Lady Gaga: 'I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little'
Times pop music critic Ann Powers sat down with Lady Gaga (real name: Stefani Germanotta) in Boston after the first U.S. date of her Monster Ball tour, a trek that hits Los Angeles with three shows at the Nokia Theatre on Dec. 21-23. Powers writes that Lady Gaga has "tapped into one of the primary obsessions of our age -- the changing nature of the self in relation to technology, the ever-expanding media sphere, and that sense of always being in character and publicly visible that Gaga calls 'the fame' -- and made it her own obsession, the subject of her songs and the basis of her persona."
The story runs in this Sunday's Los Angeles Times Calendar section, and is online here. An excerpt is below.
Reporting from Boston -- Almost immediately after she deposited herself in a corner booth at L'Espalier, the restaurant at Boston's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, on the December afternoon after the first American date of her Monster Ball tour, Lady Gaga made a confounding statement.
"I don't see myself as ever being like anybody else," said the 23-year-old known to her mom (eating lunch nearby) as Stefani Germanotta. "I don't see myself as an heir."
Yet there she was, in a blond Hollywood bob and black tuxedo-bra combo much like the costumes Madonna wore 20 years ago, discussing a show that conjures the spirits of Michael Jackson, David Bowie and the punk-rock drag queens of downtown New York and promoting music -- the newly expanded edition of her 2008 debut album, "The Fame," greatly enriched by eight additional songs and repackaged as "The Fame Monster" -- that pays blatant homage to ABBA, Queen, Eurodisco and Marilyn Manson.
Gaga doesn't care. She wants you to trace her references. " John Lennon talked about how with every song he wrote, he was thinking of another artist," she said, making a less expected connection to a pop deity.
She's yet to attain the status of the Beatles, but in the ever-accelerating pop cycle, Gaga is a top sensation, and many people's vote for the most exciting artist of 2009. "The Fame" has sold nearly 2 million copies in the U.S. and reportedly double that internationally; her album and the single "Poker Face" both made the top three on the year-end tally of top iTunes downloads.
"The Fame Monster" continues this sales sweep, but it also considerably advances Gaga's artistic project with some of her strongest songs yet, including the earworm-infested "Bad Romance" and the sumptuously emotional ballad "Speechless."
The world is responding. She's made friends with Madonna, been interviewed by Barbara Walters and met the queen of England at the annual Royal Variety Performance. The Monster Ball has sold out multiple nights in major cities, including Los Angeles, where it comes to the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live for shows Dec. 21-23.
This is all happening not because Gaga is cute or takes off her clothes, but because (to use one of her favorite words) she is a monster -- a monster talent, that is, with a serious brain.
During nearly two hours of conversation, she not only reiterates her assertion of total originality but also finesses it until it's both a philosophical stance about how constructing a persona from pop-cultural sources can be an expression of a person's truth -- à la those drag queens Gaga sincerely admires -- and a bit of a feminist act.
"I'm getting the sense that you're a little bit of a feminist, like I am, which is good," she said. "I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little . . . In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, 'I'm great.' "
Photos: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times