The disco version of a stick, in case you are unaware, is like one you might use to play lacrosse — but instead of the net at one end, imagine a similarly shaped latticework of plastic crystals that lights up whenever the performer called Lady Gaga tries to make an emphatic disco point. She doesn’t so much ride her disco stick as wave it around and bat her dancers with it as though they’d been bad. Which, of course, is the point, as long as her — or your — idea of bad encompasses wearing slashed PVC leggings and platform stiletto fetish boots. Anything gay-friendly should, at least, be shocking enough to make people feel something for you. This is Lady Gaga, and the balls she has — to put two men kissing onstage in front of her, to wear the clothes she wears, to be the weirdo she claims to be so publicly — should shock and entertain you, while also inspiring you to believe that if she, just an offbeat girl with a dream, can make it to the stage of Madison Square Garden, you can live your dream, too. Right?
But amid Lady Gaga’s studded bra-and-panty sets, the Ace bandage manties her dancers wear, and the garish stage lights screaming (or maybe just quietly saying) in neon letters “gold teeth,” “sexy ugly,” and “mr. bang bang,” audiences are left to wonder who the disco versions of themselves actually are. The disco version of Stefani Germanotta is an internationally recognized yellow-haired 24-year-old woman who prefers glitter leotards or embellished extra-fancy bra-and-panty sets to any other type of clothing. But is there something more to her disco self? And what is it about her show that takes you to disco heaven?
Presumably it’s a combination of the costumes, the sets, the background video by Nick Knight, and her musical talent. But last night at her show at Madison Square Garden, something was lacking even though the concert was fun. And it wasn’t the concertgoers who came, in droves, dressed in the best disco versions of themselves, which looked like Germanotta’s disco version of herself, and involved fishnet panty hose, skimpy latex jumpsuits, and fetish pumps. And it’s no wonder these young women would call attention to their boobs, their butts, their V-cleavage: Lady Gaga does it throughout her entire show in much more elaborate leotards, covered by more elaborate capes, and paired with even more elaborate knee-high boots. The visual highlight of her show, if not the sets or costumes, is how she contorts herself in the garments. If she’s not supine on the floor, legs spread, straddling an almost naked dancer, she’s standing on a piano bench while playing, with her butt out toward one-half the stadium.
The sexualization of female pop stars is nothing new. But while Lady Gaga’s finale of a sparkler bra is sartorially neat, it’s not inspiring. It doesn’t give us the sense that we’ve experienced how amazing Disco Gaga and Her World are. Granted, we practically sat in Canada last night, and maybe if we saw her shoes up close in the four-figure seats we’d feel differently about things. But from the heights of MSG, we hoped to leave with a feeling that was something more than the excitement we felt going into and during the show. But we didn’t.
And that feeling is important, not only for the three-figure-minimum tickets, but especially as Miley Cyrus sheds her stage clothes and Madonna rolls out a line of juniors’ clothes inspired by her breakout ultrasexualized self. Meanwhile, the top designers of the world, judging by their fall and resort clothes, are hell-bent on dressing mature, if not necessarily old, women. Women with careers, in all likelihood, with much more to pride themselves on than ass cheeks. Lady Gaga may represent just one example of why designers took that turn. Inspiration and empowerment are not built on a mysterious combination of leotards, glitter, weird capes, and V-cleavage. Sometimes conservative clothes just do the job better. That was probably one reason why Gaga’s Cousin It–esque “Monster” costume was our favorite outfit of the whole night.