A person could make a case for saying that Lady Gaga has achieved more in the past month than most of the presidential candidates have in the past year of endless campaigning, combined.
I never paid much attention to pop music, especially as endlessly looped on Top 40 radio featuring someone whose name sounds like a brand of discount baby food, but in the past few weeks, this performer has elevator her game to the point where she can't be ignored.
She belted out the National Anthem on the biggest, most seen, arguably the most American stage of them all, the Super Bowl. Say what you will about her big hair, shiny outfit, blue fingernail polish or red glitter eye shadow, she delivered a faithful version of our grand old song that makes you want to stand up and grab a flag and defend a fort somewhere. She performed better than either quarterback and I haven't heard a thing out of 17 presidential candidates nearly so patriotically inspiring.
Then Gaga moved on to the Grammy's for a tribute to recently-passed David Bowie. How many performers could embrace a dozen of someone else's challenging songs so quickly and theatrically? Both performers made their name as counterculture, unabashedly freaky figures. It's hard to imagine anyone else being so appropriate for that performance, and she rocked it.
Then on to the Oscars, where she sat down at the snow white piano and hammered out her Academy nominated "Til It Happens to You," the powerful, emotional song empowering survivors of sexual assault, surrounded on stage with fellow rape survivors wearing marks like "unbreakable," and "it's not your fault" scrawled on their arms in marker.
Music has the power to make you happy, or sad, to inspire you to sing at the top of your lungs at a stoplight. But I can't remember an instance where I've seen a song performed and just sat stunned. What just happened...
I'm still not sure how to describe it. Raw, certainly. Real. Angry. Cathartic.
The message seems pretty clear, and it's not one of tears and victimization. It's empowerment and solidarity.
Women who are no longer willing to be silent about what has been perpetrated upon them and others. There is a sense of turning point there. An extraordinary use of platform.
And think. Somewhere, 53 sexual assailants were probably sitting watching, with the sinking feeling and indelible guilt that they deserve, and knowing their heartless kind should be, hopefully one day will be, exterminated.
"Til it Happens To You" was written by Gaga with fellow sexual assault survivor Diane Warren for the documentary The Hunting Ground, which exposes the prevalence of sexual assault and rape on
college campuses. Nothing changes if you can't talk about it. Or in this case, perhaps, sing about it.
There's nothing I could write that could express this properly. So let's turn to Jade Roper, of "The Bachelor" fame, another survivor who reflected on the performance in her blog.
"As I am writing this, my heart is beating fast, hard against my chest, almost irregularly," Roper wrote. "I've only shared my story with but a few, not even my family knows. But when I saw Gaga fill the whole room with emotion as she sang with conviction and urgency, as I saw survivors of sexual assault bravely stand up there showing the world that what happened to them does matter, tears streamed down my face."
Roper was attending a high school party when she was 16, with a group of friends. Her friends had disappeared, and she found herself left alone with some boys they knew.
"I remember it getting late and I needed to be home for my curfew," she wrote. "I remember one guy holding me down while another got on top of me. I remember them driving me home and my parents were gone, driving around town looking for me. When my parents got home, my dad said he found me in my room on the floor in my underwear, mumbling to him I wasn't innocent anymore. I was a virgin."
She woke up covered with bruises, her jeans covered with blood. She confronted her assailants, but they denied everything. Too scared to tell anyone, Roper instead became "depressed, anxious, and self loathing."
"I was afraid of what they would think of me - or worse, that they wouldn't care at all," she said. "I convinced myself I must have deserved it. That this bad thing happened to me because of something I had done.
"All the hurt and the anger I had towards the boys that assaulted me, I took out on myself. I destroyed myself with harmful words and internalized all my emotions."
It has been a long road to healing, said the actress, who recently wed a fellow "Bachelor" series alum. She hopes that sharing her experience, as the women in the Gaga performance did, will be of some help to others who suffer in silence. She's no longer afraid of what people will think.
"I am not chained to this experience, it doesn't have to control my life," she wrote.
Who is this Gaga, this former Catholic schoolgirl who has set entertainment in a whole new, powerful direction?
The National Anthem was stirring. The Bowie tribute was moving. But for making us finally face the sexual violence issue head on, respect.