We must have missed the memo, but judging on the evidence, at some point in the not-too-distant past it was decreed that superstar female vocalists had become exempt from wearing trousers, with skirts also optional or reduced to the size of belts.
Rihanna has made a fine art of the look, if showing your knickers on stage in front of thousands of whooping fans can be considered an art, as have Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha; but they owe it all to the two most influential proponents of pop’s ass-out movement: Madonna and her heir apparent, Lady Gaga.
Arriving in São Paulo less than a month apart to give concerts at Estádio Morumbi, the rival pop stars share a love for over-the-top productions, with both Madonna’s MDNA show and Gaga’s Born This Way Ball presenting the show as a series of ‘acts’.
Madonna’s conceptual grouping plays out via a glass confessional box, while Gaga goes for a three-storey medieval castle. The former’s costumes are overseen by Jean Paul Gaultier, while Gaga makes do with outfits by Versace, Moschino and Armani. Madonna shoots her male dancers; Gaga joins hers on a meat couch.
But in many ways, there are more similarities between the two than differences. Both Italian-American women have built their success on some of the best-known songs of the last few decades, but they’ve also used their fame for good, having been outspoken supporters of LGBT rights and ecological causes.
Josh Olins/Press image
|Princess G, young pretender
Musically speaking, the bottle-blonde icons continue to draw comparisons, thanks in no small part to last year’s Lady Gaga single ‘Born This Way’, with its glaringly reminiscent airs of Madonna’s 1989 smash ‘Express Yourself’. The near-copycat move elicited a counter-attack from the veteran: Madonna’s current version of the Like a Prayer-era hit drops samples from Gaga’s tune back into her own, creating a sly mash-up that flaunts the 54-year-old’s relentless relevance.
But it’s when it comes to imagery and aesthetics that Gaga steals a lead: because where Madge’s career has leaned on relatively mainstream ideas about female sexuality and religion, Gaga’s avant-garde wardrobe and staging reveal a willingness to embrace darker, less obvious visions. And while Princess G has yet to prove she can withstand the fickleness of the public as well as Queen M, it’s safe to assume that neither royal will be taking to the stage in baggy khakis anytime soon.
Lady Gaga plays at 7.30pm on 11 November 2012 and Madonna plays at 8pm on 4 and 5 December 2012 at Estádio do Morumbi. Tickets Lady Gaga R$190-$750; Madonna R$170-$850.