In our end-of-year albums roundup, by way of a mostly successful hat metaphor, we talked a bit about how Lady Gaga tried to contain the sprawling mass of ideas in the 'Born This Way' album.
In the 2011 Readers' Poll, meanwhile, we asked the question 'what do you want Lady Gaga to do in 2012?' and gave two options: less, or more. 44% of you wanted more, 56% of you wanted less. We don't think it's as easy as saying her fans want more and her detractors want less, because there are plenty of fans who know she needs to rein things in to survive as an artist, and there are plenty of non-fans who enjoy the spectacle of her trying to do everything.
The 'pretty much as many people want more as want less' result might be a bit confusing, but it will be no surprise to Lady Gaga. Last year she came back with 'Born This Way' and watched vocal moaners complain that — among other things — it was no 'Bad Romance'; she followed it with 'Judas' (a song which by design and by her own admission strongly referenced 'Bad Romance') and watched the world moan that it was too much like 'Bad Romance'. A few years ago was welcomed with open arms by a music world who wanted a popstar who would at last have something to say, then she promoted her second album to people who wanted her to stop banging on. So she knows that it is impossible to please all the people all the time and that you would drive yourself mad trying, but there must still be a question mark hanging over the idea that around as many people want more as want less.
Is it possible to do more, and do less at the same time? Surely, you might think, if she does more and less at the same time, doesn't she end up doing the same amount?
Well it might make little sense at first glance, but yes it is possible. And we don't mean 'less is more' — we mean Lady Gaga can do more but also less. More of one thing, less of another. Partly it is about making fewer things matter more. Partly it is about knowing when and where to pick your battles. Partly it is about there coming a point in any artist's career where success or failure hinges not on what they do, but what they don't do. It's about the confidence to say no. Less and more is pop's answer to the one inch punch, and it's something Lady Gaga must perfect in 2012.