Almost three years ago exactly, Lady Gaga performed back-to-back South Florida dates celebrating her immensely popular Fame Monster EP. Gaga seemed within reach of Madonna's Queen of Pop crown.
It was hard to argue the contrary. Hits like "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance" dominated the radio, while her wildly creative visuals brought glamour back to the music video format — which died the day MTV decided it was preferable to give pregnant teens a reality show. She crisscrossed the globe reintroducing the spectacle back into pop music with her three-year Monster Ball Tour.
"The whole thing didn't make a ton of sense. But it was definitely entertaining," New Times said of her American Airlines Arena show back in 2011. And that seemed to define Gaga's aesthetic — a bit murky on the message but still a whole lot of fun to watch.
But like Icarus, Gaga lately seems to be flying too close to the sun, believing her own star is still shining as brightly as it was three years ago, unaware she just might fall into a sea of her own campiness.
After Fame Monster, Gaga followed up with Born This Way, an album that divided critics and her fans alike. Instead of allowing herself the naturally become an icon to those who feel a bit different, she forced the message down everyone's throat. Still there were gems like "Marry the Night" and "The Edge of Glory." But what killed the album's momentum was a hip injury that ended her Born This Way Ball. And while she stepped away from the limelight, pop culture continued to evolve without her.
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When Gaga returned last year with Artpop, she encountered a drastically different musical landscape where Katy Perry had adopted her signature quirky fashion sense and newcomers like Lorde were now considered the new unusual pop star. Still, Gaga begged for her "Applause," and it almost seemed like it was working until she started beefing with Perez Hilton publicly via Twitter and distracting everyone from what she was really promoting — a new album.
She sought the help of contemporary artists like Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koons to bolster her case that what she was doing was also art. Instead, what she delivered was an odd video about the "Abramovic Method" and a flying dress at her Artrave party. It all seemed too forced.
Still, her biggest blunder yet was pairing with R. Kelly on "Do What U Want." After the Village Voice did a document dump revealing Kells' predatory ways, Gaga quickly went into damage control, scrapping a video by the equally nasty Terry Richardson and replacing the R&B crooner with Christina Aguilera. The single and album faded quickly.
But now it's 2014, and Gaga has promised to finally unleash Artpop's potential on the world. Her tour kicks off here in South Florida and will set the tone for whether Mother Monster remains relevant. But with the underwhelming performance of her latest single "G.U.Y.," it's hard to say if anyone's still listening.