If there is anything really worth remembering about the late 2000’s, it’s all the change and transition that was going on at the time. It seemed like music, fashion and almost every aspect of popular culture was shifting in other directions, and it was time where we saw a lot of diversity and experimentation. What better timing than for someone as eccentric and bold as Lady Gaga to burst onto the scene. With her 2008 debut, The Fame, she garnered hit singles like “Poker Face” and “Just Dance” which were both very memorable radio staples in their own rights. Just with these two songs, she made a stance in the pop music scene, but what made her even more memorable besides her infectious pop tunes was the way she presented herself. Lady Gaga was what some might call “creative” and what others would call “crazy”. Wigs, makeup, ridiculously colorful costumes and shapes; you name it, she wore it. But that was also just the beginning if it. She could absolutely talk the talk and even better, she could walk the walk.
Watching Lady Gaga perform, especially at the very start of her career, is a treat. This 2009 VMA performance is the perfect example. “Paparazzi” was released as the fifth and final single from The Fame and it also happened to be my favorite song from that record. At first we might think that she’s going to sing “Poker Face”, which is what she starts out acapella with, but then goes into a clearly live sung version of “Paparazzi”. I mention that it was clearly sung live because this version is distinctly different than the studio recording which would normally throw off viewers, but in this case, I think it worked rather well because there was so much more to focus on besides the vocals. The performance backdrop and costumes are very renaissance feeling, with a chandelier and staircase. Gaga and all of her dancers are all donning sparkly, lacy, white costumes that are just so neat and clean. Their choreography is immaculate and I particularly like how they included aspects of the songs music video into the live performance as well, including the walker and wheelchair.
The first three fourths of the performance is exciting enough but it gets even better right at the very end. After the bridge, she walks over to her (of course) white piano, giving us a small break from the excitement of it all. Then, as she gets up, she starts bleeding, and the show ends with her dancers trying to help her, with the closing scene being an image of her handing by her wrist with (obviously fake) blood smeared on her body. There are plenty of performances that will leave you in awe or wishing that you could do something similar. But something like this truly left many people speechless at the time, and I’m sure some are still having a hard time processing this even now.
There are so many aspects about this performance that I simply can’t get enough of. The outfits, the dancing, and the overall presentation of it are all so perfectly executed. But the best part of all of this is just how fearless Lady Gaga appears in the moment. It’s not an easy thing at all to shock people but not scare them and she’s managed to fit perfectly in between both of those. To make it even better, this performance of the song is not only an incredible artistic representation of the song, but it was an incredible representation of what pop music has to offer. Award shows especially are known to have some of the best performances and after a little while with a few lackluster ones, this one really shook things up and reimagined what a live show could be.