“The rumors are true,” tweeted Lady Gaga yesterday, confirming her two-year residency at MGM’s Park Theatre in Las Vegas. Due to begin in December next year, the residency will see Gaga follow the likes of Cher, Celine and Britney as the latest in a long line of huge names setting up camp in Sin City. As well as confirming she’ll be developing a brand new show for the occasion, Gaga was keen to express her excitement, tweeting: “It’s been my lifelong dream to be a Las Vegas girl, I’m so overjoyed!” For fans able to afford a trip to the infamous city, this is surely something to celebrate. For those patiently awaiting some decent new music however, it’s another frustrating misstep in a career fast becoming characterised by premature nostalgia and poor creative choices.
A Las Vegas residency is an unusual move for a relatively young musician. Typically, it’s older acts who commit themselves to a Vegas contract, pop stars with a long career to celebrate and who just can’t be arsed to do a proper tour. It’s reserved for musicians who have resigned themselves to nostalgia-act (or worse, novelty-act) status, performers who can drag out their old hits without having to offer up anything new, safe in the knowledge they’ll draw huge crowds night after night, their fanbase old enough to have sufficient disposable income to hop on a plane to Nevada.
But for Gaga, it’s different – or at least it should be. After the minor disaster that was Joanne, she should be looking to the future, concocting a new album to silence cynical shit-munchers like me, not anchoring herself to Las Vegas. It’s a move that defies the forward-thinking, pop-saving star who burst onto the scene in 2008, instead feeling more fitting of someone twice her age who’s all out of ideas. Even Britney had been in the business longer than Gaga when her residency began in 2013, and by then she was already teetering on the fringes of the mainstream. For her, a retrospective extravaganza made sense. A celebration of her old hits that allowed her to cement her status as a music icon while getting plenty of time with her kids in the evenings. Gaga, on the other hand, hasn’t earned the legendary status afforded to the likes of Britney, Mariah et al, making a stint in Vegas feel premature.
What’s disappointing is that a Vegas residency feels so contrary to the futuristic pop promises of Gaga’s heyday. The success of her innovative, genre-pushing debut album The Fame and its subsequent deluxe repackaging is still the backbone of her career, her subsequent albums failing to live up to the near-perfection of the original. Back then, the chances of Gaga accepting a Vegas residency less than a decade after the release of her debut single were remote. Had the initial trajectory of her early career continued, by now she’d be releasing albums in made-up languages, inventing weird new genres and performing on the moon in a customised spacesuit that doubles as a harpsichord. A two-year stay at Las Vegas is a disappointingly traditional route and feels like the final nail in the coffin of a once fearless performer who marched to the beat of her own drum, never following in the footsteps of others.
Still, there are grains of hope. Beginning next December, Gaga has plenty of time to release a new album before opening night and a residency will give her the chance to develop a live show that is truly spectacular, destined to go down in Vegas history. Gaga will surely pour every ounce of energy and determination into her latest project and, on a personal level, it’s good to see her doing something she seems genuinely excited about. That said, it’s a shame her new venture will be static, rooted in Las Vegas where only a fraction of her most dedicated fanbase will see it.
All in all, a two year stay in Las Vegas feels like something Gaga should be doing in thirty years time, after she’s conquered the world and earned her title as greatest living pop star. The Vegas residency has long been a milestone for pop stars looking to slow down and reflect, a rite of passage for acts who have earned their iconic status and are ready to revel in it. But Gaga isn’t there yet. While her sights should be fixed firmly on righting the wrongs of Joanne, Gaga remains distracted by her own legacy, far removed from the rebellious upstart of 2008 and doomed to repeat the same mistakes again.