A Spectacle of Gaga Proportions

By Abrahim Harb

Lady Gaga is a pop singer and cultural phenomenon. Throughout her career, it has been clear that she is a fashion loving New Yorker who happens to have a singing voice that is just as big as her activist voice. Because of her background in theatre and performing, each of her performances are a spectacle, a performance, if you want to call it that. Lights, fog, costumes (and costume changes), props, fist pumping and working the catwalk. What does this all amount to? A performance that tells a story, but not only through vocals, through the atmosphere that is set and the audience banter each performance. Although each live performance she does is a spectacle, so is her daily life. Her hair and clothing changes daily, almost in a way that reflects the tone/ mood she wants to perpetuate. She is creating a spectacle by reframing what she defines as a live performance.

Being artistic is first, according to her; fashion comes next, but they both work hand in hand. For example, during her "Born This Way Ball" (for her album of the same name), she is going for an industrial vibe, from the music orchestration to the set and costuming. Her stage is a facade of a castle and it further reinforces the notion that she is trying to extend beyond her music--of acceptance, self-love and that you are the queen. Her songs are not sexual in nature, instead they are promoting the aforementioned ideas. Most of the ideas are thoughts that are reaffirming through her life experiences. By calling it a ball, she is reframing the idea of a concert, to be a spectacle. 

For her most recent album "ARTPOP," that concert is called the "ARTrave," and that concert can be compared to any other EDM (Electric Dance Music) concert, except it is a spectacle of Lady Gaga proportions. She treats it like a rave and the atmosphere she creates certainly perpetuates that. The costumes are colorful, with mostly neon colors and Lady Gaga changes her hair often, further creating a full performance. The songs on this album, in comparison to "Born This Way," are super sexual, with song titles such as "G.U.Y" (standing for Girl Under You) and "Sexxx Dreams". Moreover, in "Born This Way," she doesn’t change her wigs, during a performance, in the "ARTrave," Gaga changes her wigs six times and uses the songs from "Born This Way" as interludes, transitions or does a shortened version of them because they do not necessarily go with rave idea that she wishes to portray on stage. 

Each of these performances creates a spectacle around the song. Due to her theatre background, she is taking pop a little bit out of it’s comfort zone and taking shallow material familiar to pop music and giving it new life, with much symbolism and a considerable amount of reading between the lines. Her performances want to bring you into the action and create an atmosphere that can remove the audience from the arena or venue, into this place I like to call Gagaland.