's debut Lady Gaga single, "Just Dance," on April 8, 2008, exploded the pop landscape in a shimmer of glitter, hairspray, and, rather triumphantly, dance music. Nothing felt the same in the genre after Gaga's overnight success. The access fans had to their respective favorites shifted, becoming increasingly more direct; artists drove conversations around identity politics, and fans felt inspired to openly participate; the music that began dominating the Billboard Top 100 and radio waves changed. It was a seismic moment, one that set off shock waves we still feel today.

And in many ways, it started with Lady Gaga and her dance music revolution. Now, Lady Gaga was not the first pop star to introduce dance elements into her music. Kylie Minogue's album X, released in November 2007, is a clear predecessor to Gaga's sound. Both wear their Euro house influence on their sleeves and toy with sexual innuendos, a la Gaga's, "I want to take a ride on your disco stick," which isn't exactly subtle but no less delightful.

However, Minogue and, to a certain extent, Madonna, whose 2007 album Confessions on a Dance Floor is also important to the genre, weren't clued into the growing presence of social media the way Gaga was. This is doubtlessly a generational divide; both Minogue and Madonna were living legends by the time "Just Dance" came out, already enjoying massive, stable fan bases. In 2007, Britney Spears had burst the bubblegum pop days of Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, and others to bits, leaving a big question mark of what would come next. And because Britney's downfall was often blamed on the omnipresence of cameras and media in her life, it seemed counterintuitive that the next rising pop icon would embrace those things. And yet, that was exactly what happened with Lady Gaga, an artist who grew up on Madonna and Minogue and had the smarts to build a brand for the dawning social media age. After "Just Dance" came out, the landscape shifted toward the frenetic, tweetable, what-in-god's-name-is-that-person-wearing future. (I'm not saying Madonna's Hard Candy era, which kicked off mid-April 2008, was a direct result of this newfound zany pop attitude, but I'm also not saying it wasn't.)

It was then that Katy Perry, riding the wave of the problematic MySpace anthem "Ur So Gay," released the (in hindsight!) equally problematic "I Kissed A Girl." Aguilera, seeing this shift toward futuristic-leaning dance pop, released "Keeps Getting Better" and, with it, debuted a look that was all-too-similar to Lady Gaga's bleached fringe bangs and straight hair. And then Beyoncé, the only artist who could ever outperform Gaga and vice versa, debuted her alter ego Sasha Fierce, which eventually brought them together for two songs, "Telephone" and "Video Phone." 

Eventually, Kesha would break free from being just the featured voice on Flo Rida's "Right Round" and release "TiK ToK" in August 2009, just a few weeks after The Black Eyed Peas dropped what would become the song of the year, "I Gotta Feeling," an aural buffet of all the electronic dance influence charting at the time. The economic bubble had burst, and the public was reeling from its detrimental effects and desperately yearning for something, anything to escape it. The poppy dance music bumping through the radios, music that was finally wearing its Timbaland-influence proudly and climbing the newly marketable iTunes charts, is a direct result of that desire. 

At the same time, new communities were being formed online. Social media was fostering a new type of fan, the stan, and the pop stars were interacting with them, giving them content, clues, and daily updates unheard of during the early 2000s, when artist street teams were still a thing. Where pop music was once something to enjoy mostly on your own, in your car, and on the radio, 2008 saw it go mobile and proliferate into fully fledged movements online. Through all the mess happening in the adult world came a means of escape and connection for the youth. The vibes once secluded to age-restricted clubs became available to the masses and dancing became a unifying thing, as it once was during other economic down spells, like the disco-heavy '70s and electronica in the '90s. Gaga didn't do it by herself, but she gave the okay to thousands of kids to let go. So we, as a whole, did. And we've been dancing ever since.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

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hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes