Gaga’s first album was ironically titled The Fame. I always imagined that it was called that because LG had this grand vision to put fame on display - warts and all. This documentary confirms my suspicions. It’s an exciting and sometimes distressing look into the life of the powerhouse performer. Equal parts personal and professional lives are revealed. As a big Lady Gaga fan, I tend to know more about Gaga than your fan. That’s not to say I wasn’t surprised or didn’t learn something about The Artist Formerly known as Stephanie Germanotta.
At five-foot two, Lady Gaga is one inch shorter than Madonna. Why bring this up? Can anything be written about Gaga without mentioning the sordid relationship, or lack thereof, with Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone.
The only reason I do is because Gaga does in the documentary... twice. Gaga seems to be frustrated by their relationship, claiming to admire Madonna and having done so since she was younger. Gaga says her main beef with the Madonna situation is that Madonna doesn’t approach her directly and chooses social media to lash out at her. I would imagine it would be hurtful to be crushed like a bug by one of your idols. I’ve often said as much as I love Madonna that I would be terrified to meet her. She’s often been described as aloof and standoffish with her fans and celebrities alike.
In fairness, it’s hard to deny that Gaga was greatly influenced by Madonna - sometimes blatantly ripping her off. I have also often said that Lady Gaga has recreated Madonna’s 30-year career within 5 years. It’s kind of hard to feel sorry for Madonna when this trail blazer has been ripping other artists off since before the beginning of her career.
The jelly bracelets and tied up scarves in her hair came from an artist friend's style during her early days in New York. "Vogue" was stolen from the club kids and drag queens. (If you don’t believe me, check out Paris Is Burning.) She was even sued for her blatant plagiarism of French photographer Guy Bourdin. She swiped many of his images for her Hollywood video.
I’m not saying I’m on Gaga’s side. I’m just pointing out a little hypocrisy. All artists rip each other off. Sometimes down right, and often just a healthy dose of homage. One funny part in the doc is when Gaga’s father pulls out an old picture of Gaga with a gap in her teeth, “proving she had braces.” Gaga hysterically retorts, “I already have enough problems with Madonna.”
One of the more interesting elements for me was the focus on her creative process while making her Joanne album. Her working relationship with her producer Mark Ronson is touching, symbiotic, and genuine. Gaga knows what she wants, but she does listen to people who know better.
We also learn the origin of her album’s name. Joanne was Gaga’s aunt that died at 19 from lupus. Though Gaga never met her father’s sister, LG felt a strong connection to the specter of Joanne that haunted her family when she was young.
We get to see Gaga visit her grandmother. In a touching scene, Gaga plays her the song which she wrote about her long-since-passed daughter. Gaga’s father, Joe Germanotta, is still obviously sensitive to the loss of his sister, as he had to leave the room during the song.
Love her or hate her, no one can deny the magnitude of The Haus of Gaga. If she isn’t recording, she’s acting on American Horror Story, doing a photo shoot, fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community, or a multitude of other things.
One of the more surprising elements was the revelation of Gaga’s battle with fibromyalgia - a very painful, debilitating, and mysterious affliction. The price of pain, perhaps. I believe if you push yourself past your limits, something - sooner or later - will slow you down, if not shut you down.
Always the trooper, Lady Gaga endures more pain than she needs to, pouring all of her blood, sweat, and tears into her craft. For herself, of course, but also for the genuine love of her fanbase.
From the mundane to the Majestic.
We get to see Gaga interact with her family at a baptism for which I believe she is the God Monster... er, godmother rather. She seems more happy and peaceful surrounded by family, and she is able to move through the room without people crying and fainting at her mere presence.
Through ups and downs, victories and defeat, we end on a rather high note as Gaga prepares to headline the Super Bowl: the crowned jewel for all music acts. Is this her crescendo? Is this the pinnacle of Gaga’s career? Is this the part where Lady Gaga fizzles out into obscurity? Somehow, I doubt it.
Check out the Netflix original documentary on Lady Gaga, Gaga: Five Foot Two, streaming now.
Follow me on Instagram (@MichaelFitzTroy).