“If you take your clothes off, it’s amazing what will happen,” said pop superstar Lady Gaga on her 2011 David Letterman appearance. Gaga spoke of playing in a club in New York pre-fame, when her name was still Stefani Germanotta, and commented that no one paid attention to her during her set until she stripped down to nothing but bra and panties. Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg for Lady Gaga’s attention-catching fashion choices and controversial stage performances. But it leaves one to wonder, is a complete one-eighty-degree flip in image and performance necessary in order to follow one’s dreams? And more commonly, with enough shocking and captivating pieces to make headlines for the next five years, is it shock value, or is it art?
Gaga will be the first to tell you that she writes each song with an outfit in mind. “It’s all about everything together – performance art, pop performance art, fashion.” There’s a valid, and descriptive reason for each shocking piece. Her iconic, hanging dead from the ceiling, 2009 VMA performance of Paparazzi, arguably the one that solidified her stardom, represented how fame kills. The most notorious of Gaga’s fashion statements is undoubtedly the raw meat dress she wore to the 2010 MTV VMA. After much controversy and angry statements from PETA, Gaga stated that “…If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat.” At the 2011 VMA, Gaga performed her single, “You and I” as her slick-haired, cigarette-smoking, alter-ego Jo Calderone. Seeing as he made an appearance in the music video for You and I, it only made sense that she included him for her stage performance and her appearance for the entire night, even making sexual jokes towards pop princess Britney Spears. Gaga’s most recently dubbed controversial piece is the one she created for her single, “Marry the Night.”
“But, I’m an artist. What do you mean give up?”
So how exactly does one ‘marry the night’? Gaga showed the world her struggle to the top in her music video for the single and illustrates being dropped from her record label and the breakdown that followed. The video is close to fourteen minutes, with the first eight minutes consisting of the singer attempting to light a cigarette on a hospital bed, wearing menstrual pads on her breasts, and pouring Cheerios all over her nude body. It is only when she is on the phone with her label, lying on a mattress on the floor with eyeliner winged to the high heavens, that she utters in protest, “But I’m an artist.” Preceding her breakdown, she bleaches her hair blonde and makes over her style, telling the viewer that she did what any other girl would do, she “did it all over again.”
Would you do it all over again? If you’re looking to climb your way to the top, maybe a reinvention or two couldn’t hurt. Whether it’s by bleaching your hair blonde or donning a dress made out of stuffed Kermit the Frog dolls, or even developing a male alter ego. It worked for Stefani Germanotta, and it worked more than well. Whether or not she is simply expressing her inner Boy George or attempting to keep herself relevant for as long as humanly possible, it’s safe to say that Lady Gaga is here to stay. The year is still young and we can expect a whole new string of wild and gaudy fashion pieces and explanations of said pieces on Leno the next day. Is it art? Possibly. Does it turn heads in one-hundred-and-ninety-five countries? Without a doubt in anyone’s mind. Cunningly enough, she’s got us all right where she wants us – in captivation, in awe, and in near-hysterics over the legitimacy of her image, and the authenticity of her mark as a true artist.
“Every bit of me is devoted to love and art.”
– Lady GaGa