Lady Gaga

Giulio Marcocchi/Sipa Press

About Lady Gaga's bizarre VMA performance: This finally means she's through, right?
—A4HA, via the inbox

Which Lady Gaga? There are two of them. I'm not referring to Lady Gaga and her unwashed Sicilian lover Jo Calderone, who has been kept in cryogenic stasis since his last gig in the '70s with Sha Na Na. No, I speak of Lady Gaga the music seller vs. Lady Gaga the brand. One of those two people is just fine. The other, well ...

First, the music pusher. Gaga's music is still selling just fine, relatively. Born This Way still sits at a comfortable No. 12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week. She also hasn't endured the biggest drop in single sales of late; according to the Billboard Hot 100 chart, that ignominy belongs to Kanye West, Jay-Z, Jason Derulo and Avril Lavigne. If those three artists aren't through—and they clearly are not—than Lady Gaga certainly can't be, either.

But Gaga did do some damage to her brand over the weekend (as well as provided a boost to Annie Lennox's gender-bending cred). I spoke to a half-dozen brand managers in music and other areas, and they all insisted that Gaga's choice alienated and confused her audience. For the record, in the branding world, that is bad.

"What Lady Gaga did left people confused as to who she is," branding consultant Amanda Guralski tells me. "She has developed a brand of outlandish clothing and outspokenness, being comfortable born the way you are, but the VMAs was a brand destroyer.

"The night was embarrassing for Lady Gaga. If I were her image and branding 
consultant, I would definitely have my work cut out for me. It only takes one appearance to make people question everything."

In other words, before this past weekend, Gaga had trained her monsters to expect flamboyant disco-Bauhaus-Muppet mashups, not Jersey Shore. Even worse, data shows that people may already have been sick of Gaga before Jo Calderone ever stumbled onto the VMA stage. I checked with the people behind the popularity gauge E-Score. They told me, "Her ‘overexposed' score is 38 and shows a steady upward trend."

Now, yes, that is considered bad: That's comparable to Donald Trump (38 percent) and Rebecca Black (36 percent).

One bright spot for Gaga: People may be turned off, but they're still curious. According to Yahoo! searches for Lady Gaga on Yahoo! are up more than 980 percent this week. Granted, searches for Adele are up more than 4100 percent, and Katy Perry searches are up more than 1000 percent, but 980 percent is nothing to be ashamed of.

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