Applause by thebutterfly-d6n9may.jpg

Date Aired
September 27, 2013
Running Time
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Todd plays "Applause" on the piano

A pop song review

Todd: Though it seems so long ago, it was just a few years passed that...

Opening of "Born This Way"

Todd (VO): ...a new entertainer rose to redefine pop culture and become one of the biggest names in entertainment. That artist is, of course,...

Todd:, and I owe much of my fame and fortune to...

Video for "Marry the Night"

Todd (VO): ...Lady Gaga, whose rise paralleled my own and just gave me absolute truckloads of material.

Lady Gaga: I'm gonna marry the night

Todd (VO): In the time I've been doing the show, no pop star has been more intriguing, fascinating, hard to decode. No one has risen so quickly, so thoroughly dominated the cultural landscape. There have been plenty who've been more successful on the charts, but none as successful at just being a pop star as Lady Gaga. I mean, I just love talking about her, even despite my longstanding suspicion that beneath all the masks is a big pile of nothing. Because, you know, she just works so hard and clearly has a deep love of what she's doing.

Todd: And she has the good sense to take a break every once in a while. [Shot of Rhianna's Diamonds World Tour poster] Ahem.

So I am glad to say that today, we will be reviewing...

Video for...

Todd (VO): ...Gaga's new song "Applause", an anthem about two of Gaga's favorite subjects.

Todd: Being famous and being awesome. I am just mighty glad to see her back. I haven't really discussed her since...jeez,...

Clip of...

Todd (VO): ..."Born This Way", her last self-empowerment anthem.

Todd: I was such a fresh-faced young reviewer back then.

Shot of Todd at computer, pointing a gun to his head.

Fond memories. Actually, now that I remember it, wasn't that...

Clips of...

Todd (VO): ..."Born This Way" review a double episode with a Katy Perry song?

Todd: And didn't Katy Perry just...

Clip of "Roar"

Todd (VO): ...make her return? With another self-empowerment anthem at exactly the same time as Lady Gaga?

Todd: Oh my God, that's too perfect. Hey, you know what? Last...last-minute change. Why don't we make this another comparison episode? Let's see how "Applause" stacks up to "Roar".

Katy Perry: Louder
Louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion
And you're gonna hear me roar


Todd: Yeah, never mind. All I have to say about "Roar"...

Todd (VO): that it demonstrates how much we need Lady Gaga.

Video for "Applause"

'Cause let me tell ya. I am so hyped for her return, 'cause let's face it. This year's summer jam season absolutely blew. But is her big return single any good? What do I think about it?

Todd: Well, I'll tell you what I think about it. I think yes!

Gaga (with backing): Give me that thing that I love (I'll turn the lights on)

Todd (VO): "Applause" is a dynamite blast of excitement, it's just a breath of fresh air against an increasingly dull pop scene. It's just a delight whenever I hear it.

Todd: Also, it's a horrible disappointment with obnoxious lyrics that suggests Lady Gaga is stagnating artistically. [pause] Yes, I can hold both of those thoughts simultaneously.

Todd (VO): Oh, how to justify that. I mean, it's interesting, it's certainly not boring, but...

Todd: Look, there's no way to avoid what "Applause" is actually about. Listen to this.

Gaga: I live for the applause, applause, applause
I live for the applause-plause
Live for the applause-plause
Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me
The applause, applause, applause

Todd (VO): When I call "Applause" a self-empowerment anthem, I mean that quite literally. "Applause" is about self-empowerment in that it is about empowering...

Todd: ...herself, and only herself.

Gaga: Pop culture was in art, now art's in pop culture in me

Todd (VO): Yeah. So unless you are a Warholian provocateur mixing art and pop culture, you will be completely left out listening to this.

Todd: It's the polar opposite of the [clip of...] super-inclusive "Born This Way".

Gaga: You're black, white, beige, chola descent

Todd: So no matter how good the rest of it is,...

Todd (VO): ...there is no way to get around the fact that we are basically listening to a narcissist fanning her own ego.

Gaga: I live for the applause-plause
Live for the applause-plause

Todd (VO): She lives for the applause. She likes attention. That's basically all this means. This...

Todd: not an inspiring theme to write a song about. How does she justify this? What has she said about it?

Todd (VO): Okay, she says: [quote appears] "'Applause' is a very meaningful song to me, because it addresses what many think of 'celebrities' today, that we 'do it' for the attention. But [...] what we create doesn't live on unless there's [sic] an audience to remember it. So I may need your attention at first, so I can sing you my song. But its [sic] the 'Applause' after that let me know if I've entertained you."

Todd: Okay.

Todd (VO): So it's not that she's a fame-whore who loves attention, it's that she likes positive attention.

Todd: I guess considering some of her colleagues, that's better than [clip of Miley Cyrus grinding Robin Thicke at VMAs] negative attention-seeking, but I don't think that's the reputation she thinks it is.

I mean...I know I don't like it when songs are...

Clip of "Roar"

Todd (VO): ...overly broad and unspecific—that's my big problem with "Roar". But it can go wrong in the opposite direction too.

Todd: Just because something is personal, doesn't make it useful.

Todd (VO): Did anyone really want this? If this was the state of mind she were in when she wrote "Bad Romance", that song would go:

[singing to clip of "Bad Romance"]

Me, me, me-me-me
Me-me, me-me-me
Gaga, that'd be me
Love being me-e

Todd: Okay...

Todd (VO): ...if this were a song just about soaking in praise, I think I could find a way to be okay with that. But, no, no, no, no, there's far more to it than that. No, you see...see, she's not just appreciating her fans. No, she's also doing something else.

Gaga: I stand here waiting for you to bang the gong
To crash the critics saying, "Is it right or is it wrong?"

Todd: [head in hands] Oh, dear God, she's attacking the critics.

Gaga: To crash the critic saying...

Todd (VO): It's one thing to attack ["Fuck the Haters" image from BC Clothing] haters, which are a broad and nebulous label of people who waste their time being negative about things they shouldn't care about. But critics? People who write about music for a living? They're just doing their job.

Todd: No artist in any medium has ever looked good attacking their critics, from [brief clips of Guns 'n Roses. For the record, the song is "Get in the Ring"] Axl Rose calling out writers by name to [...and Lady in the Water] M. Night Shyamalan constructing a straw man critic just to kill him off. It always looks kind of pathetic. And here's the thing—she's not even doing it well.

Gaga: I've overheard your theory: "nostalgia's for geeks"
I guess sir, if you say so, some of us just like to read

Todd: [uh...] What?

Todd (VO): Everything about that is baffling to me. Like, let's break that down, line for line.

Gaga: I've overheard your theory: "nostalgia's for geeks"

Todd: "Nostalgia's for geeks"?! How dare they?! How could someone say such a thing?!

Douchey McNitpick: I know! I watch Saturday morning cartoons from the 80s every day, and there's nothing uncool about it!

Todd: Yeah! Screw these critics of nostalgia and everyone associated with them! Well anyway, this nostalgia judger was obviously...

Clip of "Edge of Glory"

Todd (VO): ...talking about Gaga's heavily 80s-influenced last album. And Gaga's response to him was...

Gaga: I guess sir, if you say so, some of us just like to read

Todd: [sighs] Look, I agree that being geeky is nothing to be ashamed of; it's're into nostalgia because you like reading books? I think most of us get our nostalgia from [opening clip of I Love the 80s] VH1 and [shot of "25 Ways To Tell You're A Kid Of The 90s" site from...] barely literate Internet sites like Buzzfeed. But more importantly...

Todd (VO): ...this is the battle you picked?

Gaga: "Nostalgia's for geeks"

Todd (VO): Really? You're Lady Gaga, you've got tons of people you could call out. And out of all those possible enemies you could target, [shots of Maroon Weekly article: "Why Lady Gaga Sucks"...] the critics who called you a vapid pop whore, [Idolator article: "Lady Gaga Lashes Out After 'NME' Calls 'Born This Way' Pretentious] or the snobs calling you a pretentiously vapid poseur, [Yahoo Answers: "Why is Lady Gaga so fugly?"] Internet trolls shit-talking your appearance or spreading vile rumors about you, [Tweets from Gaga to Perez Hilton] the privacy-invading paparazzi, lie-mongering gossip reporters, [image of protestor at Manila concert] various and sundry outraged homophobes and religious nuts...

Todd: ...and the one person who pissed you off to write a song about, was the one who called you geeky?!

Todd (VO): Why? What point does that serve? Just...okay, 1., no one knew about this; and 2., no one cares. This is like writing a song attacking the kid who called you a [picture of taunting kid] buttbreath in second grade. "I guess some of us don't go around trying to sniff each others breath. The little..." Whatever.

Todd: If you were really made that angry by it, then fine, go ahead. You take down that...whoever the hell you're talking about!

Gaga: I stand here waiting for you to bang the gong

Todd: Like what, in a Chuck Barris kind of way?

Clip of The Gong Show, with Jamie Farr and Jaye P. Morgan banging the gong
Gaga: To crash the critics saying, "Is it right or is it wrong?"

Todd (VO): doesn't matter I have critics because my fans like me. Well, then why did you even mention it? Take it from a professional critic, you don't get back at critics by attacking them, you do it by ignoring them and continuing to be awesome. I mean, even I get criticism too, just like real artists, and...

Todd: ...even though I easily could, you never see me respond to them. No, I do the mature thing and create sock-puppet fake identities to defend myself in order to give the illusion that I have millions of fans. Duh!

Todd (VO): And she's pulled out some...familiar tricks too.

Gaga: One second, I'm a Kunst, then suddenly the Kunst is me

Todd: "Kunst" is German for art. Remove the gratuitous language change, and this lyric is basically the same as the one that comes right after it.

Gaga: Pop culture was in art, now art's in pop culture in me

Todd: She does that.

Clip from "Alejandro"
Gaga: En su bolsillo

Todd (VO): Remember, when you can't come up with a good lyric, switch to a different language, perhaps even a fake one.

Clip from "Born This Way"
Gaga: Mi amore vole fe yah

Todd (VO): So people don't realize it.

Todd: And speaking of silly, made-up words, look, I get that Lady Gaga likes her nonsense syllables, but I do have a limit. And even realizing that I'm talking about a person who regularly lets her mouth let out things like [clips of "Poker Face"...] ma-ma-ma-ma, [..."Bad Romance"...] rah-rah-ah-ah-ah, [..."Eh Eh"...] cherry cherry boom boom, [Purple Revolver article about...] and, "I'm worried about people stealing my creativity through my vagina," even acknowledging that...

Todd (VO): "Applause-plause" is still the most inane-nane thing I've ever heard-heard.

Todd: Really, the whole thing is kind of too familiar.

Todd (VO): The Born This Way album was a mega-burst forward for Lady Gaga as an artist, but "Applause" is exactly the same. She's [clips of "Bad Romance"...] doing her David Bowie vampire vocals again, [..."Just Dance"] the same synth sound she used when she started.

Lady Gaga's kind of a victim of the high standard she's set up for herself. We want her to push the envelope, to evolve, to surprise us. She disappoints our expectations for her when she does what we expect her to.

Todd: And unfortunately, this is exactly what I expect a Lady Gaga song to sound like.

Gaga: Ah-hoo touch-touch

Todd (VO): That said, I guess my standards have been vastly lowered by a weak few months of pop music because I still enjoy this song a lot. I mean, it has energy, it's exciting, and you compare it to the recent offerings of Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus, and "Applause" is like a five-star triumph. But I still can't ignore that pretty much all the lyrics rub me the wrong way. Like, "Applause" is just an arrogant song in many bad ways. Like, I can appreciate pretension in a way that tries to wont to great artistic, but this is pretentious in a way that's neither triumphant nor relatable. For an artist who spends so much time working on her image, it is, weirdly enough, the least self-aware song she's ever written.

Gaga: Put your hands up, make 'em touch
Make it real now

Todd: Who better to make it real than a woman who goes outside [pics of Gaga at 2010 VMAs] dressed in raw steak.

Todd (VO): Look, writing a song bragging about how popular you are is just kinda needy and vain. When she started, her message was, "I want to be famous," which is a far more interesting statement than, "I am famous," and there's nothing...

Todd: Who in the world could relate to this kind of egotistical, masturbatory piece of self-congratulat... [phone rings] Hold on, I gotta take this. Hello?

Fan in hoodie: Oh my God, I finally made it through. Todd In The Shadows! You're my favorite Internet reviewer, and I'm your biggest fan.

Todd: Oh my gosh, thank you. You're too kind.

Fan: You're so awesome. You're the best. You're so talented.

Todd: You know, I'm just glad to be out there making a difference in people's lives.

Fan: Your videos mean so much to me. I've watched you, like, a billion times.

Todd: Thank you, thank you. Fans like you are what makes Todd In The Shadows so great.

Fan: Thank you so much for letting me talk to you. Oh, you're so awesome. [Tone goes from gushing to dead-serious] I'm still getting paid for this, right?

Todd: Yeah, yeah, yeah, check's in the mail. Also, if you could stretch it out a little more next time.

Fan: Yeah, I can do that.

Todd: Alright, good. Okay, gotta run. [Puts phone away] My adoring public.

Gets up and leaves

Gaga: A-R-T-P-O-P

Closing tag song: Tom Waits - "Clap Hands"

"Applause" is owned by Interscope Records
This video is owned by me

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