Walking into Rexall Place in August 2010 was an interesting experience. Not only could you find girls dressed in the basic club-goer outfits, but I was surprised to see others dressed as though they were heading to some sort of hippie-fest extravaganza. But one thing was clear: it was definitely a special occasion, and many seized the opportunity to dress in an out of the ordinary way without having to feel out of place.
It’s really hard to describe in one sitting because I was overwhelmed by so many different emotions during that two hours. Semi Precious Weapons had a solid opening performance, but most of their praise came from any mention of Lady GaGa. The anticipation of her finally being revealed on stage was astronomical. It began with a projection screen in front of the set with slow-motion images of GaGa, all the while a playback of GaGa’s line “I’m a free bitch” sounding within, followed by an old hollywood film-style countdown from 10,9,8… The audience roared, and once 1 was reached the projection images were exchanged for a bright light revealing the silhouette of GaGa, perched on a platform, hands on her hips. The introduction to Dance In The Dark sounded, and GaGa maintained the anticipation by not moving an inch while singing the first verse – she struck a new pose at the first chorus, and just that slight movement of her silhouette caused the crowd to roar even louder. And so the show began.
Lady GaGa’s was visually mesmerizing, theatrically played out, musically transcendent, and most importantly, it had a message. Her message in it’s most plain sense is “don’t be afraid to express yourself and don’t let anyone tell you that you are less of a person because you are different”. Somehow GaGa brings it further, she says “tonight at the Monster Ball, we’re going to be super free!” She advocates for freedom in individuality of expression, and she believes in the underdog. At one point GaGa says, “in high school, I was made fun of by a bunch of girls with a lot of money and small tits” – that’s Lady GaGa-talk for the generic quote “it’s okay to be different.” She goes farther than to say that she appreciates her fans – she takes every opportunity she can to thank them for bringing her to where she is today. She thanks the gays for playing “Just Dance” in the gay bars when most people thought she was a weirdo, she thanks “all the drunk assholes in her life” for giving her material to write about, and for all of the vulgar things that come out her mouth, she’s surprisingly well-spoken. The show even had a plot: GaGa and her friends finding her way to the hottest party of the year, the Monster Ball. They finally make it there, in the end, but there are ‘obstacles’ along the way.
Some songs were in the basic pop tradition: eccentric costumes with a choreographed dance. But GaGa gave us insight into her classical piano background while performing Speechless, breaking it down at the piano. She then gave the audience a taste of her rock side with You and I, a song from her upcoming album. At one point GaGa was playing the piano with the stiletto heels of her knee-high leather-studded boots. “Monster”, on the other hand, began with GaGa in a headpiece making jerking movements that altogether reminded me of a traditional Chinese Lion Dance, running away from her dancers that were going to (as the lyrics say) “eat her heart”. At one point the dancers circled GaGa – seconds later GaGa sprung from beneath the stage, now in a black body suit, her chest covered in fake blood, and one of her dancers appeared to be eating a fake heart. At the beginning of “Poker Face” she screams, “this is the song that made me famous!”, and during “Paparazzi” the actual “Fame Monster” emerged – it was a giant puppet, taking up most of the stage, looking like a cross between an angler fish and an octopus.
A fountain of fake blood and a motorized white ball gown with matching headdress later, my friend turns to me as we’re walking out of Rexall place and says, “yep, she was definitely one of those weird musical theatre kids in high school”. That’s pretty much what it was. A dark, twisty, pop-infused broadway show with shirtless male dancers and a whole lot of costume changes. One of GaGa’s most memorable statements: “The best thing about the Monster Ball is that I created it because my fans would have a place to go – a place where all the freaks are outside, and I locked the fucking doors”.
On August 26th, 2010, I fell in love with Lady GaGa.
So maybe it’s just because I grew up on pop songs and that’s why I can’t help but fall in love, but consider the following. The media is in the palm of her hand: her bizarre and grotesque sense of fashion has somehow been transmitted into the general public, if you go out on Hallowe’en you are bound to see at least ten people dressed up as Lady GaGa in a span of ten minutes, Cher held her “meat purse” when she won Video of the Year at the 2010 MTV Video Music awards, Cyndi Lauper wrote the article on her for Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2010, Elton John sang a duet with her at the 2010 Grammy Awards of her own song (and Gaga snagged two of those Grammys herself plus three more at the 2011 Grammy Awards). There is already a university course titled “Lady GaGa and the Sociology of Fame” at the University of South Carolina. Did I mention that all of these things have happened in just over two years? Not to say that she is the most talented musician out there… I don’t think anyone ever said she was better than the Beatles, but her ability to use the media as her own puppet has established her as one of the smartest there is.