Commentary: Keep Thanksgiving weird and bring back Lady Gaga’s holiday specials
Thanksgiving can be a bit of a mess. Extended families gather, wait for an enormous bird to roast and make awkward small talk, taking painstaking care to avoid any hot-button issues, including but not limited to: climate change, midterm elections and J.K. Rowling’s continued manipulation of the Harry Potter universe.
The inherent tension of the holiday is reflected in Thanksgiving television offerings, too, which are nothing if not eclectic. Do you enjoy B-level pop stars lip-syncing in sub-zero temperatures? The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has you covered. Prefer garish displays of testosterone and brute strength? The NFL aims to please. Do you like dogs? Of course you do, and the National Dog Show has dogs in spades.
It’s a strange mishmash of entertainment and that’s what makes it perfect. Much like your overloaded dinner plate, Thanksgiving is all about consuming a bunch of stuff that doesn’t necessarily go together but is delicious all the same.
Which is precisely why we need another holiday special from Lady Gaga.
What? You don’t remember Lady Gaga ever having a holiday special? You poor thing.
Travel back with me to the halcyon days of 2011. Beyoncé was pregnant with Blue Ivy, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton sparked a new generation’s obsession with the royals and Lady Gaga dropped her second studio album, “Born This Way.”
That was the pop-culture landscape when Gaga announced that she would be hosting and directing a holiday special of her own. “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving” featured the budding pop icon seated at a piano next to an enormous table covered with food and surrounded by people.
She proceeded to sing songs from “Born This Way,” periodically interrupting herself to tell stories from her past and single-handedly creating a truly one-of-a-kind — if bizarre —viewing experience.
Sure, it’s awkward listening to your Aunt Nancy regale you with tales of how she learned to repurpose her cat’s excess fur as yarn, but it’s still less unsettling than a table full of people watching the gravy congeal on their plates as Gaga sings “The Edge of Glory” and weeps over Italian waffle cookies.
And that’s Thanksgiving at its core! It’s a little uncomfortable, it’s much too much and you walk away wondering if you had a good time, grateful that you have an entire year to figure out the answer.
But Gaga didn’t have one Thanksgiving special. She had two. And things got even weirder.
“Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular” landed in 2013 and featured the star mixing things up with the Muppets while performing songs from her third studio album, “Artpop,” and welcoming special guests Kristen Bell and Elton John.
Where “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving” was refined, the “Holiday Spectacular” was erratic, thanks in no small part to “Artpop” itself. To illustrate, in the above tweet, Gaga asked fans to guess what song she was performing with the Muppets at the moment. The answer is “Venus,” which the artist admitted was about sex.
It’s bootlegged on YouTube. It cannot be explained, only experienced.
Despite how off-putting the specials might sound, there’s something comforting and consumable about them, like a tryptophan-induced fever dream.
We need another Lady Gaga holiday special. Nay, we demand one. Gaga has come so far in her career, from avant-garde artist to soulful crooner to actress extraordinaire that the thought of her hosting another Thanksgiving extravaganza is extra appealing.
So bring it on. “A Star Is Born” Thanksgiving-style. She can even make Bradley Cooper her muppet.
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