Ever since she burst onto the scene with 2008’s ‘Just Dance’, Lady Gaga has referenced and emulated David Bowie, so it seemed fitting to have her pay homage to the pop icon at the 2016 Grammy Awards.
Teaming up with Bowie’s old friend and collaborator, Nile Rodgers of Chic, she ran through a fast paced medley of ten of Bowie’s most well-known hits from the seventies and eighties.
The performance started with a powerful, moody rendition of ‘Space Oddity’, with Gaga’s face projected onto the big screen with Ziggy Stardust style visuals – moons and lightning bolts. She then swept across the stage in a white and red silk cape as she moved into ‘Changes’, which was soon ripped off to reveal a feathered and bejewelled jumpsuit for her performance of ‘Ziggy Stardust’.
Gaga then moved to a huge, see-sawing keyboard where she picked up the pace with ‘Suffragette City’, dancing around the stage in a frenzy with her band and accompanied by dozens of digital spacemen on screen.
This then transitioned into ‘Rebel Rebel’, with Gaga strutting across stage to a steel microphone. It was at this stage that the performance began to lose its thread – she could have just as easily been paying tribute to Elvis with her gyrating hips and swaggering movements.
A flurry of backing dancers then took to the stage to circle Gaga as she took on ‘Fashion’ and ‘Fame’. Unfortunately, this segment is more likely to summon memories of karaoke at your local than the electric stage presence of David Bowie.
Nile Rodgers then joined her under the spotlight for a bass-fuelled medley of ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Let’s Dance’, and ‘Heroes’ to finish. Rodgers seemed happy to let Gaga take centre stage as she twirled and stomped her way through each number, finishing with a spin at the crescendo.
There were mixed thoughts on the tribute to a man who meant so much to so many. His son, Duncan, tweeted a thinly veiled dig at the performance, referencing the Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘gaga’:
“overexcited or irrational, typically as a result of infatuation or excessive enthusiasm; mentally confused.” Damn it! What IS that word!?
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) February 16, 2016
However, others disagreed and showed their support for the entertainer’s tribute:
Bowie’s back catalogue is too mammoth to try and pay homage to with just a swift collection of choruses and costume changes – a high voltage rendition of a track such as ‘Suffragette City’ or ‘Changes’ followed by a heartfelt classic like ‘Space Oddity’ would have perhaps done a better job than the flashy, over-theatrical performance we were treated to.
Gaga’s performance toed the line between eccentric and ridiculous, but it fell short of the star power that we expect from a Bowie medley. Then again, no-one but Bowie could do such a performance justice.