Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Lydia Jenkin: Lady Gaga vs Katy Perry - the gloves are off

Who won the recent pop duel between Lady Gaga and Katy Perry? Lydia Jenkin investigates.

Lady Gaga and Katy Perry both had songs released in the past week.
Lady Gaga and Katy Perry both had songs released in the past week.

Scheduling the arrival of songs from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry in the same week might initially seem like a music promo nightmare, but it seems to have been a savvy move on music label Universal's part, generating a whole lot of extra media coverage and potentially a whole lot more sales.

The fact they're both performing their songs live for the first time at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday just adds to the fun. So though they're not actually nominated for anything, this week's Katy Perry vs Lady Gaga face-off might be the best pop showdown of the year.

Let's see who would win if they went a few rounds ...

Does it make you wanna dance?

Perry's Roar seems to lend itself more to mass arm-waving rather than dancefloor grooving, with its slightly slower tempo. It's the kind of self-empowerment anthem that will have you seat-dancing in the car rather than jumping at the gym.

Gaga's Applause, on the other hand, seems custom-made for aerobics classes, running playlists, and sweaty nights out clubbing. It's the kind of heart-pumping, steamrolling, ear-worming tune that makes you forget how any other song goes. I can't even remember Roar after listening to Applause.

Have we heard it all before?

They both get docked a couple of points here because they've both managed to inspire accusations of plagiarism.

Roar has been compared to singer songwriter Sara Bareilles' latest hit Brave, while Gaga found herself being compared to Madonna once more, with Applause said to sound like Girl Gone Wild.

Though using an inflammatory term like plagiarism might be overstepping the mark, there are certainly similarities in the rhythmic patterns and chord progressions, so yep, we've heard them before. But what is pop music these days if not cut-up versions of songs that have come before?

How intriguing was the promo campaign?

Perry kicked things off nicely with a series of short YouTube clips hinting at a brand new Katy. First she burned the blue wig that was a key part of her Teenage Dream imagery, then staged a funeral for her former persona. Next was a creepy white cat eating a feathery toy and roaring into the camera, and finally we saw Perry walking into the studio in heavy black boots and a blue satin jacket with a tiger on the back - kinda like the one Ryan Gosling wore in Drive. So, it's no more Miss Nice Girl from Perry. It was a clever way to tease fans, though she's let things slide with the annoying lyric video for Roar, all typed on a smartphone with emoticons flashing at you.

Gaga has also been very busy, releasing a chameleonic range of new imagery, creating an Artpop app, posting endless revealing photos and lyrical snippets, along with a behind-the-scenes lyric video, and then the official Applause video itself. It's a whirling mash of art references (Botticelli and Miro among them), a giant top hat, a cage, billowing white sheets, her head on a black swan, a "handkini", and Gaga writhing on a mattress. Apparently it has something to do with the moment she broke her hip. Despite its weirdness, it's still kind of entrancing.

Does it live up to the hype?

Perry claimed to be changing her tune a bit and delving into darker material, while Gaga declared that she was turning pop music into art. Both of them are good enough singles, catchy and well-produced, but nothing revelatory or game-changing, especially when it comes to the lyrical content. So frankly, despite the fact that it looks like Applause is the better track (and video), the hype is bigger than both songs. But that's not going to stop them from sticking to the top of the charts for weeks.

- NZ Herald

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Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Childhood music lessons eventually led to degrees in music and media studies for Lydia Jenkin, launching her career as an entertainment writer. A love of late nights watching local musos - whether in dingy bars or at summer music festivals – saw her become assistant editor at NZ Musician magazine for nearly five years before she jumped at the chance to join the TimeOut team. She's at her happiest when ranting about her latest music discovery, but is equally keen on excellent film and television (The Dark Horse and True Detective are her picks so far for 2014).

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