She, Lady Gaga, has been “controversial” again.
It´s important to be controversial. Make headlines for some reasons. Thank God for religions or no one would be offended by anything. Think about that!
Well that it´s not completely true. There are many other groups, other than religions, that are easily offended by different subjects. Feminist would be angered by any women degraded without consent. Animal right movements would be offended by art, music etc that would have animal cruelty. Political left would be offended by… everything that doesn´t fit their world view. Right wing… well that goes without saying.
I think it´s a good thing that people get offended. It makes life exciting!
So back to Lady Gaga´s new song, soon to be video, “Judas“. The song is about Judas (dah!). Most likely this Judas is Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus Christ in the canonical gospels of the bible. The one that made Jesus crucified during Easter about 2000 years ago.
Judas has had different portrayals through the years. Originally he was a man who´s actions are only known through biblical stories. There seems to be the dogmatic interpretation that he betrayed Jesus for money, but other apocryphal stories tell about a deeper plot involving a plan between Jesus and Judas for the prophecy to become true. Since the occult (hidden truth) does fascinate many people, these “hidden truth” have been made it into many debates and some even claim that Judas was good.
I don´t know what happened 2000 years ago, and I would not speculate on whether or not Judas betrayed Jesus for money or as a plan between him and Jesus. What I do know is that if Judas hadn´t betrayed Jesus, Jesus would not have died (at least not without a lot of violence), so there is a theological, artistic and philosophical question to explorer of Judas importance and faith in the gospels.
And this has been explored many times… The one that fascinates me the most is the Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. In this musical, Judas has a greater role than in most of the Gosbels, where he is has just a supporting role. In Jesus Christ Superstar it is Judas´s downfall that get´s the most attention, not Jesus´s suffering, like most passion plays.
And now, as if never done before, Lady Gaga provokes people with her song that seems to be about a sort of love-attraction to Judas the Betrayer. I say “people”, but media has portrayed it as if Christian religions as a whole have been aggravated by this little song.
I have not been. I was in fact more irritated by “Born this way” because of it´s very liberal lyrics. But that to has faded.
So what is Lady Gaga´s intentions with this song?
To answer this question we should perhaps ask another question first: Is it IMPORTANT what Lady Gaga´s intentions was?
I would answer yes and no.
Yes, because to me any artistic or creative text (be that music, painting, film etc) is something that is communicated. And when something is communicated one should out of politeness or interest try to understand what it is that is trying to be said. Lady Gaga tries to say something here, what it is needs, as in any communication, to be interpreted.
No, because art is autonomous (it is what it is) and trying to find the creator in the creation can be hard for anyone and one can be wrong.
So if we remove Gaga from the song Judas, what does the story of lyrics tell?
A girl sings about being in love with Judas. The name Judas goes again and again in the song as the name has some deeper meaning. Is the woman in love with his name? Is it meant as a mantra, incantation or just to symbolize a persistent repetition? She then mention “gaga” and sort of forces the singer into the interpretation, but for now I will still leave Lady Gaga out of this song.
The verses are about darkness, violent attractions, stultification and betrayal. In the last verse we also hear repugnance and that the singer moves away from this destructive feelings and instead towards Jesus. But that Judas, as a demon, is still something that the singer needs.
The chorus apart from the repetitions of Judas is about being a “holy fool” that is attracted to someone (Judas) who is so cruel. “Holy fool” could be a reference to any religious person or that the singer is a religious agnostic (someone who are following the religious dogmas but don´t understand them). Either way it seems to be a contrast in this song between wanting to do right, but needing to do wrong. Right being personified by Jesus and wrong being personified by Judas. A sort of human duality between ideal virtues and the animalistic sexual. Apart from the last verse it would seem that the singer is loosing herself to her dark side, but there is a constant battle between the two sides.
So if we place Lady Gaga into the song, what is it she is trying to say?
I think it´s important to mentions Lady Gaga´s love with another figure; Madonna. Not the ikon, but the singer. Throughout her carrier she has made constant reference to this other singer in her videos and also through her songwriting and music. I would take a guess and say that the song Judas is a pastiche of Madonnas song Like A Prayer. “Like a prayer” was a controversial song who also used religious symbols and icons in a way that caused quite a stir. Judas could be seen as a continuation of this thought.
The song Judas is not atheist in tone or lyrics as it does not question divinity or the truth of the gospels. It does however question religion and make christian mythology about sex and being earthly, simple, sexual orientated as represented here by Judas. It does seem that Lady Gaga admits her need for a religion that accepts everyone and everything, even betrayal. The song, although it is ambiguous, does not seem to be about asking for forgiveness for her urges, but acceptance. This is a common wish for reformation of religion; to remove the laws, and accept everything.
So although this song is not atheist, I am not so sure about Lady Gaga. In the song the singer (here not referring to Lady Gaga) calls herself a “Holy Fool”. Another music video from Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”, from the same album as Judas, there are alot of symbols that could be inturbted as atheist.
In the very first image we see on screen we see a pink triangle with a transparent unicorn inside. This could be the icon of an atheist mock deity called “the invisible pink unicorn“. What´s strange is that the song is about how “God made us perfect as He makes no mistakes”. But she does reference the “religion of the insecure” what ever that religion is.
If she believes in a god, it is probably not the Christian, as much of her thoughts are as far away from the bibles as even the most liberal of interpretations could contain.
In fact, I would say, quite the opposite. You can only wish to change so much of something before you have to make a decision that this or that choice is perhaps not for you. That anymore reformation will change the entire thing to something completely different (i.e. I wish I had a car that didn’t drive on a road but instead flew in the air. That is an airplane!). So I would say that not only is she not a theist, she is probably an atheist. But of course I have never spoken to her and I probably never will. So for now, and always, I just have to watch her expressions and interpreted.
So these are my thoughts on this song. Now here is Lady Gaga – Judas
Blog 2.0 - Writes long and hard about nothing.
PS: Someone may comment that I may have interpreted to much into a simple song. That, for instance, the constant use of Judas is not meant as more than being catchy. Of course! But when one interpret a song one can not take anything for granted. One has to ask the question “What does this do/mean?“, not “Why was it placed there?” as the latter only Lady Gaga and the once who made it can answer.