Though in the context of the song, Lady Gaga is literally talking here about walking out onstage, we think that this line could also be a sly nod toward her biggest fan base: the LGBT community.
Just like Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, and Madonna before her, Lady Gaga skyrocketed to fame in no small part due to her undying support in the gay community. As she told MTV, "The turning point for me was the gay community…I've got so many gay fans and they're so loyal to me and they really lifted me up. They'll always stand by me and I'll always stand by them. It's not an easy thing to create a fanbase. ... Being invited to play [the San Francisco Pride rally], that was a real turning point for me as an artist." Lady Gaga, undeniably a celebrity of the glamorous, sequined, and jaw-dropping variety, has become an icon to many gay men—a kind of Cher for the younger generation. Lesbians love her, too, as evidenced by the massive turnout for Gaga's 2009 show at the all-girl Palm Springs Dinah Shore weekend in 2009. Gaga, a self-proclaimed bisexual, told the crowd there that the lyrics of her single "Poker Face" refer to fantasizing about women while in the middle of sex with a guy. A strong supporter of gay rights and gay marriage, Gaga has appeared at rallies all across the country, most notably at the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner and the National Equality March that took place in October 2009. President Obama, who spoke at the benefit and promised to sign the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, joked: "It's an honor to be opening for Lady Gaga, I've finally made it." When Gaga took the stage and sat down at a white grand piano, she addressed the crowd: "I feel so very honored that you thought of me to come here. I would like to genuinely salute all of the HRC veterans who are here tonight who have been campaigning for over 25 years… It has been my experience that in the music industry there's still a tremendous amount of accommodation of homophobia in the public, and I am here tonight to represent those young people who are taking a stand, who are coming tomorrow to march with all of us. You are inspiring a tremendous number of young people, and I know that tomorrow is going to be just as memorable as tonight was, and I promise to continue to love and be loyal, to stand up for and continue to challenge the world, for all of you because I love you. So I'm taking a stand. …I'm not going to play one of my songs tonight because tonight is not about me. It's about you." She then began to play "Imagine" by John Lennon, that immortal ballad for peace. In the spirit of the movement, she changed the words of the second verse to read: "People of the nation, are you listening? / It isn't equal if it's sometimes, I want a real democracy / Imagine all the people could love equally." To watch the full video of Gaga's performance at the HRC dinner, click here.
Along with her catchy tunes and dramatic onstage stunts, Lady Gaga may be most famous for her outrageous outfits and her impact on the fashion industry.
From the moment Lady Gaga takes the stage, we know we are not dealing with an ordinary performer. The girl's outfits are some of the craziest, most daring pieces of clothing (?) you'll ever see in pop music. From full bodysuits of latex, to a hat that resembles a giant bird's nest, to an outfit that is just…bubbles, the star has managed to break every fashion convention possible while continuing to shock and awe her fans. During Gaga's recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen cracked, "I see these runway shows [where fashion houses show off their most progressive designs] and I'm like, 'Who buys that? Who wears that?' (Pause) You. You do." Lady Gaga laughs and agrees. Rolling Stone magazine even published an article consisting entirely of a compendium of fifty-seven over-the-top Gaga outfits. In a 2008 interview with MTV, Gaga explained her fashion sensibility: "Fashion is everything…When I'm writing music, I'm thinking about the clothes I want to wear on stage. It's all about everything altogether — performance art, pop performance art, fashion. For me, it's everything coming together and being a real story that will bring back the super-fan. I want to bring that back. I want the imagery to be so strong that fans will want to eat and taste and lick every part of us."
One of the most lyrically intriguing elements in "Paparazzi" is the question of just who (or what) is the real object of her obsessive affection. The song could be read as a simple (if perhaps slightly stalkerish) love song; she's not going to stop chasing some boy until he loves her. Or perhaps what she's tracking down with such determination here is fame itself. (What's the name of Gaga's multiplatinum debut album, again? Oh yeah, The Fame.).
But you might want to think twice if you presume that in her pursuit of fame she's produced vapid work, empty of real meaning or artistic merit. Plenty of critics call Lady Gaga too "poppy," "unoriginal," "shallow," etc., but she tends to shrug off these criticisms: "All of my songs have meaning," she told the British newspaper The Independent. "All of my clothing has iconography buried into it. But by the same token, it's just as special if you look at it in its shallowest form. A quick moment of melody, a beautiful dress. People think, 'Gaga's so sweet,' or 'Gaga sucks.' The point is that it's memorable. For commercial art to be taken seriously as fine art is a very unusual and difficult task. I think that a lot of people don't get it and a lot of people don't know what to make of me. And, you know what? I'm OK with that."
An Italian word, "paparazzi" are the obnoxious freelance photographers who hound celebrities, trying to snap candid photographs which they can then sell for thousands of dollars to tabloid magazines. The word traces its origins to a character in a famous Italian film.
"Paparazzo" was a rather unappealing photographer character in Federico Fellini's internationally acclaimed 1960 film La Dolce Vita. The word sounds a bit like i>papataceo, a Sicilian term for mosquito, and Fellini once explained that "Paparazzo suggests to me a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging." The name has since morphed from the singular to the plural (in Italian changing an "-o" at the end of a noun to an "-i" makes it plural, like adding an "-s" to the end of an English word) and "paparazzi" has become the global name for parasitic photojournalists. Many celebrities have cultivated a kind of love-hate relationship with the paparazzi. Some celebs deliberately "give it up" to the paparazzi, using the buzz generated by the gossip press to advance their careers. Others, though, have been ruined when caught by aggressive photographers doing something stupid, illegal, embarrassing, or all the above. And for just about all celebrities, the paparazzi inevitably become—at some point—just plain annoying. Aggressive paparazzi, especially those of the TMZ variety, also have a habit of asking loaded, personal questions while they film or photograph the stars, deliberately intending to provoke a violent reaction. While most stars manage to politely avoid answering these kinds of questions, occasionally someone simply loses it—as we saw recently when ex-boxer Mike Tyson beat up a particularly annoying paparazzo at LAX airport. And Iron Mike's not the only one. A group of angry surfers in Malibu attacked and beat up some paparazzi who were harassing a pregnant Minnie Driver on the beach. Way to go, dudes.
This may be an allusion to the 1990 hit song "Cherry Pie," by the glam-rock band Warrant.
Hair metal, glam-rock, David Bowie, Elton John, and Queen: they all inspired Lady Gaga during her formative years as she came to believe that the best kind of singer is really an all-around performer at heart. Bands like these didn't just have songs: they had image. Their long hair, posses of hot babes, decked-out guitars, and heavy makeup were all part of the glam rocker persona. "Cherry Pie" is right up Lady Gaga's alley because of its raw sexuality, hard-rocking sound, and no-BS attitude.
Here Gaga gives a nod to Nelly Furtado's song, "S--- on the Radio (Remember the Days)," from Furtado's debut album from 2000, Whoa, Nelly!
"S--- on the Radio" shares many of the same themes as "Paparazzi." There's the notion of selling out, the critique of pop music, the eagerness to please the audience/object of affection, the need to staying true to yourself, etc. See if you can make the connection: You liked me 'til you heard my s--- on the radio Well I hate to say but pop ain't going solo You liked me 'til you heard my s--- on the radio But now I'm just too mainstream for you, oh no You liked me 'til you seen me on your TV Well if you're so low below then why you watching You say good things come to those who wait Well I've been waiting a long time for it I remember the days when I was so eager to satisfy you And be less then I was just to prove I could walk beside you Now that I've flown away I see you've chosen to stay behind me And still you curse the day I decided to stay true to myself And here's the video, just for kicks.
Gaga says that this line is a reference to one of her idols, the legendary pop artist Andy Warhol.
Warhol, an artist most famous for his questioning of what truly makes "art," was one of Gaga's greatest inspirations while she was growing up in New York City. Warhol's famous painting of a Campbell's soup can challenged the very idea of "art"—what it is and what it is not. Warhol also coined the term "fifteen minutes of fame," an idea very relevant to "Paparazzi." After his death in 1987, it finally came out that Warhol had been a gay man (probably another reason why Lady Gaga appreciates him). He was fascinated with consumerism and propaganda, as well as high glamour and the Hollywood scene. The famous Warhol comment that inspired this line in "Paparazzi" was a remark he made about Los Angeles: "I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're so beautiful. Everything's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic."