Gaga’s Electric Chapel
A thrilling electro-metal pop-opera, The Born This Way Ball reaffirms Lady Gaga’s status as the new queen of pop music. As Garrett Bithell writes, her reign is a welcome one.
For a long time, I have been gravely disillusioned by our contemporary mainstream pop climate. While I am more than aware they send many individuals crazy – like bats-in-the-belfry crazy – I would rather be water-boarded than listen to Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Rihanna et al. Why this is the case is a story in itself, so let’s just say I find them all intolerably dull.
But three years ago, a young woman by the name of Lady Gaga appeared, and gave me a reason to be a pop music fan again. It wasn’t just her music though, which admittedly often sits squarely in the generic category, but her sentiments of show business. A child of the New York underground performance art scene, here was this classically-trained pianist who wrote her own music, designed her own shows and wrote the treatments and co-directed all of her videos. She was smart, witty, scathing when necessary, hard-working, and always looked incredible.
Indeed, her show was never just about what happened on stage, it existed before and after in an ongoing narrative that she is still telling with an intoxicating fusion of music, art and fashion.
Soon, Lady Gaga’s political and social motivations began to manifest. Herself the victim of bullying at school, she quickly turned the groundswell of support she had attracted into a powerful movement espousing acceptance, bravery, equality and the encouragement of diversity. She labelled her fans ‘Little Monsters’, and this community of young people soon named her ‘Mother Monster’.
At The Born This Way Ball on Wednesday night, Sydney’s Little Monsters – myself included – packed out the Allphones Arena to worship at the altar of Gaga. And the bitch did not put one foot wrong. With her throng of top-notch dancers, seriously-styled band and medieval-castle set, she delivered a three-hour pop-theatre spectacle. The show’s narrative – according to Gaga “the tale of the Beginning, the genesis of the Kingdom of Fame. How we were birth and how we will die celebrating” – was a bit nebulous in parts, to say the least, but the fact this didn’t matter at all indicates the level of her performance power. Certainly, ideas about liberation, violence, devotion, alienation and betrayal intermingled like a striking thematic tapestry.
Lady Gaga is a terrifyingly good performer. The fact that she easily kept up with her dancers is impressive enough, but the fact she kept up with them while singing every note live is phenomenal. And very rare. Seemingly changing outfits after every song, the highly theatrical designs never dominated her. No matter how peculiar, she wore them – really wore them – not the other way around, which is testament to her strength of self. She also has one the best arses around, and flashed her cheeks around liberally. Why wouldn’t you?
Moreover, I particularly appreciated the way she gradually shed layers – literally and metaphorically. When she first appeared on stage, she was silent, untouchable, almost menacing. Not a flash of skin was visible. But as the show progressed, she became more human, more visible, more emotional. Her monologue before ‘Hair’, where she spoke at length about equality and unity (“Can’t I be gay and not have to be a cunt?” was perhaps my favourite line), made it clear why she has become the voice of embattled young people everywhere.
While I’m lucky I’ve never had to look to a pop star for strength, Gaga is clearly speaking to millions and millions of bullied kids around the world, and that is relevant. It’s especially relevant because it does seem as though she is the lynchpin of a burgeoning movement towards an appreciation of individuality and eccentricity. It’s suddenly cool to be ‘gaga’, and that’s big news.
Previously, there was so few pop stars – if any – worthy of being called a role model. You only have to listen to interviews with Nicki Minaj or Rihanna to realise this. Further, while Gaga is overtly sexual like all pop stars, her brand of sexuality is empowered and strong. Whereas Katy Perry looks like a 50s pin-up and Britney a blow-up doll, Gaga never dresses or dances for men. Men dance for Gaga.
Performing every song off Born This Way as well as her hits from The Fame and The Fame Monster, there are images from The Born This Way Ball that will be etched on my brain forever.
[Pictured] Lady Gaga’s The Born This Way Ball has attracted both praise and controversy.