HARPER: Lady Gaga’s little monsters turn a bad romance around

Last Thursday had all the makings of a regular night.

I was planning to show my older brother around Milwaukee, hang out with some friends on 3rd Street, and butcher Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” at the Brat House’s karaoke night.

As I sat in a booth at the Brat House and chatted with my brother and friends, a group of semi-naked people who looked like they had come from auditions for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” suddenly entered. All normalcy was blasted to pieces. So it goes when Lady Gaga is in town.

I don’t remember the first time I heard Lady Gaga, but I remember disliking her pretty much from the get go.

For starters, she looked like she had traipsed into a landfill, mistaken it for a clothing store, thrown on whatever she could find and called it fashion.

My opinion of her music was just as unforgiving. If her music were good on its own terms, she wouldn’t have to distract us with hats resembling satellites and bras that look like truck headlights.

Like our grandparents probably did when Elvis shook his pelvis and Pete Townshend smashed his guitars, I pined for the good old days when musicians were judged by the quality of their work, rather than how much they shocked us.

Lady Gaga, I concluded, was all spectacle and no substance — all glitz and no game. Never mind that I had never listened to more than two or three of her songs.

I would boycott her self-appointed ladyship and refer to her by her real name — Stephanie — all the while refusing to listen to her music. That’d show her.

Thus, it wasn’t surprising I was pretty cynical when a young woman wearing sunglasses and a leopard-spotted bra led the costume party into the Brat House to celebrate its recent trip to Oz with Stephanie.

As I turned to my roommates and laughed, my brother stood up, walked to Gaga’s little monsters’ table, sat down and asked them about the concert.

Maybe it was seeing my brother, who has good taste in music and who I consider to be pretty normal, showing interest in Stephanie’s show and respect for the people who attended it.  Maybe it was the sudden realization that some of my objections to Lady Gaga were strange, considering I had no problem with David Bowie’s space outfits or Ringo Starr’s name change. Or maybe I realized I had never listened to more than a few Lady Gaga songs.

Whatever it was, I started to feel foolish about how fervently I wrote off Lady Gaga and her fans. Even if I committed myself to listening to every song she ever released and still hated her music, whatever distaste I had for it was no more legitimate than someone else’s love for it.

People are often quick to form fiery, stubborn opinions about music, movies and similar sources of leisure, all the while forgetting that their main purpose is to give us pleasure and entertainment.

Almost every YouTube video of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney or some other aging artist inevitably includes a viewer’s comment about how Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers are destroying popular music and aren’t anywhere near as good as those classic musicians.

Even if they don’t meet some arbitrary standard, who cares? Plenty of people like them, so isn’t that enough?

I decided to give Gaga another shot and re-listen to “Speechless,” one of her songs I had heard before.

Her voice still sounded a little manly for my taste, but I had to admit the song was sort of infectious. I shrugged, put on a David Bowie song and decided if Lady Gaga ever comes back to Milwaukee, I won’t complain.