I feel like this is actually pretty obvious. I know that everyone is concerned with her blatant grab at a Madonna-esque gay anthem and such, but what I realized with the ‘egg’ entrance and the constant reconfiguration of self that she goes through all the time, Lady Gaga is far more concerned with constantly garnering attention, and doing whatever is needed to keep talking about her, just like Marilyn Manson and his constant changes back when he at least pretended he was relevant.
Manson’s entire basis for existing was to, I suppose, shock people. Whether he was calling himself the Antichrist Superstar or dressing up in that female-like bodysuit for Mechanical Animals, he was less concerned with music than he was with making sure people were paying attention to him. His schtick had to evolve with each album because people grew used to it; there wasn’t much that people held on to for a long time. I mean, he did, obviously, do his best to mine all he could out of religion, but even that gradually wore off. At this point, I have no idea what he’s doing. Back when he was popular, I really didn’t know what he was doing either. I always found him to be annoying. However, one cannot deny that, at least in the beginning, he knew how to manipulate people into believing that he mattered, as well as, on multiple occasions, none of which I can document at the moment because I don’t recall them other than rather offhandedly, gave interesting interviews. In that way, I see Manson and Rob Zombie having similar attributes [although, I will now admit that I have some bizarre fascination with Rob Zombie, the musician. I really don’t like his movies, and most of the time I find him smarmy in his ‘I know horror’ bullshit, but musically, I feel like he created a new genre, Disco Metal, something wholly unoriginal in parts, but somehow totally interesting when heard: bass heavy, throbbing and repeating, just like disco, and then him doing his best Lemmy Motorhead talk-singing with totally over the top lyrical content, typically heavy, again on repetition]; I still remember Zombie being on MTV and being very pissed that he was being placed in the same interview space as the lead singer from Monster Magnet and just eviscerating the dude any chance he had, purposefully calling him the wrong name, and refusing to answer questions. It was strange, he deserved no reason to be such a pompous ass, and it was awesome to behold.
Even if you just look at their names, Gaga and Manson are eerily similar. Marilyn Manson is a mash-up of Marylin Monroe and the Manson Family, a lame attempt at some Alice Cooper gender craziness and grabbing onto a historical moment in order to shock people. Now, while Lady Gaga isn’t grabbing for shock, necessarily, it is a mash-up of inflated sense of self and history: Lady is, obviously, a title, but Gaga’s goal is not to act like a lady, but to subvert such a title, much like Manson was attempting to subvert the ‘beauty’ of Monroe by claiming the name for his own; then ‘Gaga’ comes from a Queen song, so she has grabbed from history, using the lyrics from Freddie Mercury, a wild frontman with a flamingly gay mustache, as well as the leader of a rather over-the-top band. I mean, if you think about it and ignore Wayne’s World, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is an insanely ballsy song to record for a rock band; it’s huge, epic, and, really, totally fucking nuts. Now, Gaga attaches herself to this bombasity, this crazy, over-the-top history, which, while the Manson family is crazy for an entirely different reason, is the exact same reason Marilyn Manson chose that name: the connotations create an image that cannot be ignored when considering the present person. It is a total construct designed to make the audience aware of the construct, as well as to showcase the inherent subversion taking place; one cannot be a fan without also assuming oneself as some sort of rebel.
Now the wardrobes are obvious–consider Manson’s Mechanical Animals garb again and then remember the crap that came out about Gaga being transgendered that she didn’t refute because she thought it was funny; the meat dress v. the wedding dress in the video for ‘Sweet Dreams;’ the egg entrance and the exaggeration of how long she was in it v. Manson’s weird obsession with making his eyes look all fucked up–it becomes a way for the physical appearance to be more important than anything else; the over-the-top music videos. Then move on to the perceived responsibility of creating a message: Manson’s religion obsession v. Gaga’s gay anthem: the idea itself is not what is relevant, but that having such a mission statement means it is possible to be Important, and, also, how each message is really about the Individual, how anything that holds true as group-think is dangerous, and that the individual is most important. Now, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, but in both cases I don’t see it as being an authentic mission, but, instead, something that they each realized they could capitalize on. Again, this doesn’t make either bad; in fact, it makes both of them quite intelligent and aware of what an audience will gravitate toward.
However, I think it is ridiculous to say Lady Gaga is Madonna–yes, Madonna demanded attention as well, and constantly reinvents herself in whatever way she sees fit, but Madonna also, at one point, established herself as an artist (whether or not you buy that is up to you), whereas both Gaga’s and Manson’s artistry is entirely in the construction of themselves as musicians, not in the music. As such, let go of the Madonna comparisons and allow Lady Gaga to fade away as I’m sure will happen once her shock becomes stagnant. I mean, I remember Manson was in that movie Jawbreakers, which was terrible, and there’s some random shit about women he’s dating according to Gillian’s celebrity sites, but, really, do you know what Manson is doing? I thought not.