With her upcoming album Joanne, it seems Lady Gaga is fervently embracing the country pop vibe she began to get into on Born This Way‘s “Yoü and I” — embracing it to such an extent that it’s (maybe?) supposed to feel earnest. At least in a performance she gave last night, she demonstrated such a fetish for that earnestness and authenticity that it became quite campy — deliberately so, it seemed. Her performances themselves were vocally strong, albeit occasionally skewing Broadway-ish. As for the music and her rebranded aesthetic, it all depends on how you vibe with, well, this new character. For there’s no denying that, even with her emotionally forward, “singer/songwriter” output, what she’s doing isn’t still quite theatrical.
Gaga, on vocals and a series of guitars, debuted three new songs — “Sinner’s Prayer,” “A-Yo,” and “Million Reasons.” The somewhat bizarre, persona-heavy part came between the latter two songs, when she started in on some banter, her head downcast, her eyes hidden beneath her blinged-out cowgirl hat. “How you doin’ tonight, Nashville? My name is Lady Gaga. I’m a singer/songwriter from New York City, coming through Nashville, but if you could do me this favor. Tonight, if you could just call me Joanne,” she said to the small audience at Nashville’s The 5 Spot — the first stop along the Lady Gaga X Bud Lite Dive Bar Tour — with a hint of “homegrown” twang in her voice. (The next performances along the tour will be on October 20 and October 27.)
Watch the performance of all three of those tracks:
Following the brief show, Lady Gaga also shared the studio version of the ballad “Million Reasons”:
Again, authenticity and spectacle are quite blurred:
But given how boring and futile “authenticity” can feel as an actual measure of artistry, and given Gaga’s consistent toying with earnestness and character, perhaps the only question is whether it all, simply, works as good, exhilarating music — and much of it did. (“Perfect Illusion,” which had a tinny quality in the studio version, sounded far more vital live.)
Ultimately, we’ll have to wait for more from Gaga and her collaborator Bud Lite to see how it all shapes up.