By all accounts, the song’s popularity should not be possible. Playing on tired metaphors that circle around a fad of three years’ past, it’s amazing that in today’s flavor of the week society such a sonnet could attain such relevance and resonate as it does with our peers. But there it is, at the top of the billboard charts. And there it is, playing at countless apartment parties every Thursday night. And there it is, calling to me from the window of a passing beamer. I am of course, talking about Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face.”
Upon my first listen, I’ll admit that I shed a tear for the woman. “Texas hold ‘em?” I wondered aloud to myself, recalling those innocent nights of high school angst and five dollar buy-ins, “Really?” It seemed like such a joke, and though the beat did indeed get my feet a tappin’ and my head a bobbin’, I was more embarrassed by the poor choice of subject-matter than anything else. I felt as if I was listening to the musical incarnation of Bridgette Jones’ infamous costume-party blunder, only this time the ill-advised decision came not in the form of a rather endearing Playboy Bunny costume, but a worn and decrepit game of our youth, whose flame had long burnt out.
Given all of this, the question becomes, “Why?” Why has this song found such a following amidst our contemporaries and why has it not suffered the awkward embarrassment akin to showing up at the Oscar’s in last year’s fashions? One could conceivably make the case for excellent production values, heavy beats, and the addictively delightful opening that is “Mum mum mum mah,” but I would have to disagree with all three seemingly foregone conclusions. Rather, I propose it is something deeper within all of us, something more symptomatic of the era in which we’ve come of age that has led us to revel in such a senseless indulgence as “Poker Face.” I am of course speaking of our generation’s complete and absolute addiction to nostalgia. To be honest, VH1 fucked us all. Right when we were most impressionable, they released their highly popular “I Love the 80s” series, and things have never been the same since. We’ve grown accustomed to adoring the past and to recreating it in our present. We no longer find ourselves content with the natural order and progression of things, but instead seek to perpetuate a sense of youth and belonging through a constant revisiting to what once was.
Even more disturbing is the way in which, as the years have passed since that first show, we have come to pine for those things nearer and nearer to our present moment. What those decades past were to our parents, those months of yore are to us. Nostalgia is the bastion by which we maintain a sense of stability in this world that appears to be progressing at such lightening speed. In such a light, the popularity of Poker Face makes perfect sense. It is our rock and our anchor to another time, when things were “simpler” and when our worries seemed inconsequential. Tomorrow is only a day away, but in our minds that day is all too close – especially as potential college grads coming into a job market altogether hostile to our hopes and dreams. Poker Face however, is anything but hostile. Rather, it’s comforting. As I dip my hips to the grooves it lays down, my mind is allowed to wander back to those dimly lit garages, with their cigarillos and cheap beer, and all those fantastic promises of our seemingly lost youth. Maybe Lady GaGa knows the game better than I previously thought. Combine her premature nostalgia with our generation’s seething insecurity, and you’ve got quite the pair. What a deliciously devious creature she would be if such a thing were so. But, of course, despite all of this psychoanalytical bullshit, maybe it’s just her neckline that has me so royally flushed.