The Bigger Picture: Reinvent Yourself
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “The Bigger Picture” series, written by Charese Fruge on October 26th, 2021
As I watched the show, there was not one thing I recognized about the performer that was related to what we all know as Lady Gaga. Instead, I could hear the sounds and voices, and picture the appearances of some of the greats like Liza Minelli, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Irma Thomas, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday. I could go on and on. Not only was it Piano and Jazz, but it was attitude and soul….and range. This woman has range. I did not recognize this artist (Gaga) at all, but I, along with the crowd was mesmerized by her. This was not a show for Gaga Fans, this was a show for fans of music, all kinds, the classics, and showmanship, and passion and humor. The crowd was completely different from what you would expect to see at a regular Lady Gaga show. It was created specifically for Geriatric Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers. It almost sounded inappropriate to hear the few “Little Monsters” in the crowd screaming in between songs.
She paid tribute to Jazz and insinuated that she would never go back to anything other than Jazz. She paid tribute to Tony Bennett for turning her on to Jazz and spoke passionately about Tony, her love for him and her compassion for him as he struggles with Alzheimer’s Disease. It was vey touching. The show was pretty much a tribute to Tony, and a statement that she would carry the Torch, so that the world would never be without Jazz and the classics.
As I sat back and watched the show with a great deal of pleasure, I realized that I was a part of history, more importantly, I realized that I was watching as Lady Gaga pulled off the most successful reinvention of a person I had ever seen, better than Madonna, better than Cher, Better than J Lo. Don’t get me wrong, these women are all Queen’s, but Lady GaGa’s reinvention of herself was one that would stand the test of time, and she might just end up like Tony, still smiling and touring, selling out shows, winning Oscars and Grammy’s in her ninety’s. Not many artists can do that. It requires stepping completely out of your comfort zone, allowing yourself to be open minded and inspired despite your level of success, and diving in headfirst to something you are passionate about.
The reason I mention this is because the radio industry is at a weird place right now. The opportunity for talent is shrinking because of consolidation, and the opportunity for the few talent left with jobs is enormous because of a need to fill the consolidated holes. There are also issues where there is so much discrimination against seasoned talent due to age, so if you are going to survive the business, you are going to have to learn to reinvent yourself, possibly over and over again. And most likely, as well as Lady Gaga has.
Many Women in the music and broadcast business have struggled over the years due to lack of female mentors in the industry. So as much as she is untouchable, Lady Gaga is not unseen, and generous. Use her as an idol, and someone to look up to and aspire to be. Or borrow my idol, Dolly, the only other Female entertainer I know who has successfully reinvented herself for over 70 years. Dig deep into their history, struggles and passions (male, female or trans) and use that knowledge to challenge yourself to think out of the box, and work towards success that makes sense (without stepping on everyone else).
If you are kind, empathetic, giving, driven and passionate about what you do, you will reinvent yourself at a time in your life when you need it the most. Whatever your destiny is, don’t mourn your previous calling. I can’t imagine there is anything left for Gaga to accomplish as a mainstream pop artist. Not that she couldn’t continue to kill it, but you can tell by the smile on her face and the passion in her heart during her “Jazz” show that she was not mourning her past accomplishments. She was simply leaning into an entirely different style introduced to her by one of the greatest entertainers of all time, Tony Bennett. A man whose legacy she will carry on most likely for the rest of her life. And she was doing it with a giant smile on her face, and in her heart. It’s easy to tell when Gaga lays it on thick, but she was genuinely happy and having fun with her new passion, an even better gift to her than she could have given to Tony in the long run.