Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Lady GaGa: Music, art and high tea

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter


Lady GaGa performs Just Dance

It's only two weeks old, but Lady GaGa is already having a great 2009.

Her single, Just Dance, is number one on both sides of the Atlantic, she came sixth on the BBC's Sound of 2009 list, and her album, The Fame, is out this week.

But, speaking to the BBC from her Canadian hotel room, the peroxide blonde pop star only has one thing on her mind: "I wish we were sitting down having tea".

That's very British of you.
Listen, I love tea. I must have tea five times a day. But I drink tea that has slippery elm in it - which is very good for your throat. That's not very British, right?

What about scones and clotted cream?
I wish I could, but I've got to try to keep my figure down, so I don't eat pastries and stuff.

Do you drink it properly, from a china cup?
Most of the time, yes... Whenever I've got press interviews, I always have a whole tea set. It really relaxes me.

Shall we just abandon any plans to talk about music and discuss tea for the next 20 minutes?
Listen, I love tea so much. When I have tea, I feel like I can think clearly and I give a real intelligent interview. Right now, I'm waiting for my tea to come upstairs to my room and I'm like a heroin addict.

Lady GaGa
Just Dance has also topped the charts in Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Eventually, thankfully, room service arrives with Lady GaGa's tea - but there is a small problem.

"I just answered the door in my underwear!" she squeals. "My hair looks like I just had a good time with a guy!

"I genuinely forget about fame sometimes..."

There is not, GaGa hastens to add, a man in her hotel room.

"I don't really date at all," she explains, "my art is too important".

The lack of romance means her album contains very few love songs, she continues.

"I don't know about love, so I write about sequins and parties and fame and how I wish that modern America and New York was more like the Andy Warhol era in the 70s.

"I write about nostalgia."

Peace sign

Fittingly, the 22-year-old cites a wide range of 1970s artists among her inspirations, including David Bowie, Queen and John Lennon ("I've got a peace sign tattooed to my wrist for that man").

Lady GaGa
I'm actually quite focused as an artist. I don't really date at all. And if I do, it's very brief
Lady GaGa

But the musical echoes of Imagine or Jean Genie only become apparent when GaGa plays her songs acoustically. On record, her synth-driven robo-pop is more Aguilera than art-rock.

The decision to pursue pop came when the Catholic schoolgirl, known to her classmates as Stefani Joanne Germanotta, started to dabble in New York's Lower East Side music scene.

Rebelling against the prevailing singer-songwriter ethic, she started to write "unashamedly commercial" music, and constructed lavish stage shows that drew on her love of fashion and art.

Is the visual element a necessary component of your music?
I think it is. For me, fashion and the visuals, that's like the full body of the work. What I do is performance art. It's pop music that's meant for the Louvre.

So what's the best way to experience Lady Gaga? In concert or on video?
The performance is the ultimate Lady GaGa experience, for sure. But it's not really complete without all the different elements.

I need people to have a memory of what it feels like to hear my song on the radio. I need them to know what my videos look like. They're acquainted with the fashion I wear - Klaus Nomi, or whatever. Then they come to the show and it all comes together.

A lot of your stage costumes are quite risque.
Listen, I'm a woman. Sometimes I don't want to put underwear on and go on stage. I have these amazing fashion outfits, but they're very intricate or very graphic, and very uncomfortable sometimes, depending on what train wreck of an idea I've got in my head.

But I always wear the underwear - because I know no matter how I feel, my fans deserve the panties.

Is there a specific message you're trying to convey?
For me, it's like saying I'm empowered by fashion, I'm empowered by my work.

Lady GaGa
GaGa has also written songs for Akon, Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears

To many music fans, the combination of brash pop and revealing outfits doesn't say anything they haven't already heard from Britney or Kylie.

But GaGa has a plan to counter that, drawing on the lessons taught by her hero, Andy Warhol.

"If you say something long enough, people will listen," she explains.

"Warhol kept telling people: 'This is art, this is art, this is art' and eventually they said: 'Andy Warhol is brilliant, he is the future of art'.

"You just have to keep hammering the image."

The Fame by Lady GaGa is out now on Polydor records.

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