Sep 14 2009
Lady Gaga's Bloody VMA Performance Secrets
From the dramatic poses to the radio-controlled blood bag, here are the ideas and influences behind Gaga's iconic performance.
By Eric Ditzian
From her arrival on the arm of Kermit the Frog to the white feathered head-wreath she'd donned by Sunday night's end, Lady Gaga had a VMA night for the pop and fashion ages. More so than any single accessory or red-carpet date choice, though, the superstar will be remembered for her baroque-meets-horror-movie performance of "Paparazzi."
Gaga began her act prostrate onstage as if crushed by an ornate chandelier and half-staggered, half-danced around as she sang and finished up as blood poured forth from below her breasts. It was a performance, VMA creative director Lee Lodge told MTV News, that was inspired by references as diverse as "Phantom of the Opera," Madonna, Marie Antoinette, the pope and Jesus.
"Gaga came to the table with the idea that she wanted to perform while she was injured and she wanted to perform with lots of blood," Lodge said. "And there was always the idea of 'Phantom.' Then we had a creative planning meeting and she called in from Jerusalem. She'd just been to Jesus' tomb and she was very inspired."
The Holy Land inspiration led her to the idea of ending the performance by metaphorically dying and then being lifted up into the air as if ascending to heaven. "It was supposed to be commenting on the life of celebrity," he explained. "Even though you see her dying, she's going to a much better place."
Gaga originally wanted to begin the song with an actual chandelier plummeting from the rafters and landing on her, but logistically that was an impossible feat to accomplish. Instead, Lodge and his team showed Gaga photos of a controversial sculpture by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan of Pope John Paul II being crushed by a meteor. Gaga loved the idea, and it became one more reference point in a stage show that was also heavily influenced by Madonna's rococo "Vogue" performance at the 1990 VMAs.
For all the elaborate stage craft during "Paparazzi," the most technically difficult aspect of Gaga's night was the blood. Technicians ended up rigging a radio-triggered blood bag under Gaga's costume in an effort to get the blood to flow on cue. "We had to make sure it didn't misfire, it didn't trigger early," Lodge said. "Otherwise it would have given the whole thing away."
From the beginning, Gaga approached the performance as part pop star, part performance artist. "She wanted a sense of spectacle like you used to see with Madonna," said Lodge. "From a fan's point of view, she wanted to put on a truly great VMA performance — one that would have the same resonance as Madonna's. When she was a little girl watching the VMAs, these were the images that stuck with her."