Bowie’s or Gaga’s Night at the Grammys?
Following Justin Bieber’s rather underwhelming performance of “Where Are Ü Now” featuring Diplo, Lady Gaga came to the rescue with an inspirational and show stopping ode to the late David Bowie. As Gaga took the stage, lighting effects replicated Bowie’s trademark lightning bolt as orange paint appeared to be dripping down Gaga’s face. As arguably one of the most iconic musicians of all time with a character, talent, and image unlike any other, performing in David Bowie’s honor would be no small undertaking. As Gaga stood on stage closely resembling the late artist with sleeked back burnt orange hair dressed in a studded white jumpsuit, I couldn’t think of a better artist to take on this performance. If we consider today’s most popular and talented pop and R&B artists such as Katy Perry, Rihanna, Kanye West, I think it is fair to say that none of these artists could replicate Bowie’s work quite like we could imagine Gaga could. This can be attributed to the fact that her music and performing style are more eclectic like Bowie’s, however, I think it also speaks to her versatility as an artist.
When performing in honor of such a famed artist, or even actor or historical figure, any performer would want to recreate and embody their work to the best of their ability while still leaving a mark with their own name. I think Lady Gaga did a very honorable job of replicating David Bowie while adding her own flare to it. As much as the performance was about David Bowie, people were talking about Lady Gaga. By incorporating her own signature dance moves, Gaga’s name was all over it. She faced an incredibly difficult task of channeling the late star, while still making the performance authentic. Lady Gaga and David Bowie alike are undoubtedly very authentic stars in their own right, in regards to incredibly unique fashion sense, image and talent. When you put these two together, something amazing comes of it as we saw on the Grammy stage.
Enhancing Gaga’s already stellar stage presence were innovative visual technologies which could not go unnoticed. Starting with Gaga’s face morphing into Bowie’s iconic face with the help holographic technology moving on to a mesmerizing robotic piano accompanying her, modern technology extended a visually striking element to the performance. The Intel technology used in Gaga’s performance was nothing like that available in the 70s and 80s during the height of Bowie’s career. David Bowie arguably did not need such intense visual elements as his pure talent and stage presence was enough to captivate and carry his audience away, however the visual technologies added a jaw dropping modern twist. As Gaga and her team tackled Bowie from a modern perspective, they were able to bring Bowie to life through these visual elements. Combining Bowie’s genius and Gaga’s talent with holographic technology creating mirror images of the star spiraling out into white doves across the backdrop makes for a performance unlike any other.
Finally, it is interesting to consider the timing of the two events: Bowie’s death in January and the Grammys to follow in February. While we are still very much in the wake of the star’s sudden death, Bowie has resurfaced in the spotlight around the world. Just as talk surrounding the star’s death is fading, along with the news and media coverage, and as his music is falling on the charts, I think Gaga’s performance got people talking again, at least for the time being, keeping Bowie alive and current. While this certainly worked in the late star’s favor, honoring his name, the opportunity for Gaga to perform this piece at the Grammys was no doubt just as much of a boost to her own name. After giving a stellar performance at the Super Bowl singing the National Anthem just a week prior to the Grammys, Gaga has created quite the buzz around her name, despite not even having performed her own music at either event. If we look at the timing of Bowie’s death on January 10th, and the Grammys only a month later on February 15th, it is also quite mind blowing that this performance was pulled together and rehearsed in such a short window. Despite Gaga and her Grammy colleagues having minimal time to pull off this spectacle, nothing could fall short when it came to Bowie, and they certainly made sure of it. As Gaga closed with an unforgettable performance of “Heroes” and the audience took to their feet for a standing ovation, one thing was for sure: Gaga had certainly done David Bowie proud.