To put Lady GaGa in the same category as many of today’s pop stars would be to over-simplify her creative talent. Besides, she prefers the term “superstar.” In a sea of generic dance beats and mediocre singers, Lady GaGa offers something different: pop with passion. She blends catchy hooks with thoughtful lyrics and performance art to create an experience designed to make her (often queer) audience feel something, anything. On her way to gay-icon status, the 22-year-old New York native has just released her first big album, The Fame, and took the time to give Curve a tiny glimpse into what makes this superstar tick.
Did you always want to be a musician?
Oh yeah. Ohhh yeah, my whole life. I mean, I was born just playing music and performing. I knew I wanted to be a performer. That was what was really in my blood. I knew I wanted to make performance art. I knew I wanted to make music. I knew I wanted to make fashion. I just didn’t know how or when or what kind. But, yeah, it’s always been music.
When you perform, is it mainly about the music or is it about the show. Is it about the fashion and the performance and the whole nine yards?
Well for me it’s honestly never just about the music. The music is the warrior, you know? The music is the soldier at the front of the parade. But, everything that I do is all intertwined and all-important and it’s one artistic image. So, when I’m writing the music I’m thinking about the fashion. I’m thinking about New York City. I’m thinking about the stage performance. Everything intertwines. Everything goes together.
So, do you think of yourself more as an artist than a musician?
Yeah, I do actually. It’s funny because a lot of times I get asked, “If you could be any musician who would you be?” And I always correct them and say, “I would be Andy Warhol.” Because to me he’s like, the ultimate pop culture artist.
Who would say are some of your other influences?
I’d say Bowie and Queen and Grace Jones and Madonna and Def Leppard and Led Zeppelin. I’ve got so many. Marilyn Manson. I could go on forever. You know, I draw influence from all different places, but the real through-line is theatrical artists, artists that use the visual and the choreography and the theater of performance to change the way you hear the music.
Why pop? Is that just how it came out?
I love pop music. I just live for that killer chorus. I just love it. I grew up listening to it and I’ll die making it.
So The Fame is your first album?
Well, The Fame is my first released album. But I’ve been making music since I was 15. I’ve made records and records and records.
Do you prefer playing in clubs or being in a studio making a record?
Oh, I don’t know, that’s so hard. It’s two totally different orgasms. It’s like, I love writing music so much, and being in the studio is so amazing creatively. But also I really love performing and seeing the way that the music affects people. I mean, I was at a club last night and there were like, a thousand men, gay men, screaming and they know every word. It’s really powerful, really fucking powerful.
I read that Peggy Bundy is one of your fashion icons.
Yeah, I love her.
What exactly is it about that style?
She’s a rock star’s girlfriend.
Well, she’s a shoe salesman’s girlfriend.
Well, yeah but if you have a sense of humor Al Bundy’s a rock star. He’s sort of like your typical American, trash bucket rock star. I just love the way [Peggy Bundy] dresses. I love the spandex. I love the leopard print. I love her hair. It’s very ’70s.
What do you want people to get out of our music? What do you want them to be thinking? What do you want them to be feeling?
I just want them to be feeling, if that makes sense. I don’t need them to be feeling anything in particular other than something. I want the music to inspire people, to make them feel good, bad, whatever it is. I just it want it to make them feel something. There’s nothing worse than hearing music that makes you feel nothing. The whole show and all my music is centered around inspiration and creativity and the future and being new.
I’ve been reading so many different reviews of my record, and some journalists you can tell really listened to it. They really listened. And other journalists just kind of listened or they scanned through it and listened to a couple records and then looked at all the titles. Because this album is very in-depth and the lyrics, are extremely intelligent and extremely twisted. It’s a real commentary about pop culture. But, if you don’t really listen to it, it just looks like a novelty record about the media.
Does that bother you?
No, it doesn’t because it’s not my job to hire intelligent journalists. It’s really not. It’s not my fault that they’re not good at their job. I’m getting so many great reviews in the United States and the United Kingdom, and all over. But there’s always the occasional person that you can tell didn’t listen to the record. It’s a shame because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to iconocize—create and iconic image out of something that is decidedly considered poisonous and shallow. Fame. It’s considered poisonous and shallow. And I am analyzing and harkening back to the ideologies of the ’70s and thinking a lot about what it means to have a real inner fame, a real understanding of who you are, a real sense of power in your words and saying, “This is what’s great.” We don’t have any real superstars any more.
What do you mean by that?
We just don’t. I mean can you name one person who has the real superstar appeal of Prince?
Well, other than Prince, probably not.
No, but today. I mean like today’s Prince or today’s David Bowie or today’s Madonna in what she was in the ’80s. We have them now because they’re still alive, but modern music doesn’t know that level of a superstar. I think that the audience has stopped expecting a lot. Pop music to so many people seems like such a lowbrow medium. That’s kind of like my whole thing is I—I’m taking fame and I’m taking pop, two things that people think are lowbrow, and I’m turning them into art. And that’s what Andy Warhol did.
Do you aspire to be that kind of superstar, or just to comment on it?
Of course I do. Absolutely. Every minute and fiber of my life I aspire to be that kind of superstar. And it’s not about having fame. It’s about having a real, genuine impact on culture as an artist. Nobody will ever forget Prince. Ever.