When all else fails, wear meat. That was Lady Gaga's thinking anyway at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) last week where she scooped eight awards, the second highest in the ceremony's history (Peter Gabriel holds the record with nine awards in 1987 for 'Sledgehammer').
But forget about accolades – what people were really talking about was her dress, made from real meat along with a meat purse. There's not much left for Gaga – a pop star who is constantly pushing the boundaries of outrageous fashion – to wear, but she keeps trying. The meat dress was one of three ridiculously elaborate outfits she wore that night. The outfit was one in a long line of Gaga publicity stunts. Accepting another award, she cried on stage and belted out a snippet of the title track from her next album 'Born This Way', a rather ironic name considering Gaga is the mistress of image manipulation.
For her supporters, Gaga is a post-modern construct, an endlessly creative Warholian performance artist riffing on popular culture while simultaneously creating it. Her fans, whom she calls her 'Little Monsters', are an ever-present subject in everything she says and does, a smart move given the more she rewards them for their dedication, the more their loyalty grows. The same goes for her supposed dedication to gay people, who make up a huge portion of her following. Indeed, her 'date' to the VMAs was a clutch of US military personnel who had recently been discharged because of the homophobic 'don't-ask-don't-tell' policy.
Wearing a dress made of meat is hardly meaningful, and like most of Gaga's shtick, it has been done before. Gaga owes much to Irish musician Roisín Murphy, whose wardrobe she has rifled for inspiration. She also owes a lot to Grace Jones, who is hugely dismissive of the singer. When Gaga asked Jones to collaborate with her, the Warhol muse replied: "I'd prefer to work with someone who is more original and someone who is not copying me, actually."
Just as Madonna co-opted gay culture, Lady Gaga is for the most part co-opting drag culture, creating a larger-than-life hyper-woman that mildly warps gender, much in the same way Marilyn Manson did.
The colossal nature of Gaga's fame cannot be denied. She has poured the profits from her album sales and tours into more and more elaborate stage shows, saying she doesn't care about money. Her 'creative team', christened the 'Haus of Gaga', is made up of stylists and designers and works 24/7 to come up with more innovative and adventurous fashion choices.
In interviews, Gaga is awkward and stilted. It's at odds with her vulnerable and shockingly normal awards-acceptance persona, which was revealed at the MTV VMAs again as a teary clichéd pop starlet whose only eccentric element was the difficulties she suffered actually getting to the podium in Alexander McQueen 'Armadillo' heels.
While her fans wait with bated breath for her next song, fashion choice or statement, most of those who have seen it all before wait with eyes ready to roll.