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Lady Gaga Needs 'Applause' a Bit Too Much

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Lady Gaga's new single, Applause, heralds her forthcoming enterprise, the multimedia album, ARTPOP, which, for some reason is usually spelled with all capital letters.

The project, announced last month, is already in danger of falling victim to the age-old hype-over-substance disease.

Falling in line with the current pop-star trend, the song was "leaked" ahead of its official release date of Aug. 19. Daft Punk's album earlier this year was "leaked" and created quite a stir, so now everybody and their brother is putting out tracks ahead of the release date and claiming they were leaked. Katy Perry's single Roar "leaked" the same day as Applause.

In the case of Applause, low-quality versions reportedly began appearing online last weekend, forcing our superhero singer to the Gaga-phone to save the day for her Little Monsters:

Her tweets, it seems, also have to be all caps. Sort of anti-e.e. cummings.

Mind, I've got no proof that Gaga's track was leaked deliberately. But the coincidence of so many artists claiming the same security problem in the same three-month period and enjoying relatively the same smashing success as a result makes the probability that this was actually "leaked" about a million to one.

That's "a million," as in dollars. ARTPOP in pre-order is selling like hotcakes and Applause is currently aiming for the range of just over 200,000 downloads in its first week, according to Billboard. The same article estimates Katy Perry's Roar at over 400,000 downloads.

"Leaks" work as a marketing strategy because it builds excitement among core fans who feel they're getting a glimpse into the artist's secret world. Curiosity about the music blends with the psychology of being first in line, of taking ownership of a song. As a result, a "leak" gains a few extra headlines, fueled further by the artist's camp feigning outrage.

The notion of the "leak" is popular now, in part, because of WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, et al. Quite literally -- not a marketing gimmick at all -- leaks are a big part of our culture, a global problem that threatens international political stability. When a song is "leaked" it makes the artist seem important. An illusion. The information in a pop song doesn't threaten or liberate anyone. It's a pop song.

Charitably, you can say these artists are building on that common theme, making it an aspect of their work. More realistically, you could call it a scam to sell downloads.

Making her work seem more important than it is, in itself, is an important feature of Lady Gaga's career right now. Her stated goal for ARTPOP, due Nov. 11, is to unite the entire art world behind her at center stage. There will be big-name visual artists, videos, a star-studded opening gala, an app. Lord knows there will have to be a documentary.

Taken at face value, Applause isn't half bad. It has some of the stripped-down, machine-inspired groove that is becoming popular, particularly in the wake of Kanye West's success with that style on Yeezus. And it plays on the growing appetite for late disco.
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