Gaga concedes that it can be “uncomfortable” to fall in love with a pop star that has more to her under the surface than was bargained for. “Suddenly the pop star takes off her sheep’s clothing and you see the kind of dingy, underground, metal-loving girl from New York who wants to talk about equal rights and go on and on and on about loving yourself. I made a choice to show people that,” she says. “I made a choice to do that because I wanted them to know that for the rest of my career, underneath every outfit that I have on, that girl is always underneath. With ARTPOP I’m veering in a new direction in terms of my messaging, but Born This Way was all about that particular message.”
Did she anticipate that this would lose her fans? “I was comfortable with just speaking to the ones that really needed to hear the message and confident that I had enough great songs on the album that the general public would latch on to,” she says. “People can say whatever they want about whether or not I enforced change [in her fans’ lives] or if it’s all fake, but the truth of it is I traveled the entire length of the world with the tour.”
At this point Gaga rattles off audience attendance figures at various venues, checking facts with her manager, before, seemingly apropos of nothing, adding: “I know people said I wasn’t selling out in America but that was entirely untrue, we sold out all over the world and every night I looked out into the fans and those front rows that you’re talking about, the tears, the honesty, the inability to not be completely overjoyed because they felt accepted. That’s sometimes more powerful than making a pop song and it just was at that time.”
We talk briefly about the recent MTV VMA awards, which she opened with a dazzling, Botticelli-influenced performance of Applause. Even that, however, was overshadowed by Miley Cyrus and her semi-naked grinding of Robin Thicke’s groin area. “For me, my performance was not about taking clothes off, if that makes sense. I wanted it to be strong and beautiful and powerful and full of confidence. It doesn’t bother me, though, that there was a lot of attention paid to any other performances, it’s not a competition. I do what I do and they do what they do. Isn’t it nice that it all happened and that it’s all been recorded and we can watch it all — it’s not like the good things stay and everything else gets erased.”
It’s rare for a pop star of Lady Gaga’s stature to acknowledge failure and she seems, on the surface at least, happy to concede that some of the novelty of what she does has worn off slightly. In fact, she is open about the fact that things needed to change following Born This Way.
“I had really tried to hide a lot of my pain from my past in the last few years,” she says towards the end of the interview, whereas at the Roundhouse a new song, Swine, is introduced with, “My heart, my skin and my pussy felt like trash.” It seems to hint at domestic abuse. Does this hint at Gaga’s future direction? That she’s ready to come out of hiding, to reveal herself?