After Arcade Fire set the tone early with a wintry forest live video that featured lots of awkward dancing at Sunday night’s (November 3) first-ever YouTube Music Awards , leave it to Lady Gaga to go completely the other direction.
In a pensive performance piece “documented” by the show’s artistic director Spike Jonze and fellow director Chris Milk, Gaga stripped it all the way down for the live debut of the her ARTPOP track “Dope.”
Seated at a grand piano in a dress-down drag that consisted of a “DOPE” trucker hat with a logo aping the NASA symbol, a mousy brown wig and a too-big flannel shirt (and, we found out later, no pants or shoes) Gaga poured all her heart and soul into the bare-bones ballad.
“The party’s just begun/I promise this, this drink was my last one/I know that I f—ed up again/Because I lost my only friend,” she sang, her vocals intense and focused. With the camera peering over the top of the piano and focused squarely on her face, Gaga emoted, “My heart would break without you/Might not awake without you/Been hurting low from living high for so long,” at which point she was shouting, practically on the verge of tears.
Shot in dim light, the video continued to gaze right into Gaga’s face as she debuted the song’s lyrics about a love she needs more than stimulants. “Toast one last puff,” she sang. “And two last regrets/Three spirits and 12 lonely steps.”
The camera finally swung around for a side shot of Gaga, a sad look of desperation covering her half-shadowed face. Pointing at the audience, Gaga said, “I need you more than dope!/I need you more than dope!”
She showed them how much she needs them by shaking hands and doling out hugs before leaving the stage, where many more strange and unexpected things would take place during the seat-of-its-pants 90-minute show.