In a music industry full of dynamite female acts, who reigns supreme as the ultimate pop goddess? It’s a daunting question, but we are determined to find the answer. Let’s get ready to rumble, because the next round of VH1?s Pop Queen Faceoff continues! Today we’re pitting two of music’s biggest divas —Lady Gaga and Britney Spears— against each other for one glitter-soaked cat fight. Who will come out on top? You decide!
[Artwork: Madelyn Somers]
Lady Gaga (2009)
The Lady Gaga of 2009 is without a doubt the most groundbreaking and fearless pop queen in music history. Her music videos, persona, fashion and pop culture innovations have gone where no artist has gone before. She makes Beyonce look conservative, Madonna look outdated and Britney Spears, pffft, Britney Spears is just a music industry puppet in comparison. If her latest album hasn’t made quite the splash as her earlier work, if her exercises in “life as pop art” seem no longer cutting edge, it is only in comparison to her take no prisoners past. The world as we know it in 2014 is a very different place than it was in 2009 and Lady Gaga is a big part of the reason why.
Let’s review, shall we? The once and future Gaga was born Stefani Germanotta in 1986 and grew up in the center of the known universe, AKA New York F***king City. It was there, raised in a tight night upper middle class Italian-American family, that she was exposed to the great diversity of mankind, to the innate attitude that everyone from Kiss to the Ramones has made a career out of, to hip hop’s relentless kick drum beat and the hedonistic club scene that has kept so many Catholic School girls up way past their bedtimes.
Having soaked up all the best and worst lessons from NY’s music scene and armed with a rock n’ roll attitude, a love of dance pop and a courageous sense of reinvention, Gaga headed to L.A. and began her ascent. Helped along by an unlikely champion in the form of Akon, her 2008 album The Fame contained some of the most irresistible dance music in 20 years. A slow burn, it gradually built steam, first in Europe, then in America, single after single, each one better than the last and it was as her fame grew so too did her stature as a transformative cultural innovator.
It has been said that Gaga’s videos are equivalent to short films. No other artists since Michael Jackson or Guns N’ Roses has embraced the form with such narrative flair and an eye on the music video as high art. Who can forget her outrageous costumes from “Poker Face”? Who wasn’t glued to their screens seeing what would happen next in “Paparazzi”? Who in recent memory can even compare? And it was in these videos that Gaga made it clear to the whole wide world that she did not give a single s**t what you thought about her. She exists solely as the advocate, role model and confident of her fans, her Little Monsters.
What exactly are we crowning here as our Pop Queen? Is it the artist who sold the most records? Fine, that’s Madonna who hasn’t been relevant since the last century. Is it who has the greatest vocal range? Fine, Mariah Carey, see Madonna. Best dancer? I guess Britney Spears can have that. If Beyonce weren’t in the competition, that is. How about a Pop Queen who actually has a brain and something interesting to say. How about a Pop Queen who was and is a tireless advocate for the underdogs of society, whether we’re talking body issues or sexual discrimination. How about a Pop Queen who isn’t afraid to wear a dress made out of meat, or come out of a giant egg, that isn’t afraid to make a spectacle of herself, and understands that Pop Art is all about having fun and a funky beat. That is why the Lady Gaga of 2009 demands your vote. Make the right choice, people.
Team Britney? You’re up!
Britney Spears (1999)
Britney Spears is pop. Pop is Britney Spears. Not only is she the Queen, but she is an icon. This simply needs no argument since the countless awards, numbers and record-breaking hits speak for themsleves, but I will continue with one anyway for the sake of this competition (not that there really is one). Many may say that Madonna, Mariah and the like should be worthy of the crown – but Britney reinvented the meaning of pop music in nothing short of god darn perfection.When the stunning songstress came into our lives and changed them forever in the magical year of 1999 with her infamous school girl outfit in “Baby One More Time,” she was instantly an icon. INSTANTLY. Ok, ok, her vocals may not be up to par with Whitney and Mimi but the girl can daaaanncee. When she hits the stage she OWNS it. That fire in her eyes – hot damn! It’s impossible to look away. Can you keep up, Gaga? Didn’t think so. In just 15 years Britney has created and embodied countless original (take note, Gaga) iconic looks that are universally recognized and still give us the warm nostalgic fuzzies. From the red jumpsuit in “Oops!… I Did It Again” to the VMA “Slave 4 U” performance featuring that infamous snake. Britney doesn’t need to go the desperate measures to make a statement. I mean really, how hard is throwing a few cans of paint all over yourself or go to the day-old produce section in the grocery store to make a “meat dress”? Britney doesn’t have to try so hard to make a statement or rally up a group of “monsters” to prove her reign. Even while having her hands full being the Queen she is, she was never too busy to use her platform for a good cause. She founded the Britney Spears Foundation to help kids in need, and has supported charities for September 11, AIDS and more. Now that’s how you work, bitch. Boys and girls, regardless of age, would agree that her songs are beyond catchy and whether they like to admit it or not – guys, I’m talking to you – you know every word. Since Janet, she was the first female in the new wave of ’90s pop to really break the “bubble gum” mold. The nude, sequence “Oops!… I Did It Again” performance outfit, anyone? Our jaws dropped at the time, but she didn’t care. She owned her s–t, was and still is unapologetic. And that’s what makes a Pop Queen. It’s your aura. Your presence. It’s your ability to entertain and make us forget about the hustle and worries of our every day lives. That’s what Britney has given us. She may have had a few slips here and there but holding that crown gets damn heavy and at the end of the day, she’s human just like we are. She’s bounced back and is still killing it in Sin City. Why? Because people can’t get enough. Might I mention that regardless of her fame, she never exhibited diva behavior a la Mariah, Nicki, etc. That’s why Britney is a true QUEEN and should be recognized as such. It’s Britney, bitch. Mic drop.