This is the first time I’ve written something like this for fun. It takes the form of a lot of my favorite bloggers, so excuse the change in style from my normal ranting writings. In a discussion about Barcelona I sort of stumbled upon the idea to write about how similar the talents, decisions, and recent histories of Lady Gaga and Barcelona really are. I chuckled to myself about writing this, but I just went for it. As someone that doesn’t listen to that much Gaga, but really dug Monster and Fame Monster, I hope I did her justice. To my soccer readers, I hope I didn’t sully my reputation with you. This is the perspective of a ’90s music-loving, Chelsea fan.
Reaching the pinnacle of a field or discipline is something people with talent, or those deluded enough to believe they have it, dream of all of their lives. Few ever reach it. Lady Gaga, in her short 25 years on this planet, has done what many work tirelessly for years to achieve. She wins awards like participation ribbons. The world is her oyster, despite the paper-thin controversies surrounding her videos, performances, and support for sinister causes like equality in marriage rights. She’s at the mountain top, and we are all down here marveling at her accomplishments, like a pop culture Sir Edmund Hillary.
Barcelona are also at the mountain top. After having convincingly, maybe not in the first 30 seconds, defeated Real Madrid at the Bernabéu 3-1. Plaudits have rained in over the mastery of Guardiola, the brilliance of Messi, the open heart surgery Iniesta performed in midfield, and the control of Xavi. This acclaim isn’t anything new. It’s been on full blast on every blog, magazine, and medium that covers soccer since last Saturday.
Barcelona have been on a tear since Guardiola took over in 2008, about the same time Lady Gaga’s Monsterhit the shelves. With the same tenacity, hard work, absolute skill, and talent, Lady Gaga and Barcelona have dominated their respective fields. While borrowing elements from the 1970s and 1980s, the artists have added their own twists on proven formulas that brought unbridled success to others–Ajax, Madonna, Holland.
Focus, intelligence, creativity, drive, and competition have driven both to the top. Barcelona have dominated European football since Guardiola took charge and decided to build the squad around Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta. Lady Gaga has dominated the charts since 2008 with hit albums like Monster, The Fame Monster, and Born This Way–her Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta. And, success has brought its share of imitators. Clubs like Chelsea have spent millions of pounds trying to recreate the possession-based, silky style of Barcelona with little comparative success to the likes of Nicki Minaj. Chelsea and Manchester City have improved their youth facilities in order to mimic the success of Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy. But, it always seems like Barcelona and Lady Gaga are one step ahead. Lady Barça uses old forms and references to create new ideas and images. She blows away imitators and supporters by not only staying true to what made her great but by remaining malleable and unsatisfied as an artist. Barcelona’s squad is constantly shifting, and so is Gaga’s creative model.
During El Clasico, Barcelona fielded a starting XI without a natural striker. Alexis Sanchez, a winger, was made to lead the line against the stout, yet at times vulnerable, Real defense. The brilliance of this move makes so much sense when applied but would have probably made most football aficionados scratch their heads. Guardi-Gaga tweaked an idea that kept his opponents guessing and his supporters yearning for an answer, a positive one at that.
Guardiola, “The Genius”, was in tune. He stayed true to the philosophy of Barcelona, the ideas that got Barcelona here. Yet, he was aware of the the changes necessary to quench his thirst for supremacy. He needed to beat Mourinho. He needed to prove that his philosophy was correct, better, and unpredictable. (Maybe this wasn’t running through his head when he put on Keita to kill off the match, but hey, it’s nice to think it’s true.) He knew exactly how to make the fans jump out of their seats. He knew how to get the game moving. Barcelona delivered. Barcelona made millions dance in living rooms and bars across the globe. Barcelona put on a spectacle that night. Barcelona was Lady Gaga.
Eventually, Barcelona and Lady Gaga’s star will not shine as bright, and we will be left with the memories of 5-0, 6-2, and “Bad Romance.” We will remember the exhilaration of seeing Messi’s goals against Getafe, Arsenal, Madrid, and just about everyone he’s faced. We’ll remember the genius of “Poker Face.” But these memories will become foggy with time and distance, and we will have to rely on myth and YouTube to educate others about the demigods of the late-2000s. Fortunately, there’s life, music, and football outside of these two powerhouses; marvels that have added to our sporting and popular cultures forever.