Out of all the versions of herself that Lady Gaga has cycled through, her latest, with the release of Joanne, is probably her softest. The country-tinged album featured a new sound for the singer, and there was plenty of personal context, too — Joanne is the name of her late aunt, who died of lupus before Lady Gaga was born. With this in mind, many were interested to see which direction Lady Gaga's 2018 Grammy Awards performance would go — sweet or sassy? Meat dress or sweatpants?
In the end, Lady Gaga showed her softer side, performing only with a piano and accompaniment on the guitar by Mark Ronson, who produced Joanne. She performed a poignant, meandering version of "Joanne," the album's title track, before transitioning into "Million Reasons." In terms of set design, her piano had elegant wings draped across it, making it look like an angel was on her instrument. It was ethereal and beautiful, besides being perfectly theatrical for a performer like Lady Gaga. But here's a moment you could have missed, if you were swept up in the performance — between songs, Lady Gaga said, "Time's Up." It was a clear nod to the movement that's been sweeping this awards season.
According to the movement's website, Time's Up is "a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live." It includes a legal defense fund (you can donate here, if you feel so inclined) that will help women take their harassers and abusers to task.
This isn't the first time that Lady Gaga has brought women's issues into the limelight. She wrote "Til It Happens To You" for the campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground in 2015, citing her own sexual assault as inspiration. “I didn't tell anyone for, I think, seven years," Lady Gaga said during a TimesTalks session. "I didn't know how to think about it. I didn't know how to accept it. I didn't know how not to blame myself, or think it was my fault. It was something that really changed my life. It changed who I was completely.”
Lady Gaga is coming off what is possibly the most important year of her career — she was celebrated for her Super Bowl halftime show performance early in 2017, she released a highly personal album and toured to support it, and she nabbed the lead spot in Bradley Cooper's remake of A Star Is Born. 2017 was good to Gaga. She was also nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album for Joanne and Best Pop Solo Performance for "Million Reasons" at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
And even though she's super successful, Lady Gaga has faced her own struggles in the music business. In her Netflix documentary, Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two, Lady Gaga talked about how she has had to assert herself to be in the room where it all happens. She said:
“When producers, unlike Mark [Ronson], start to act like they’re the — ‘You’d be nothing without me’ — for women, especially, those men have so much power that they can have women in a way that no other men can... The methodology behind what I’ve done is, when they wanted me to be sexy or wanted me to be pop, I always f*cking put some absurd spin on it that made me feel like I was still in control. You know what, if I’m going to be sexy on the VMAs and sing about the paparazzi, I’m gonna do it while I’m bleeding to death and reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe, the original Norma Jean, and what it did to Anna Nicole Smith...”
Lady Gaga has always fought for women's rights throughout her whole career, so her subtle nod to Time's Up and the movement it represents is certainly no surprise.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.