Lady Gaga: ‘People are surprised they haven’t already destroyed me’
Two weeks in, Lady Gaga’s new album, Artpop, hasn’t delivered a number 1 and some say it’s all over. Can she battle her detractors?
Before being asked about it, she brings up the success or otherwise of Applause: “It’s literally not even been two weeks since my first single came out and it’s all, ‘She’s over’, or because I’m not No 1 yet, ‘She’s finished’. People focus less on the music and focus more on how the music’s doing; how it’s faring from a numbers perspective, from a financial perspective. If you think I give a damn about money then you don’t know me as an artist at all.” She adds: “I think that once you’ve had a few No 1s in your career that you’ve kind of proven yourself and I don’t feel the need to prove anything anymore.”
For some, Applause’s failure to connect in the way her previous singles have done is down to the fact that it appears to be solely about Gaga and for Gaga. Written after she had to cancel her Born This Way Ball Tour at the beginning of the year, the result of a severe hip injury that required an operation and left her in a wheelchair, the song is about the need she has as a pop star to experience adulation from a crowd.
Gaga says she would have tried to keep the hip operation a secret – to shield her fans once more – if she had managed to make it to the end of her tour, but it wasn’t possible. “I was wheelchair-bound two weeks before that even happened,” she says. “That I did hide from them because I didn’t want to stop the show. I know everyone was thinking I was trying to be a bit silly with my gold wheelchair but I was really trying to keep a bit of strength for my fans because it really upset them and scared them.”
Gaga disputes the idea that Applause is a song for herself. Rather, she says, it is as universal as any love song. “It’s so interesting for people to say that the lyrics are all about me the performer,” she says, somewhat disingenuously. “I want you to feel that way about yourself, that’s why I wrote the song. I want you to wake up in the morning and say: ‘I live for your applause, look at me today, I’m having a great day, I’m going to work and I’m going to have a fantastic lunch with my friends.’ But it’s not to be taken quite as seriously and as literally as people make it to be, which is why in the verses I’m sort of making fun of what people think about fame.”
It is this sense of humour that Gaga’s critics tend to forget, or have been more likely to forget since Born This Way’s heavy-handed “we are all equal” didacticism. Like Michael Jackson before her, it often felt like the Biggest Pop Star on Earth was creating music not for the everyday pop fan who might buy an album, but for the first 20 rows of dressed up, banner-waving, camped-out-since-4am apostles. When you talk about your fans, who do you mean? “I mean everybody. I mean anyone that’s watching.”
Gaga concedes that it can be “uncomfortable” to fall in love with a pop star that has more to her under the surface than was bargained for. “Suddenly the pop star takes off her sheep’s clothing and you see the kind of dingy, underground, metal-loving girl from New York who wants to talk about equal rights and go on and on and on about loving yourself. I made a choice to show people that,” she says. “I made a choice to do that because I wanted them to know that for the rest of my career, underneath every outfit that I have on, that girl is always underneath. With ARTPOP I’m veering in a new direction in terms of my messaging, but Born This Way was all about that particular message.”