Who Is the Voice of This Generation? It's a Race Between Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, Writes Ian Halperin (EXCLUSIVE GUEST BLOG)
Writing exclusively for Celebuzz, New York Times best-selling investigative journalist Ian Halperin debates the state of pop music today, and why only Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have what it takes to define this generation.
You can journey from the beginning of the 20th century, jaunting from decade to decade, to find one musical act after another heralded as the voice of their generation: Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles, Donna Summer, Madonna, Michael Jackson, to name a few. Their tapestry of lyrics and song touched on universal themes of peace, war, poverty, corruption and love to bring together millions of people around the world.
The last music act to take a generation by storm was back in the early-'90s, when Nirvana burst on the scene with it angst-ridden lyrics and heavy grunge sound. Since then, we’ve seen an array of boy bands, hip-hop acts and reality show stars dominate the charts. But none of them have had the power to take the world by storm like Elvis or The Beatles did.
So the begging question in 2012 remains: Is there any pop act who will be able to stand time and unite this digital, post-crash generation?
Notable acts displaying innate success and musicality the past couple years include One Direction, Adele, Rihanna and "Call Me Maybe" phenom Carly Rae Jepsen. But can their music maturation make them relevant three years from now?
To become the music voice of a generation, it’s imperative to have two critical components that can provide benchmarks with which teens can pin their self definition: a unique voice and unique message.
Gaga is a musician whose voice extends far beyond the stage. Many have debated whether the subliminal messages she send out is good or bad. She rallies against bullying, supports President Obama and likes to wear fur. Love her or hate her, one can’t deny how Gaga has affected the world, both consciously and subconsciously.
But what might disqualify Gaga is how she likes to bask in controversy: the notorious meat dress at MTV awards; the use of religious garb and icons onstage; and, most recently, the new track she released called "Princess Die," which sparked outrage among fans of the late Princess Diana because its lyrics blatantly alluded to her death.
Perry, meanwhile, rose to notoriety by shocking the world with her controversial track, "I Kissed A Girl," in 2007. It was a big depart from her good-girl Christian upbringing. Along the way, she has blossomed into a pop powerhouse with a legion of worshippers who helped her become the first female artist to deliver five number-one singles from one album (Teenage Dream). She is also the only artist to sit in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 for more than 52 weeks.
Like Gaga, Perry never shies away from controversy. But, unlike Gaga, she does it without offending the masses. She’s a staunch supporter of gay rights and is the biggest thing to girl power since the Spice Girls. Her cutting-edge sense of fashion, combined with her rainbow of hair colors, has made her pop music’s most coveted cover girl. She’s an artist who thrives on continuing to evolve.
Of course, the answer to this debate may not be answered until the next generation pops up, and by then, who knows where Gaga or Perry will be?
In the meantime, whom do you think deserves to carry the torch of this generation? Is it Gaga or Perry? Or somebody completely different, like, say, Rihanna or Beyonce?
Cast your vote in the comments, below.