Born Again

Born Again

Born Again

The Most Outrageous and Talked-About Performer Of Today Is Also Turning Out To Be the Smartest and Most Unflinchingly Honest. Lady Gaga's New Album Proves That Being Number One Doesn't Mean Your Dance Music Can't Be Deeply and Stirringly Personal. If Anything, That's All It Needs To Be

The Most Outrageous and Talked-About Performer Of Today Is Also Turning Out To Be the Smartest and Most Unflinchingly Honest. Lady Gaga's New Album Proves That Being Number One Doesn't Mean Your Dance Music Can't Be Deeply and Stirringly Personal. If Anything, That's All It Needs To Be

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Text: Elton John

With her new album, Lady Gaga is getting personal. Not that the superstar musician hasn’t already laid her soul bare countless times in songs, performances, and even on the runway at the Mugler show in Paris this past March. It’s just that on Born This Way she’s unquestionably singing from the heart—about social injustice, self-acceptance, forgoing Hollywood, and the recent passing of her grandfather, among other tough topics. As Gaga grows up—she celebrated her 25th birthday two days after this cover shoot—songs about late nights and hard partying are naturally transitioning into those about identity, vulnerability, and, ultimately, pure joy. That’s what’s different about the Gaga of 2011—she has undoubtedly found herself. Here, Elton John asks his dear friend (and the godmother of his new baby boy) exactly how she got there.

ELTON JOHN Growing up, who were your musical heroes?

LADY GAGA I grew up listening to my father’s vinyl collection. You, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Carole King, Whitney Houston, Duran Duran. I had an affinity for rock and roll and dance music at a young age, especially for artists who wrote and played themselves. I started playing piano when I was 4, so the idea of creating something on my own that could someday live next to Dark Side of the Moon—that became an ultimate driving force in my childhood.

EJ At what point in your life has music had its greatest influence?

LG I remember listening to Carole King’s Tapestry album in my parents’ basement at two in the morning, singing and screaming at the top of my lungs, then finishing up papers and harnessing as much bravery as possible to be confident in a very socially challenging school environment. This is just one of many moments. But this was around the time that I began to write really great songs. I was 16.

EJ Were you encouraged to perform as a child?

LG There was no stopping me. I was always in a moment of performance and creativity. My parents encouraged me in that they never tried to change me. But in a way, my home has always been the stage. I was the girl whose phone was ringing off the hook because I was late to meet everyone at the party, I was too busy finishing a chord progression or lyric, dreaming of getting my boots dirty and becoming a superstar.

EJ Does your family support your current lifestyle and commitments?

LG Wholeheartedly, except they’re afraid I work too hard. My dad’s a whiskey mouth like me, though, so we don’t argue much about my recreational life: booze and recording.

EJ You have been on the road with your Monster’s Ball tour since late 2009 and have performed over 180 shows with still more to go. How does touring affect you physically and emotionally?

LG At a certain point exhaustion becomes a state of being, and mentally I have to be strong and overcome it. It’s like a cloud, a fog really, that hovers over me. But in a way I will never escape it, because in truth when I do have time to rest I end up writing a song, or editing a film, or creating a new project for the fans to be involved in. Art is my whole life. The monsters are my medicine. They heal me, physically and emotionally, every night at the show.

EJ What’s the most spectacular thing you have ever seen when looking into an audience?

LG Myself. It’s like a magnificent disco ball, with twenty thousand tiny mirrors reflecting back at me. It requires me to be honest. I see myself in my fans. I feel God through their love. I worship little monsters. They’re my religion. Without them, I don’t exist.

EJ Do you feel your life and your act have become inextricably intertwined?

LG Yes. Where I begin and where the stage ends has no linear quality. It’s centrifugal.

EJ When do you feel the most free?

LG Onstage, especially at the piano. However the most defining moments of liberation always occur when I am performing a new song for the first time. I have never before felt the energy and freedom that I do now singing “Born This Way” at the end of the show. It was the finale I had yet to write. It was the end of the unfinished, and never finished, story of the Monster’s Ball. I spoke of freedom and identity every night for three years. But artistically, not until now have I put my money where my mouth is. The celebration is so intense with the fans. It’s unlike any feeling I’ve ever had before.

EJ We share a flamboyant taste in fashion. Who or what inspires you?

LG I’m mostly inspired by shapes, and using the body to create iconography. Leather culture and high-street punk fashion. I would say perfecto jackets occupy most of my fashion thoughts. We were laughing on the set of the “Judas” video—we had fifty racks of couture, and I wore leather, Motorhead panties made of a vintage T-shirt, custom from young designers who are my friends, my own creations, and archive Christian Lacroix from a museum. There are no rules.

EJ What music are you listening to at the moment?

LG Gregorian chanting. Édith Piaf, I’ve been obsessed with her throughout the making of Born This Way. And metal.

EJ What can people expect on Born This Way? Will it be hard-core or reflective or both?

LG The album is a meditation with my psychology. It begins with “Marry the Night,” a song about refusing Hollywood and moving back to New York, and it takes you, through the rest of the songs, to what is a paradoxical condition for me as a musician: I must be wholly superstar and wholly human to be a great artist. The album reckons with being private in public and liberating myself, and hopefully others, from their insecurities. In “Hair” I talk about discovering my identity in high school, and in “Americano” I tackle the social injustices that my generation faces now. Now that I have the courage of my fans, and the potential for revolution, I feel obligated to address what I see in their eyes every night, something I wasn’t ready to do on my first two albums. Sonically it’s an exploration in pop, dance, metal, techno, and rock, and fuses these genres with a variety of textures and colors; it’s a very painterly approach to music. It is quite aggressive and intense, like me, but the melodies are sweeping and beautiful. The album finishes with “The Edge of Glory,” a song about death. After losing my grandfather this year, I realized that the ultimate glorious moment when you are passing is when you realize that you won at life. So, yes, it’s quite hard-core in that it’s the hard-hitting work I’ve done, but [the album has] softer moments of vulnerability where I am quite joyful, and girlish, and enjoying being 25.

EJ Which track on the new album is the most personal?

LG They are all personal, I wrote and co-produced every song. But “Marry the Night” is the deepest look into my heart and mind as a woman of New York.

EJ What is the future of Lady Gaga?

LG I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to wear later.

Credits: Makeup Peter Philips for Chanel  Hair Christiaan using Kiehl’s Grooming Aids   Manicure Deborah Lippmann for Deborah Lippmann Collection (The Magnet Agency) Lighting technician Jodokus Driessen  Digital technician Brian Anderson Studio manager Marc Kroop  Photo assistant Barton Jahncke Stylist assistant Brandon Maxwell  Hair assistant Ramsell Martinez Makeup assistant Emiko Ayabe  Production Lisa Grezo (GE Projects) Production assistant Kat Tolentino  Equipment rental Smashbox  Photo Rentals, Los Angeles  Location MG Studios, Las Vegas  Printing Box


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