Remember when Lady Gaga was a dirty temptress, rolling around, all oily and raunchy, in good shades and hot bikinis, like a feral club kid who somehow snuck into the pop mainstream when no one was looking? We do. And after her performance at last night's Academy Awards, we miss the arrive-in-an-egg Lady Gaga of old, rather desperately.
In case you missed it (and honestly, we kind of hope that you did), the freshly-engaged Ms. Germanotta took to the stage for a “special tribute performance” that had been hyped all night. Secretly, we were hoping for some sort of LSD-laced reinvention of The Wizard of Oz — preferably with an errant scarecrow at the back, pulling a Left Shark. If anything was going to spice up this stuffy evening of back-slapping, it was going to be Gaga, and we couldn't wait.
Then it happened. She arrived on stage, resplendent in a beautiful, floor-length white gown, surrounded by tree trunks and a small orchestra. And then to our horror, she launched into… oh, you've GOT to be fucking joking… a medley of songs from 'The Sound of (bastard) Music', because 50 year anniversary, blah, blah, blah. The urge to change channel was overwhelming, but we decided to struggle through this to see if she could spice it up. With anything. Anything at all.
She didn't. Not one dude in lederhosen. Not one change in original melody. Just Stefani Germanotta singing some old, annoying songs, beautifully and pitch perfect, in front of some bits of tree.
She might as well have been
Adele Nazim Idina Menzel.
Here's the thing. We understand Lady Gaga's desire to stretch herself creatively. We totally get the ongoing Tony Bennett collaboration. It allows people to see her differently — to see her raw talent, free of nudity-related distractions and complex dance routines; to take her more seriously; to enable her to reach a more mature audience. And she's done all of that with her and Bennett's Cheek to Cheek album.
Last night just made us sad though. Sad that Lady Gaga didn't present herself more creatively; with more pizzazz; more Gaga va-va-voom. And though we tried momentarily, we can't even blame it all on the limited parameters of what one is allowed to do at the Academy Awards — Tegan & Sara's batshit performance of “Everything Is Awesome” with The Lonely Island, Questlove, Batman, a possum, a stuffed dog, dudes in hard hats and crash helmets doing backflips and lego Oscar statues was proof that crazy shit is possible on this stage if you're just willing to throw yourself and a massive troupe of prop-wielding dancers at it.
Can someone please tell Gaga that she doesn't have to be boring to be taken seriously? The Lady is at her finest when she's pushing artistic and visual boundaries, while making social statements in the form of excellent dance-pop hits. There are multiple stage actresses who can do a solid Julie Andrews impersonation. But there's only one human who can be Lady Gaga — and right now, she's refusing to do it.