In the world of music, there are singers, and then there are entertainers, those artists who seem to have it all together – songwriting, singing, dancing, choreographing, set and costume designing, you name it. Lady GaGa falls squarely into the second category.
Marty Diamond, who books GaGa for Paradigm, agreed with that assessment but took it one step further.
“She’s a full entertainer, but for me it’s like she’s a rock star,” Diamond told Pollstar.
Although it seems Lady G has appeared out of nowhere – performing at the Miss Universe Pageant, on “So You Think You Can Dance” and a number of television talk shows, as well as landing an opening spot on New Kids On The Block’s reunion trek – the singer, whose given name is Stefani Germanotta, explained the road to her debut release, The Fame, has been a long one.
“I was a go-go dancer, I was a waitress, I was bartending – I did everything,” GaGa told Pollstar. “I worked as an intern for music companies. I just wanted to be around music and what I love.
“I started playing gigs very young in [New York City] and I just never stopped. I hustled.”
Her live career began at open mic nights in clubs like The Bitter End in Greenwich Village while she was in her teens. Unlike many dance acts, who perform to tracks on a boombox when starting out, Lady G chose to take a nontraditional approach that set her apart right away.
“I did a couple of different things,” she explained. “First I started at the piano – because I play piano – then I had a band that I put together in college that lasted about a year.
“I thought about doing the boombox thing. We used to bring one as a prop, but what I actually used to do was play my beats off my Macbook Pro. I would set it up on top of the piano and play acoustic piano with really synthetic beats.
“Then I found this place in the heart of Brooklyn where they press vinyl dubplates like the reggae cats use, and I put all my beats on vinyl. That’s when I met Lady Starlight and she’d spin my beats during the show and I’d play synthesizer.”
Choreography soon followed and GaGa’s live act evolved into something she describes as “very variety, kind of 1970s.”
In fact, she doesn’t really think of herself as a traditional musician but more a performance artist who’s constantly changing. Diamond not only concurs, he says she works hard at it.
“There’s so much room for growth and evolution,” Diamond said. “She gets it. She is the whole deal. She completely gets what she has to do and she’s willing to invest her time, her energy, her sweat – work ethic is not an issue here.
“We did a show in New York City the night of the album release at the HighLine Ballroom that was a collective effort on her part in terms of putting together an entire show. I would almost say in a curatorial role.”
Now Lady G has evolved from playing the sometimes gritty clubs of Manhattan to performing in front of an arena full of NKOTB fans and their daughters, an honor she received by virtue of the song she wrote for the band’s comeback album. Has she been forced to rein in her wild, theatrical and sometimes tongue-in-cheek “shock art” live show at all?
“No, I’ve never toned myself down,” she said. “I don’t know how to do that. It’s funny – everybody really close to me says that something happens in my brain and you can see it in my face when I perform. I just go into my performance zone and it’s a really crazy space. There’s really no telling what I’ll do.
“The act is changing, but the through-line is that it’s fashion pop. It’s the future and technology and pollution and music. It’s New York. It’s so fucking New York.”
GaGa’s musical philosophy and the energy of her live show are well represented on The Fame, and the first single from the album, “Just Dance,” earned her a Grammy nomination.
Lady G’s quickly expanding resume includes writing for The Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears. Upcoming touring plans include a slew of year-end radio shows followed by a North American headlining run in the spring, a U.K. trek and then an early summer swing through Australia.
So how is the singer dealing with all of this coming at her so quickly? In signature Lady GaGa style, modesty tempered with just enough diva attitude to make it interesting.
“Most artists don’t go on arena tours before their album drops,” she explained. “But I don’t think anybody can deny my abilities as a performer. That’s the bottom line.”
“It’s the same thing with ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and Miss Universe. I had no business being on those shows. I really didn’t.
“Other than that, the dance community and the underground club culture community just love me and they said, ‘If you wanna be the new and you want edgy shit, you should have GaGa on your show.’
“I’m so humbled by that. I’m so appreciative and I thank God every day.”