This weekend, Lady Gaga returned to the stage with her highly-anticipated Chromatica Ball. Like loads of other worldwide tours, it had been stalled for two years after the supporting album was released in the middle of the pandemic – and the crowd was buzzing. Taking over London’s Tottenham Stadium on Friday and Saturday, Mother Monster delivered what has been called “her greatest yet”, “a spectacle with wow factor”, a “thrilling, high-concept return”.
I can’t contest, it was amazing – well, so it seemed through the countless Instagram Stories I watched over the weekend. As every gay in the city made a beeline for Gaga, I did not. As every gay in the city sang back lyrics to some of the greatest pop tunes made in the past decade, I did not. And as every gay in the city can now say they were a part of pop’s campest, most exhilarating show in recent history, I cannot.
Gaga had a profound influence on me growing up, like so many of those who flocked to the Chromatica Ball tour. During her first album release, Just Dance, in 2008, I was an awkward, spotty queer living in a crap town with not much going on. It was the beginning of perfect pop alchemy, and we were about to witness the rise of one of pop’s greatest innovators since Madonna. The album’s singles, Pokerface, LoveGame and Paparazzi – all released within a year – blended sexy, suggestive lyrics, subversive themes and high choreography, not to mention the camp drama of our Gaga hanging herself off the VMA stage and “bleeding” to death. All of that within the space of a year. A star was born.
Over the next few years, it became apparent that Stefani Germanotta was no one-trick pony; her legacy was already telling within the earliest stages of her career. Her backstory, the struggle of performing at open mic nights, no one taking her seriously and being dropped from her first record label was a tale of dedication – and we lapped it up like a dramatic episode of The Real Housewives.
Her next LP release in 2011 (special mention to The Fame Monster), Born This Way, was aptly dedicated to her huge gay fanbase, and revelled in its themes of sexuality, acceptance and identity, marking a pinnacle new era for queer music. The album, too, was sonically ahead of its time, bringing Berlin techno to the mainstream with Schieße, while incorporating heavy metal, opera, disco and trashy Europop for an altogether otherworldly sound – the Gaga sound. She pissed off the Catholic church with Judas, the anti-gay Malaysian government with Born This Way and right-wing politicians through her entire discography.
After the release of 2013’s Artpop – unfairly disregarded by some music journos – which was bloody good, Gaga turned it down a few notches, swapping the Philip Treacy headpieces for trilbies on soft rock album Joanne, and proving her on-screen credentials in A Star is Born and House of Gucci. But when she returned in 2020 with Chromatica, the artist was back to her original form; pulsating pop sounds, resonating themes of mental health, freedom and strength. It was therapy pop at a time when we were banged up in the confines of our homes – and it would have to be Gaga delivering a digital hug across 16 tracks.
And so, right now, I feel like I’ve insulted a deity by wearing a mini skirt inside a holy temple. I’ve long heralded Lady Gaga as one of the greatest pop artists of all time, up there with Madge and Prince. She’s delivered some of the best and most memorable tracks of the past decade. She’s a performer, actor, singer, and does fashion to the highest standard. LGBT stands for Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce – Telephone, didn’t you know? She’s long stood for those on the peripheries, at a time when straight people didn’t know what to make of her.
It’s not really an excuse to say the Chromatica Ball slipped my mind, all because I forgot to buy tickets, then forgot to request press tickets, then forgot altogether and ended up sinking stupid pints at a stupid pub. Gaga’s long put in work to deliver. For that, I’m a terrible, terrible gay. At least I can say I’ve interviewed her (for a minute), though.