The Sunday Round-Up – Gone Gaga

This Sunday it isn’t the round-⁠up of some tracks from Soundcloud that I’m rushing to complete, but another text which has proven to be a bit more complicated, and also – more to the point – more compelling than I at first anticipated, and lest I let the evening pass by without the usual excursion, I shall have to postpone its debut in favour of sending forth these three numbers on time.

Each offers a version of a song or songs by that very interesting personage, Lady Gaga.

Now, this is not the first time she’s been mentioned here. Tonight I’d merely like to suggest that it could be her classical training on the piano which stands behind the inclination she often evinces to mix pop music up with other kinds: a tendency which would in part explain her appeal to young composers and musicians who are at work on other kinds of music than hers, and yet who, though coming from the other side, share her reluctance simply to accept the old divisions of kind or quality – a tendency which also, as regards the wider audience of music-⁠lovers, may help to clarify the great resonance of her music’s syncopations, surprising arrangements, deliberate false starts. For evidently these features of the music, as though they were first and foremost synecdoches, are often understood as standing in for the acoustic tumults of the present at large.

At a moment when the world generally seems like it’s been turned on its head, why should music not go gaga with a spectacularly representative success?

But let me not get ahead of myself. The starting-⁠point of this Gaga trio was the need to fill a gap that had opened in the playlist I compiled for New Year’s Eve; another “Heavy Metal Lover” was required, and on Soundcloud I came across a very catchy version, the work of a sound artist in Dallas named Jeremy Henry who’s active under the moniker Haus of Glitch: this I included in the playlist, but my attention was struck by the set of which it formed a part, “L’Opéra où la Musique Devient Gaga,” and this in its entirety proved simply too good to pass up. (In this “opera” there are several high points, of which I’ll commend just two in particular: “Death of the Telephone” and “The Ballet of the Government Hooker.”)

Having thus decided to offer a version of Gaga here, going from one to three was but a step.

The second of the three is a single song, a virtuoso version of “Government Hooker” on electric guitar by a musician in London (also evidently a singer and songwriter) who goes by the moniker Bealius Octavian (and whose own name may or may not be Liamanuel Veritas – it was not possible to ascertain this one way or the other). The aggressive potential of the instrument he deploys to good effect here, for it too in its very aggressiveness rings with the sound of something representative of the times more widely, and so doing it adds an extra bite to this already peculiarly challenging tune.

The last of tonight’s three tracks takes us on a “Bad Romance” back to North America and into the desert, in fact. It’s the work of Ben Sevier, a musician, singer, and songwriter living in Phoenix, Arizona, who works as a recording artist under the moniker Wyly: and here his vocals and piano arrangement are both understated and ominous. In these sounds what we’re given to hear is the cool, the quite calm and capable planning of a very determined stalker: it’s a sinister room of the mind in which this version deposits us, and though one really would like to leave again and there is no lack of doors, one shrinks from opening them.