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The Fall from Artist to Performer: Lady Gaga's Painful Wakeup call

“We are not actually communicating with each other. We are unconsciously communicating Lies.”

-Lady Gaga

A recent guest speaker at Yale University’s Emotion Revolution Summit organized by the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence and the Born This Way Foundation Stefani Joanne Angeline Germanotta (Lady Gaga) had a lot to say about the music industry and how its generic and completely fabricated culture takes so much from artists leaving them exhausted, disillusioned, and even ready to quit.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Lady Gaga experienced a fast rise from unknown musician to superstar pop music artist when Rolling Stone called her “the defining pop star of 2009.” Her Monster Ball Tour took the world by storm, but bankrupted Lady Gaga. The next year, she received three Grammys and released, “Telephone” with Beyonce. If you say the words “meat dress” in a crowd, someone will certainly recall the famous and fragrant frock of the 2010 VMA’s. No one remembers what any other artist wore that night. The fifth woman to reach over one million album sales in less than a week, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was a smash hit right out of the gates. The “Born This Way” tour was one of the highest grossing tours of 2012.

But in 2013, she admitted, “I’m not longer an artist. I’m a performer.” How often do we really contemplate the difference between the two? After finishing “ARTPOP” she commented, “I feel empty and sad.”

Maybe other artists feel the same way. On the way to fame and fortune, they lost their sense of passion and their sense of direction and became performers feeding the insatiable appetites of their fans, the music industry, and even their own warped egos. In the age of social media, the rise to fame can give an artist a serious case of whiplash. Musicians go from unknown to ultra-famous in a matter of hours as videos go viral and the powerful influencers of Hollywood or Nashville see in them the potential to create revenue for the biggest machines.

 Disengaging from the music industry machine is nearly impossible. To make the transition from artist to performer is a combination of timing and talent. But finding the way back to an artist who pursues their passions is a complicated and difficult process.

So how shall we unwind ourselves from these destructive forces of social media, social pressures, and social expectations? Lady Gaga says it’s simple, but not easy.

“I started to say No. I’m not doing that. I don’t want to do that. I’m not taking that picture. I’m not going to that event. I’m not standing by that. Because I don’t believe in that.”