Frankie (womynizer) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,

The Guardian gives their 2 cents on Lady Gaga's decline

She's split from her manager, her songwriters have called her 'cheesy', and sales are down – by her usually stratospheric standards. But her Little Monsters remain as loyal as ever.

Lady Gaga, it seems, will chalk up her third No 1 album tomorrow. On the face of it, it's a triumph. Yet this may not be the continuation of an imperial phase, but the start of a new period in the career of Stefani Germanotta.

The portents for Gaga's comeback have not been encouraging. Her last tour failed to sell out, reviews of her new album, Artpop, were mixed, and its first single peaked at No 5 in the charts. On top of that, the singer had made dark comments about feeling "tormented" by the "corporate" music industry.

There have been rumblings in the media and industry that Gaga, despite having sold 24 million albums, might face a challenge to retain her level of success, and that some recent upsets could suggest that both she and the public had tired of the star known to her fans – the "Little Monsters" – as Mother Monster. Earlier this month, she parted company with her influential manager, Troy Carter, "creative differences" cited. Carter was said to have felt liberated by the break. Shortly before Artpop's release this week, the electronica duo Infected Mushroom, who contributed a song, revealed they felt "compromised" by the "cheesiness" of the result, and asked for the band's name to be removed from the credits.

Gaga, however, is not like other pop stars, and despite a shaky start – earlier this week, Artpop was outside's Amazon's top 20 sellers – the album is now heading for a No 1 debut in the album chart tomorrow, which would make it the 999th No 1 album in UK chart history. Not only that, "it will certainly be one of the top 10 fastest-selling albums of 2013 so far," said Dan Lane of the Official Charts Company. In its first three days, it sold 52,000 copies, pointing to a full-week sale of well over 100,000. It's also on course to be No 1 in America, with 260,000 first-week sales predicted.

The figures may be a shadow of the opening week for her last album, 2011's Born This Way (which shifted 1.1m copies in its first seven days alone in the US), but album sales are down across the board. And Gaga has achieved her No 1 without a blockbuster single to pave the way – a considerable feat for a pop act.

"It's old-school showmanship," says Owen Myers of Dazed and Confused. "She still has the shock factor, and it's not similar to Rihanna or Miley. She can still get people talking for a whole weekend based on a crazy hat."

Yet the showmanship no longer sells as it once did. Her public, now inured to Gaga dressed in beef, was bewildered to hear that Artpop has been heavily influenced by the performance artist Marina Abramovic and sculptor Jeff Koons. Where once Gaga was mysterious and her music unavoidable, the mystique has evaporated and the music easy to miss. As the US commentator Bob Lefsetz put it: "She can write, play and sing, but she became overwhelmed by her trappings." What's more, industry observers believe Artpop will only stay at the top for a single week, before being displaced by Jake Bugg or Robbie Williams. The pattern of a high chart entry followed by a noticeable dip is the fate of those artists known as fanbase acts – those who generate massive loyalty among a significant hardcore, but without the ability to translate that into widespread iTunes downloads or supermarket sales. This may be the future for Gaga, with stadium gigs becoming a thing of the past.

However, she could thrive in this setting: Gaga's relationship with her Little Monsters has become a template that other pop acts have followed. Most major stars now give their following a name – Justin Bieber has his Beliebers – and encourage fans to think of them as a friend and advocate. The loyalty thus generated was demonstrated on Wednesday's BBC2 Culture Show special dedicated to Gaga. Interviewed outside the singer's London hotel, a female Little Monster said: "People are going to look back and realise how significant and important she was." There wasn't a hint of doubt in her voice.

Tina Hart of Music Week says Gaga's fanbase is crucial. "The Little Monsters mobilised when a rubbish-quality link to an unfinished version of [first single] Applause was leaked. There were so many reports to the Universal take-down portal that the song was removed. That support had a spillover effect on album sales. But they were also helped by appearances on The X Factor and The Graham Norton Show."

Gaga played a blinder on Norton's chatshow. Instead of displaying the eccentricity that led The Culture Show to dub her "the world's most alternative mainstream artist", she joked with fellow guests June Brown and Jude Law as if she were just Stefani Germanotta from New York City. "She gave a really good interview and performance," says Rob Copsey of website Digital Spy. "She can still connect." But, he concedes, she is torn between being Stefani from the block and the star who overturns conventions . "She's confused about what she wants to be: on the one hand, a Bowiesque eccentric and artist – but she's barely wearing any clothes."

Tags: lady gaga, music / musician

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