Music/Features

Recapping Lady Gaga’s journey to A Star is Born

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta's whirlwind year marks an artistic evolution that has exceeded expectations.

February 22, 2019

When tasked with the weight of writing a piece about Lady Gaga’s most recent comeback  I wasn’t entirely sure where to begin. My mind immediately wandered through the endless media coverage of last year’s breakout film, A Star Is Born. Now nominated for seven Academy Awards, expectations are high for the film that won a Grammy for “Best Pop Duo/Group” for the film’s hit song, “Shallow.” But there is more surrounding Lady Gaga’s success than the film alone. As it turns out, Mother Monster has once again reinvented herself in a way that is both relatable and inspiring

Lady Gaga kicked off 2018 by wrapping up the last few dates of her Joanne World Tour which had been rescheduled at the end of 2017 when she was hospitalized. Despite feeling up to the task, she once again had to cut the European leg of the tour short by 10 days due to severe pain caused by fibromyalgia—a disorder she speaks about in detail during her September 2017 documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. By March of 2018, Gaga found herself back in the studio working on her 6th album with DJ White Shadow who produced both Born This Way and Joanne.

Things remained relatively low-key in Gagaland until the world premiere of A Star Is Born at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August. The press tour for A Star Is Born was essentially, an adorable string of compliments that Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga couldn’t help but throw back and forth at each  other. The most notable of which is Gaga’s now infamous quote stating: “There could be 100 people in the room, and 99 don’t believe in you, and all it takes is one person to believe in you and that could change everything.” This quote which she repeated, seemingly everywhere, in reference to her co-star, Bradley Cooper (who directed, producer and co-wrote the film) created a social media frenzy and created the meme to end all 2018 memes.  

But jokes aside, there’s more to the success of A Star Is Born than the highlights of its press junket. Gaga and Cooper met in 2016 after she performed at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, created by Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Cooper was in attendance to hear Gaga perform “La Vie En Rose,” a song he would later write into the script for her character Ally to perform when she first meets Jackson. It’s a charming tidbit, and one of the more genuine examples of art imitating life. In this instance, recreating the sentimental real life beginning of a friendship on the big screen. As legend has it, shortly after Cooper met Gaga at her house where they connected over pasta and music before sealing their fate as co-stars in the film that would be one of the most buzzed about of the year.

For all the comparisons between protagonist Ally’s career and Gaga’s, in several interviews Gaga reiterated that her main draw to playing Ally (aside from the fact that she’s always wanted to act) is that Ally’s ambition differed drastically from her own: Ally never wanted to be famous, whereas Gaga always knew that superstardom was her destiny. She was intrigued by Ally’s vulnerability: explaining that she was also all too familiar with the toxic nature of powerful men at the top of the industry food chain, and the insecurity  many rising stars experience upon entering the music industry.

Since the success the film’s international release in October 2018, the universal elements of Ally’s story has brought further attention to conversations the pop star has always been outspoken about including mental health, women’s rights, and LGBTQ awareness. Last Fall, she was honoured at Elle Magazine’s “Women In Hollywood Awards,” taking the opportunity to touch on the many issues surrounding the #MeToo movement, further reinforcing its ability to create a much-needed space for women to finally feel safe speaking up about instances of violence.

During the emotional 25-minute speech, Gaga opened up about her own experience of sexual assault at the hands of a man in the entertainment industry that she didn’t name. Through frustration and tears, she described the PTSD and mental health issues she continues to face as a result of the incident that occurred when she was only 19 years old. Never one to shy away from using her platform, Gaga has taken this moment to drive home the messages of these powerful conversations while the spotlight is still beaming upon her.

But this isn’t the first time Gaga has explained the trauma she’s experienced in the industry. Often praised (and sometimes judged) for her bold and over-the-top fashion choices, Gaga has been quick to point out that she opted for clothes that dressed her as a character in an effort to avoid how uncomfortable she felt with the sexist fashion choices men were trying to make for her — a reoccuring theme in A Star is Born. And even now as a woman who has successfully found her place, she still felt the need to explain and defend her choice for wearing an oversized pants suit to the event. 

With Oscar buzz radiating from her pores, following the Awards, Gaga still has an enormous year ahead of her. Along with Harry Styles and Serena Williams, this year she’ll be co-hosting the 2019 Met Gala. But it’s her upcoming Las Vegas residenc that’s the real icing on top of an already towering cake. The two-year run will feature two completely different shows: The main event is, “Lady Gaga Enigma,” has been described as “a brand-new odyssey of her pop hits built as an experience unlike any other.” She’s also set aside a few dates for a show titled Jazz and Piano which will  include stripped-down versions of her hits along with music from the Great American Songbook.

Some critics have been quick to dub Gaga’s  accomplishments over the last several months a series of confused career moves, but that judgement reeks of ignorance. Anyone who’s taken the time to better understand—and appreciate—Gaga’s career would describe her whirlwind year as an artistic  evolution that has transcended everyone’s expectations — including her own.

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