Perfect Illusion

Remember when Lady Gaga, at the height of her Bad Romance-era meat-dress notoriety, claimed that she would never step off the towering platforms and appear in public looking ‘normal’? Because that’s not how her fans want to see her. Because she exists, as an artist, to provide fantasy and escapism. Well, here she is now, in her newest incarnation, rolling around in the dirt in little more than cutoffs and smeared eyeliner. She’s been promoting her new album in noticeably diminished form, mostly barefaced, her only flamboyance an unflattering pink hat. So what changed? Gaga has learned what many artists before her have; that success and acclaim are no protection against pain, and that fantasy and escapism are no match for a broken heart. Since her last solo album, Lady Gaga suffered the dissolution of her engagement, a tough trip for anybody, and one she was forced to take with the whole world watching. No wonder she didn’t have any more empowerment anthems in her; she had to write her most personal record yet, and she had to appear as her most naked self. It’s a whole new side of Lady Gaga, and a new sound. Less pop more rock, less glitz more real emotion. Audiences eventually tire of pure spectacle, and artists tire of providing it. Sooner or later, every larger-than-life stage creation will revert to their real self, too exhausted to maintain the illusion. Ziggy Stardust has to die; the meat dress has to come off. If we’re lucky, that’s when things become really interesting.

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