She’s done with her pop star status. I can tell. Most people could kinda tell during her South by Southwest showcase at the Doritos #BoldStage. “Fuck you, pop music! This is ARTPOP!” she yelled as Millie Brown vomited black goo all over her bod on top of a mechanical bull/piano. The entire show was a little bizarre to tell you the truth. It was unlike anything Gaga has ever done in front of a live audience. There were no costume changes, no choreography or back-up dancers, and the production value was just like not… Gagaesque. Remember the castle that was built for the BTW Ball? Yeah well there was none of that. Instead, Gaga covered the walls with junk and made a custom neon sign with a swine on it. I get it… Stubb’s BBQ is a much smaller venue than the massive arenas Gaga has gotten accustomed to. I also understand that the show was catered around the Austin music scene and the venue itself. But like, what was that black puke all about?
[insert eye roll]
Just kidding. I really appreciate the concept of performance art as a whole. I think it’s great and it’s like super popular right now. If the name Marina Abramovic sounds familiar, you’re one step closer to understanding performance art. Jay-Z didn’t take very long to jump on the bandwagon by doing that dance thing at Pace Gallery, Shia Labeouf just gained a bunch of notoriety for doing that brown paper bag stunt, and Tilda Swinton slept in a glass box for some time. It was only logical that Gaga would want to be a part of this movement too. And tbh I am not disappointed.
Some people were really grossed out watching their idol getting raw and dirty on stage, but I loved every single minute of it. Gaga is slowly breaking away from the commercial side of the entertainment industry and embracing the artistic side of music creation. SXSW, like she said, is all about connecting with music, with artists, with culture. It is a chance for music enthusiasts to experience their favorite acts in a more private setting. I was like 10 feet away from her at some point and just couldn’t believe it was all happening. That’s what performance art is all about. Closeness. Togetherness. Questionable choices.
Last December Beyonce blessed the world with a new unannounced album. She chose to release new music that way because she is (quote) tired of the traditional album cycle implemented by major music labels. She wanted to be in charge of the message and the distribution method, and she kicked everyone’s ass doing it. Apparently music labels really suck nowadays because during today’s Music Keynote at SXSW Gaga also talked about wanting to regain creative control, needing commercial brands and other companies to sponsor artists when labels won’t, and staying true to oneself instead of listening to the “people in power.” Gaga even mentioned at some point that she would retire from the mainstream if staying in it compromised her very own freedom of self-expression. Makes sense. She’s always encouraged her fans to be themselves.
When asked about the tough year she had while promoting Artpop, Gaga confidently stated that “people just don’t know fuck about the state of the music industry.” Volumes of work are often misunderstood and appreciated in retrospect much later. We live in a world where you no longer have to buy a record to be able to listen to music. Services like Spotify, Pandora and XM Radio make it hard to track how many people are actually listening consuming it. In 2014, music can be bought, licensed, stolen and witnessed live. In essence, her numbers right now don’t really mean shit. They never really will. She is already a household name. I’m pretty sure she could independently release work for the rest of her life and maintain a tight following. She’s not like a dumb bubblegum pop princess.
The Gaga that thousands of people got to watch last night (both live and online) is not the same Gaga that wanted to ride on your disco stick. Except she is. It’s still the same Gaga… she’s just doing things a little differently now. Good for her. More power to her. My message to all of those who say “she’s ran out of ideas” is: you can go fly a kite. I’m excited to see what’s next for her career. She did say there is an entire second volume of Artpop that hasn’t been released.