I still remember the first time I encountered Lady Gaga. I was watching So You Think You Can Dance?, trying to mute everything Mary Murphy was screeching out, when I saw on the screen the words “Pop music will never be low brow” flash from the electronic sunglasses of a blond lady in a black-thong leotard. I immediately laughed out loud and thought, “Oh America…” It’s not that I didn’t like her, it’s just that the year was 2008 and she reminded me of the Russian dance-pop stars I watched perform on television in Moscow in 2002, mainly Vitas in particular.

Russians have been incorporating performance art into pop music, albeit probably unintentionally, for years. Lady Gaga seemed about as new to me as Absolut Mandarin (Russians have also be infusing their vodka for years). What finally made me realize there was more to Gaga than a keen sense of what was happening in Europe six years ago, was her public persona. The woman never stopped being Gaga. That, to me, is the real performance art. And this latest release, off the upcoming Born This Way is actually pretty good. It’s better than Vitas.

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