A couple weekends ago, I was sent for a Lady Gaga showcase and interview in Singapore.
I’ve been lucky enough to have already met and interviewed her once before, so this time there was sorta less pressure. Plus I remembered how nice she was the first time. She’s really down-to-earth and sweet, and she made us feel really comfortable the last time.
And somehow, Gaga always brings the best out of me. I remember how easy it was writing the first interview, and how easy everything just came out. She’s just such a fascinating personality to write about, and her quotes are always so powerful and emotive.
Anyway, just thought I’d share the article I wrote on that second interview. It was published last Thursday in StarTwo. Hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it =)
The Lady has arrived
The biggest artiste in the world. Those are pretty big shoes to fill – not that big, clunky shoes aren’t Lady Gaga’s thing – but that’s how they introduced Gaga at a press conference in Singapore last week, just hours before she took to the stage at Marina Bay Sands to put on one helluva show.
Okay, so maybe the guy who said that might have been overstating a bit, being one of her record label bosses, but you can’t really argue with him – the Lady is a monster of a performing artiste.
In terms of album sales, Born This Way has sold over five million copies in just over a month, and that’s to go with the 14 million albums she’s already sold in a career that, though it rarely feels that way, is just less than three years old.
And then there’s the cultural impact. There were fans there waiting the entire day outside Marina Bay Sands who knew her bodyguard’s name, how tall she was, which hotel she stayed at during her last tour stop, how often she does yoga and pretty much any kind of ridiculous trivia you can think of to ask.
And these fans aren’t the hysterical star-gazers smitten by their idol’s good looks (obviously). They feel a very real sort of connection with her, they feel like she understands them, that she cares for them.
But that’s what the best performing artistes do – they don’t just communicate, they connect; and at her hour-long showcase that night, boy, did she connect.
If you want to watch a real superstar in action, a performer at the peak of her powers, get yourself tickets to a Gaga gig because she is the sh*t.
She’s just one of those artistes that has so much creativity, so much talent that it just seems to ooze out, from her every move, her every note, her every pore.
During her concert in Singapore, she did a lot of her new material – Born This Way opened, Edge Of Glory was electrifying and Judas was the encore; plus a couple of “old” tracks too, Just Dance and Bad Romance.
Not that I had to pay for it, but I would pay just to watch her usual party piece where she gets on the piano. That, for me, is when she’s in her element. She went from an almost heart-wrenching rendition of Hair, to an a**-kicking, smoking-hot belting of You And I where she really let her vocals soar. Take away the crazy hair, the weird shoes and ridiculous outfits, and this lady can still rock it out with the best.
The concert did, however, come with an eerie reminder of another artiste who had filled similarly big shoes – Michael Jackson, whose songs they were playing before the show started.
In many ways, Gaga and MJ are the same – uncompromising live performers who leave everything out there on the stage, preachers of a message of love, and artistes who had an impact way beyond the confines of music. On stage, she is – possibly quite literally (if you believe the tabloids) – like Michael Jackson on crack; a post-modern, counterculture version of the King of Pop.
At the press conference was another ominous reminder. It was held at an exhibition in Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum on Vincent van Gogh, the talented but tortured painter. Well I’m not saying Gaga is gonna chop off her ear and shoot herself in the chest, but it was hard not to draw comparisons between the three exquisitely gifted artistes.
Speaking to a Lady
What’s different about Gaga, is that while the other two struggled with being different, Gaga accepts it, and celebrates it.
When I first interviewed her two years ago, she was just starting to hit superstardom, and she said the biggest misconception about her was that Lady Gaga is just a persona. Gaga is who she is, and she won’t be changing for anyone.
“I can’t ditch (the persona). It’s who I am,” she said back then. “I got to where I am by making a conscious decision to give up everything and live a life of music. Some people find it so eccentric, they say ‘she’s a character’, but the truth is, I just really live and breathe music.”
Two years on, she’s a full-blown superstar, the biggest artiste in the world. Somehow, the themes we talked about still felt very much the same – self-acceptance, tolerance, art, and celebrating life.
Does she still feel misunderstood now that her fan base has, like, really exploded?
“No, I don’t,” she said, pausing for a while, as she often did to ponder the perfect answer. “I think the beauty of what I create is that it’s all up to misinterpretation.”
It’s that kind of almost hippie-like self-acceptance she has, of being at peace with the inevitability of being misunderstood, that really makes you feel better about yourself when you’re talking to her.
The word “taboo”, she says, doesn’t exist in her vocabulary. She doesn’t want to be “provocative just for the sake of of being provocative”, but strives to make her art thought-provoking because to her, nothing should be beyond discussing.
Everything about her seems to make sense once you’re in a room with her. You sort of get what was with the crazy outfits, the weird videos, the making-an-entrance-in-an-egg thing.
Her most pervading, underlying message, however, is pretty simple to catch.
“I believe that art and love are the same thing, so as long as we can push the boundaries of art, we can push the boundaries of love and acceptance, and I intend to push quite forward,” she said.
That was the main message of Born This Way, which Gaga said was to push the boundaries “whether it be political, religious or social; or whether it just be for that one 15-year-old in high school who gets bullied and is afraid to go to class.”
With all that talent and success, and that larger-than-life personality, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Gaga was just a normal girl who had a dream.
Before she was famous, Gaga lived in a small New York apartment, where she would play songs by her favourite artistes, put on her outfits, and dance out on the fire escape.
“I used to dream when I was 12 or 13 years old that some day I would get to wear Gianni Versace. I would look at all of the legends I really worshipped, and I would imagine that I could someday make an impact on the universe the way that they did.
“I had this whole elaborate video planned for Edge Of Glory, but once I got out on that fire escape and danced in that one outfit I realised that it was time to just have a moment of acknowledgment for myself as a 25-year-old who’s been working so hard from the bottom up my whole life,” she said.
But it’s not just a moment to admire her achievements. For Gaga, it’s about doing even more.
“They just told me the other day we’re at five million records worldwide, and it’s been only over a month. Where can I take this record? How far can it go? How much can we push the boundaries?” she said, pausing again to laugh a bit at herself.
While smiling sheepishly at herself, she added: “I just love art so much I talk about it like it’s the centre of the universe. I’m sorry if I sound hyperbolic, but it’s the centre of my universe.”