In case you were under a rock or watching the Westminster Dog Show, the Grammys were on last night, and Lady Gaga took the stage to perform a David Bowie tribute. As a David Bowie tribute, it was…okay, I guess? But as a Vegas-ready tribute to incidental robot piano rigs, a lack of self-editing, and also David Bowie, it was something else! (That something else is ridiculous.)
I mean, seriously, let’s take another look:
I enjoy that Gaga’s look pays homage to David Bowie, as well as Elvis Presley jumpsuits and a Sensible Look for Drag Bingo. Even better, I like that Gaga’s eyebrows have left the building (possibly in search of Rita Ora’s), because nothing says “fashion” like looking as though you just walked away from a Baked Alaska accident. It sounds like a mess, but it isn’t, because it’s a look, and also: because Post-Modernism.
Compared to her performance, though, her look is practically restrained. She’s all postured swagger and vocal melodrama and determined excess. “Heroes” is a too-much, hair-metal mess, but that moment of needless bombast aside, Lady Gaga delivered an all-caps PERFORMANCE that plays to her strengths and celebrates Bowie as an essential camp icon.
Sure, it plays out more like a tribute to David Bowie, the Lady Gaga Inspiration, than David Bowie, the Influential Artist, but that’s to be expected, maybe even earned. Gaga is an apt pupil of the camp tools by which Bowie would demand our attention: theatricality, aesthetics, and persona. As a David Bowie tribute, it’s a superficial read; but as a mannered act of pastiche, it evokes Bowie at his most camp, and it begs us to look again.