If you want to understand the problem with the world at the present late stage of capitalism, watch The Bling Ring, then listen to the new Lady Gaga album.  Both are obsessed with the surface of material glamour ("bling") as it becomes a fetish object, standing in for what really might drive us - sex, love, safety, faith, freedom - and, in both cases, these American products of excess and privilege gesture brilliantly, if rather sadly, at another way.

This may be satire or an epiphenomenon.  Gaga's album is not the master-work she no doubt hoped it would be, critics say, but several songs are funny collages and cut-ups of sounds and styles and personae that suggest the Lady is as much Shanghai as she is Wilde.  This is certainly the year of the pop diva - with Cher, Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Charli XCX among others coming out with massive tracks and albums of technical delights and quirky gems.  But like a morning after a cocaine binge, there is a great wasteland of recovery and emptiness, once the music has ended.  For these pop artefacts, unlike art, do not seem to feed the soul.  At best, they spike an artery.
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