Head to Head:

Which act will be the biggest disappointment at Lollapalooza?

Ryan Peters:

The most disappointing thing about Lolla '10 will easily be the fact that Erykah Badu probably isn't going to rip off all of her clothes in Grant Park now that the District Attorney's office is trying to charge her disorderly conduct for stripping naked in the video for "Window Seat." I was looking forward to that. But since her music is wonderful, I don't think I can say that she'll be the most disappointing act. I'll give the (dis)honor to Lady Gaga.

Now, I should point out that, unlike those hipsters hate anything even remotely popular, I don't dislike Lady Gaga. In fact, I think "Bad Romance" is one of the better pop songs I have heard in years. But in the course of two short years, Gaga has earned more notoriety for her perceived outrageousness than for the music she makes. I applaud an artist who is willing to work against the grain of precendent, and while Gaga sells sex, she does so in a way that is vastly different (and frankly more interesting) than the likes of The Pussy Cat Dolls and other similar groups or artists. Lady Gaga's sexuality is bound up in images of violence, masochism, and gender-bending, and she honestly couldn't seem to care less what people think about her, so long as they pay attention to her.

But to my mind, she's already starting to run up against what I like to call The Madonna Syndrome. Like the Material Girl before her, Gaga has predicated too much of her act on being shocking, and thus must continue to shock people at every turn. Madonna went so far as to put out the book "Sex," which was filled with black and white photos of her in a variety of erotic poses. Maybe it was shocking in 1992, but when I picked it up in a store a few years ago it felt like I was flipping through the senior portfolio of a bad art school student. Much as I appreciate the urge to push boundaries, eventually the shocking-for-the-sake-of-being-shocking routine becomes trite and predictable. Madonna has spent years trying to find new ways to make people gasp, but when she tongue-kissed Britney Spears on the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003, the whole thing felt too choreographed. Truly shocking moments--like, say, Sinead O'Connor ripping up a picture of the Pope on "Saturday Night Live -- are shocking because they are unexpected and often seem deeply honest.

And that is what is lost in the hoopla over Lady Gaga's video for "Telephone": anything unexpected (well that, and the fact that the song itself is barely mediocre). When I say that Lady Gaga might be the most disappointing act at Lollapalooza, it's because people are expecting her to do something that will absolutely blow their minds. But really, is anyone shocked by this kind of thing anymore? Unless she drinks blood from the skull of the Obama's weird-looking dog, it all strikes me as quite rote. What would be really unexpected is if Gaga came out, without a costume and a huge dance routine, and instead sat at her piano and ripped through her catalogue of great pop songs. We shall see...

Dominick Mayer:

For some reason, when I started thinking about who will be the biggest disappointment at Lolla 2010, the game "Clue" came to mind. This might be due to that rash of dreams I've had lately where Tim Curry is a transvestite Tarzan who takes me on a whirlwind journey through the Alps, or it could just be that I'm overworked. Regardless, we're going to roll with this, and play a game of Who Killed Lolla '10? Was it:

Green Day, on the main stage, with the overblown and forgettable rock opera 21st Century Breakdown? Now, don't get me wrong, I've always been a pretty big Green Day fan. Even American Idiot, though it's lost some of its luster now that I'm older than 15, is still a great album by my account. Which is why it was really depressing to see them wait five years to follow it up, and then just try to beat the dead horse again, with middling (at best) returns. Their Lolla set can go one of two ways, and I really hope it's the former: Either they'll do a career-spanning two-hour set covering everything from their pre-Dookie albums through Breakdown, or they'll just be touring behind their most recent record. If it's the latter, this could be a gigantic egg on the South Stage.

MGMT, in the subheadliner slot, with the career-risking new album and the bad buzz? I actually really enjoyed Congratulations (my review's also up elsewhere on HEAVE) in spite of its imperfections, but the general consensus has been that this could be MGMT's fatal sophomore slump. It's really not pop-accessible at all, and the set is already going to clash just by virtue of trying to combine new material with "Time To Pretend" and "Kids". Adding to this is the high expectations based upon them being a likely subheadliner (I'd guess for Gaga), and then their notoriety for being a terrible live act, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Actually, both are wrong. I'm likely going to catch a ton of flack for this, but my bet is on Soundgarden in the #1 slot, with the overwhelming hype. I kind of hope I'm wrong (though if the rumors of Arcade Fire being put against them are true, I won't be finding out), but I just feel like the sort of rust that inevitably comes with not having played a gig together in 15 years, and then going to a stage the size of Lolla, was a dicey bet. There's always the chance they could kill it, but even Chris Cornell hasn't played since Audioslave's run ended, and that was still a few years ago now. In terms of pure proportion of significance, added to deafening hype, this is the biggest setup for a letdown.

Posted by Ryan Peters, Ryan Peters on Apr 13, 2010 @ 12:00 am

lady gaga, green day, sound garden, lollapalooza