Lady Gaga arrived at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards looking for "Applause," and that is exactly what she got. In her first-ever performance of the debut single from her upcoming ARTPOP album, Gaga did what she does best at the VMAs: she raised the bar ... again.
You never know what you're going to get with Mother Monster, but you can be sure it's going to be unique and mind-blowing. This time, the consummate show woman reclaimed her crown as one of the most exciting performers of her era with a high-energy set that had her pulling off half a dozen costume changes on stage, without missing a beat.
The mind-bender opened with a tight shot of gaga surrounded by a white background, crooning operatically while staring wide-eyed into the camera. All you could see was her face as she sang, "pull the trigger ... it's showtime!"
Then the camera pulled out and viewers at home saw that Gaga was actually wearing a white cardboard square around her face, which she quickly discarded to reveal a white priest-like vestment and matching pearls. They didn't stay on for long, though, as she ducked down and re-emerged in a black bedazzled leotard and black cap.
Most singers need to leave stage to switch it up, but not Gaga. Her dancers then draped a shimmery blue skirt around her waist, along with a matching jacket with giant shoulder pads and a blonde wig. For those of you keeping score at home, that's three costume changes in less than two minutes.
Performing on a set that looked like a space-y jungle, with her band members rocking out amid trees that had the title of the song hanging off of them, Gaga grabbed a blue bowling ball and tossed it across the stage to a waiting dancer. Then it was off to another look, as she got walled off behind her crew, emerging with a yellow wig and the signature ARTPOP paint streaks on her cheeks.
With her voice in peak form and her body showing no ill effects of hip surgery, Gaga worked the stage — which was designed and lit by avant-garde director and playwright Robert Wilson — in her signature high-energy style and, yes, had one more look in store for us to wind things down.
The visual fantasia ended with Gaga in the shell bikini and long curly wig from the "Applause" video, wrapping up her triumphant return to the VMA stage and the public spotlight.
Before Sunday night's blow-out, Gaga teased her fans with some black and white rehearsal shots, which gave them no warning about how hard she was going to rock them.
It was Gaga's first time back at the VMAs since 2011, when she put on one of her most infamous performances as male alter ego Jo Calderone. And she had quite a legacy to live up to, including her equally eye-popping 2009 "Paparazzi" fantasy suite, which she ended by dangling over the stage covered in blood.