Gaga Revolution?

In his recent book 33 Revolutions Per Minute, Dorian Lynskey catalogues “protest songs from Billie Holiday to Green Day.” The fundamental question he asks is not whether anyone is making them, but whether anyone is listening.Lady Gaga represents a relatively new breed of cultural revolutionary. Fully aware of the fickleness of fame, she has embraced it fully, and in a short two years since her arrival has built an online fan base (called her “little monsters”) that has no rival.She was the first celebrity last month to reach 34 million fans on Facebook, and also the first person to build a 10 million Twitter following.So is anyone listening?This week, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” should surpass 60 million views, far short of her almost 400 million views for “Bad Romance,” but still no small feat. Her total YouTube views are 1 billion. And her message is clear throughout -- no matter what, no matter who, you were born this way. And in "Born This Way" she wraps her message in both theological and mythological language and imagery. No small effort to frame her perspective at a deep worldview level, thereby shaping her listeners' worldviews in the process. And her worldview? The dominant one of our cultural elites: unbridled hedonism.Rather wallow in earnest obscurity, today’s “protest songs” are chart busters or theatrical blockbusters. The result of Lady Gaga’s success? Forbes Magazine put her on top of the 100 most powerful people in entertainment, ahead of even Oprah.In a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal this week, Emory University scientists have shown (through federally funded research, no less) the correlation between pop music and the penetration of the songs due to activation of the pleasure and “reward” centers of adolescent brains. The study theoretically could predict the commercial viability of a song, but the research, published in the online Journal of Consumer Psychology, originally set out to study how teens are influenced by peer pressure. This is part of a growing body of research that is using medical technology to investigate the role of images and inputs, including media, in shaping purchasing and political choices.It is too premature to be definitive, but it is reasonable to conjecture that “the creative,” and specifically music, is a uniquely potent conduit into the subconscious. Is anyone listening? Certainly, perhaps more than ever. But perhaps more importantly, they aren't listening consciously.In his book, Lynskey concluded “It is not just that people have lost faith in any performer to bring about change. They resent anyone who attempts to do so.” I am not sure that Lady Gaga’s “little monsters” would agree, but they are probably unaware if they do or don’t. Parents be aware.