Lady Gaga’s “Applause” At The VMAs, And Why It Was The Best

by Bradley Stern

lady gaga applause

The 2013 MTV VMAs. Blurgh.

No! They actually weren’t that bad this year. They were fairly good — which is an improvement from the past few years, which were objectively awful. I don’t know if I’ll actually get around to a full wrap-up of the night’s events, but I did want to spotlight my favorite performance of the night, which probably ought to surprise a few of you…

Lady Gaga‘s “Applause.”

“TRAITOR!” (Throws wine)

The Gaga backlash is strong this year. It’s not entirely unmerited, either — from the thirsty #ARTPOP and #BuyApplause tweet rampages, to the #sabotage drama aired unnecessarily in public with Perez Hilton, to the nearly offensively obtuse Reverse Warholian Experience she’s been pushing out with Marina Abramovic, it’s all been a bit…grating.

But after seeing the “Applause” performance, everything suddenly clicked. THIS IS WHY.


Blockhead Romance

The narrative that Gaga’s providing with ARTPOP should all make sense by now, yes? The clown shtick. The video concept. The “Don’t Buy ARTPOP” video. Gaga’s suggesting that she’s been mocked by the public in the past few years — cue the boos, et al — and that deadpan introduction was her reliably over-the-top way of acknowledging the Born This Way backlash, twirling through it all and wandering onto a new chapter in her career. She’s a blank canvas, etc.


Liza With A Wig Snatch

First of all, the glitter and jazz hands? So Liza.

From her “Just Dance” blunt bob Fame wig to her pee-stain yellow “Telephone” Fame Monster wig to her — um, Beyoncé-hair-caught-in-a-fan ARTPOP wig, it’s clear that Gaga not-so-subtly — subtlety and Lady Gaga are like oil and water, after all — shuffled through almost all her “eras” so far in a single performance.

True, it’s only been 5 years since she debuted, but hey — if Rihanna can reference her past looks, so can Gags.

BRB appropriating ur work lol bai

The Koons Bubbles

It’s not “kuntz.” It’s not a racial slur. It’s Jeff Koons, who makes art — like this. Those metallic balloons were a reference (REFERENCE) to his work. “Suddenly the Koons is me!


Just Dance, It’s Still Gonna Be Okay

There was real dancing during this performance! And it was very good! She even did the Illuminati eye thingy a few times — cheers to that! It was all sorts of The Fame/The Fame Monster-era splendor.


Put Your Paws Up, Botticelli

The one look she pulled from the “Applause” video — apart from the clown/mime thing, obviously — was the Birth of VenusGa. She also happened to look amazing while wearing mostly nothing — the GaGoods were out in full force. (On a related note, I’m very grateful that no swans were harmed in the making of this performance.)

That Last A-R-T-P-O-P Spelling Head Swivel



Now, look: I’m not a Little Monster. I’m not calling it iconic. Nor am I suggesting that there weren’t other amazing performances tonight: Kanye West‘s performance of “Blood On The Leaves” was as perfectly moody and aggressive as Yeezus sounds, Justin Timberlake remained a true class act (and the best male pop performer of our generation), and Katy Perry delivered arguably her most well-choreographed award show routine to date — and managed to jump rope successfully in front of the world without tripping.

But Lady Gaga, for me, provided the most fun of all. And for that, I’m gagging for Gags tonight.


Searching for fucks to give you…

  • Brent

    Every drop of the truth tea was spilled here. Preach honey.

  • http://twitter.com/Carlos_Rosso Carlos Rosso

    Gaga the best? ah ha ha ha ha. Oh Brad, you’re always so funny XD

  • supsidekick

    yes it was good. but considering all the other performances sucked, she didn’t have any competition!

  • Julio Ivan Acosta-Nieto

    Lady Gaga is always the best at being Lady Gaga.

  • Poison Paradise


  • jerricho05

    sorry but Jt and Miley’s trainwreck shat all over Applause performance

  • http://www.arcadey.net/ Jacques

    Totally agree minus the praise of Kanye and Katy lol



  • Galli

    I agree with you Bradley. She was excellent even if I still fail to be captivated by her. The thing is, she’s very much about the conscious idea – we all have a genius for something and her own genius is the cerebral working out/construction/deconstruction of her pop identity. All well and good, but it doesn’t excite me as much as what happens by accident. Whereas the impact of, say, a Britney Spears is that she has this unconscious genius be it in a gesture or an expression or certain tone in her voice which makes her timeless and makes people relate to her in somewhat pagan ways. The ‘Godney’ stuff did not happen by accident wheras the ‘Godga’ label never really caught on with the mainstream because Gaga continues to let us behind the curtain which will be detrimental to her legacy – but she deserves the applause. I see Gaga as more of a scholar than an artist. I see her holding the torch for David Bowie, Grace Jones, Klaus Nomi and even though she may not have the gift of intuition, she deserves the right to express herself.

  • Britney Lover

    As much as I love Applause and Gaga, the performance felt underwhelming. The self-reference is too soon for someone like Gaga, the whole wig/outfit changing was a bit messy. But I guess she still took the most exciting/interesting, if not the best, performance…

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  • Fantasy

    i love this site

  • http://www.muumuse.com Bradley Stern

    And I love you for reading this site!

  • Chris

    Not a fanatic of hers, although I do LOVE The Fame Monster (as a whole) and her latest single has been on repeat since I downloaded it, but I agree, girl gets credit where credit is due – and she sticks to her guns and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks. Britney still rules supreme as Queen of Life, but Gaga is proving she’s at least in court.

  • Chris

    I feel this so hard. I love some of Gaga’s stuff, but don’t relate to her as either an artist or person-whereas Britney Spears is ALL to me just being who she is.

  • rogelio

    Although I am trying hard to like Gaga again, I loved The Fame, she is doing nothing for me. She has become so boring. Her The Fame era was fun, was about her having fun, being a “nobody” having fun. Then she started this “I’m the reencarnation of Elvis” era that was so pretentious and what she released was underwhelming. Nowadays she is trying to “just have fun again”, but she is trying too hard at it. This performance wasn’t bad, but it was completely boring. Britney’s iconic performances are still remembered, were talked about for weeks after they happened (without social networking), were what made the VMAs week. Gaga’s performance, while good, was shadowed by Miley’s disgusting performance and JT’s awesomeness. For me, JT was the only thing good about the VMAS, although too long. NSync’s reunion was too short but his performance very long. Even Perry was plain boring and safe.

  • Manuel

    I don´t agree. Gaga´s performance besides the tight choreography (few can dance like her), lacked concept. A review of her eras? Please, already making a recount of her career!!!!! OK maybe, it is the beginning of her farewell.
    JT was by far the best performance.

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  • Bonjourvieve

    It wasn’t “Koons”, it was “Kuntz” which is german slang for “prank/trick/joke”….as in “suddenly the joke is me”….she is and has long been a fan of germany and german words & expressions in her songs…#justsayin