Whatever Happened To Lady Gaga? Calculating Why She’s MIA At The VMAs

Chris Willman
Stop The Presses!

Just call her Lady Nada...at least as far as this year's MTV Video Music Awards are concerned.

When the nominations for Thursday night's awards show were announced and Lady Gaga got exactly zero, it was the snub heard round the world—or at least in the lands most populated by Little Monsters. How to account for a clean shut-out of the superstar some would still consider our reigning female pop icon?

Only the collective voters know for sure, but going into this week's telecast, we've got seven theories about why she's suddenly the Invisible Lady.

1. Blowback from last year's Jo Calderone monologue. When Gaga opened last year's show doing seemingly endless improv as her male greaser alter ego, Jo Calderone, it went over about as well as Clint Eastwood at this year's Republican convention. And you don't think the GOP will be inviting Clint back to the podium in 2016, do you? There were grumblings that Gaga, who previously could do little wrong, had gotten cocky enough to think TV viewers would enjoy seeing her do anything. Of course, the MTV voters are supposed to be going on the quality of her videos, not whether they appreciated her live-TV schtick. But for some who were already on the cusp of thinking Gaga had gotten too big for her britches, last year's "Jo" jive may have seemed like a jump-the-shark moment.

[PHOTOS: Jo Calderone and other crazy VMAs moments]

2. Provocation fatigue. The shock of the new can get old. Perhaps you can only reinvent your look so many times before folks get weary. "You don't have to challenge us with a new image every time, Gaga. Wear the meat dress twice. It's okay."

3. Born This Way backlash. However much you did or didn't enjoy Gaga's latest album, few fans would argue it was her best. The Meat Loaf-goes-disco sound wasn't for everyone, and at the tail end of the album cycle, there was little motivation even among supporters to keep rewarding it. In the music industry, as well, there's still a lingering feeling that it was overhyped and that its 1.1 million in certified first-week sales represented a cheat because 440,000 of those were sold by Amazon for 99 cents. The huge drop-off in sales following that first week (in the subsequent 16 months, it's only sold about another 1.1 million copies) indicated it didn't have much The Fame-style traction.

[Related: Previewing this year's VMAs]

4. Maybe the eligible videos just stunk. Maybe MTV's voters weren't sending any implicit message about Gaga being over, or even uncool, but just thought her two eligible videos didn't cut the mustard. Her self-directed "Marry The Night," released last December, was largely seen as a big mess of hubris (sample dialogue: "I'm gonna be a star. You know why? Because I have nothing left to lose"), and an unwieldy mixture of dadaism and showbiz corn. Given a length that clocked in at 14 minutes of self-importance, how many people had it in them to watch it a second time? The "You And I" video, which was released a few months earlier, had gone over much better. But not everyone loved hearing her country side in the tune. And by some standards the melange of imagery was a mess. On the plus side, you had Gaga as a sexy mermaid. On the bummer side, you had...oh no!...the dreaded Jo Calderone.

5. The MTV voters who shut her out are fickle friends who take the channel's most valuable icon for granted. Well, that is one explanation.

6. She's completely over. In your dreams, haters.

7. Lady Gaga is between album cycles, and sometimes it's best to let the fields lie fallow. By this reasoning, MTV Awards voters were really doing Gaga a huge favor by not nominating her. The so-called snub really represents giving people a break from the superstar's overpowering dominance for a while, so that when she comes back with her next album, which she's revealed will be called ARTPOP, it won't feel like pop fans have been subjected to ceaseless overexposure. This theory probably gives the voters too much credit for imagining and following her marketing team's strategy.

[Related: Full list of 2012 VMA nominations]

But it is possible that even the voters who still adore Gaga figured she's such a juggernaut, everyone else would be casting their ballots for her. Jo Calderone may murder the English language, but he couldn't have singlehandedly killed Lady Gaga's mojo...could he?

What's your theory about Gaga's unexpected VMAs shutout?