No artist has ever been celebrated for their conceptual contribution to music as much as Lady Gaga. And her work goes beyond this, standing as an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, the artform of drag, and for everyone who wishes to pursue music and appearance in their own individual way. But what can we learn from the superstar through her own words?
“Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.”
One of Gaga’s most important messages is about individuality. She doesn’t want anyone to feel the need to automatically conform to an established norm. Instead, we all need to “be brave and celebrate [our]perceived flaws”. The message itself is one for us to embrace and celebrate.
“You can wear whatever you want as long as you believe in it.”
Gaga’s whole aesthetic is about celebrating difference and applauding diversity. Her outfits contest to not allowing yourself to be placed inside pre-existing ‘boxes’ which restrict your ideas and personality. “I’m just trying to change the world one sequin at a time“, Gaga famously said. Every outfit is an expression of a new, perhaps challenging idea. Each one is pushing the boundaries. Each one, just like every person, is unique.
“I wasn’t put here to make pop music better. I was put here to ruin it, bursts its bubble, turn it inside out, explode it and vomit it all over the world.”
Gaga’s attitude towards music reflects this individuality too. She had found music in a fixed and unyielding mould which was both restrictive and suffocating. Music needed a rebirth, so she went and made it happen. Her initial albums were about providing music that challenged the standard perceptions.
She then moved on to develop and create a multi-dimensional artist through the soft jazz of Cheek by Cheek and the country-soul of Joanne. And when people challenged her identity and the ideas behind her music, she insisted that she would “ignore all hatred and criticism” as you must “live for what you created and die protecting it”. For in the words of one of Gaga’s inspirations – drag icon Ru Paul – “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love someone else“.
“We need fantasy to survive because reality is too difficult.”
For Gaga, music is about more than just the words and the rhythm itself. Music is a way of understanding ourselves and interacting with others. It’s a form of relaxation and escapism, the fantasy that helps us get away from reality. In fact, “we listen to music because we want to dream”. We should treat music as a way to understand ourselves and transport ourselves to another place, just as it is done in television and theatre. For her, music is production and performance.
“Don’t be a drag, just be a queen!”
Outside of music, Gaga’s most important contributions come in her work with the LGBTQ+ community. This was first obvious in her releases ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Born This Way‘ where she not only promotes LGBT equality but supports gay culture. Her support has extended to philanthropic contributions and public speeches, with her most famous line celebrating that “being gay is like glitter – it never goes away“.
“It is always wrong to hate, but it is never wrong to love.”
It is thus perfect to end with a very recent quote from Gaga’s opening set on her 2017 Joanne World Tour. After picking up a Pride Flag from the audience, she declared that “the most important thing I have to say about it is that everyone’s gotta love each other.” Following on from her public attack of Trump’s plans to ban transgender people from the military, this shows us what we can learn from Gaga’s words. Music is about celebrating diversity, love and uniqueness. It’s about acceptance. Because, after all, “it is always wrong to hate, but it is never wrong to love“.