When it comes to core memories, like many closeted queers of the time, the release of The Fame Monster was a defining moment in my coming of age. Stuck in the suburbs, it was Lady Gaga’s electro-dance-pop tunes like 'Just Dance' and the psychosexual imagery of 'Paparazzi' that offered a glimpse into a world of unbridled creativity that would alter the trajectory of my life forever. I wish I was joking. While the glossy covers of Vogue whet the appetite of many fashion fanatics, it was Gaga’s unapologetic imagery in its ability to question fame, identity, love, and sex that had me hooked in a way no Leibovitz-lensed editorial could ever.
Throwing it back to the summer of 2010, as a fourteen-year-old, I bore witness to the gritty, sweaty spectacle known as The Monster Ball. An apt foreshadowing of the heady hedonism that would dominate my young adult life, it was also an introduction to the dark and dreamy minds of some of my favourite creative forces, including Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, and of course, Nick Knight. Long before I ever knew what SHOWstudio was, the show’s neo-noir meets disco visuals revealed to me a world beyond the picket fence reality of my formative years. As the show closed with the heartbreaking banger of 'Bad Romance', my own creative pursuits had just begun.
Fast forward over a decade, and I find myself in awe as Nick Knight scurries from screen to screen while the SHOWstudio team, aka my colleagues, works tirelessly on the visuals for The Chromatica Ball. Like any devoted stan, I keep my head down so as not to risk a glimpse at the mood boards and unfinished films my co-workers are producing. Still, while the hook of 'Sour Candy' loops during an especially intense editing session, there’s a palpable energy reverberating through the studio. An inescapable feeling that something grand is coming.
It’s no wonder considering the highly anticipated tour was literally years in the making. As the pandemic raged on, Little Monsters were robbed of sultry Chromatica-themed club nights, leaving them famished for a tour that was pushed back again, and again. Behind the scenes, Lady Gaga’s health struggles with fibromyalgia – which led to cutting the Joanne world tour short – meant an uncertainty hung in the air on the possibilities of future world tours. The pressure was on all sides to create something big. Not just for the artist but for her devoted fanbase.
As the Düsseldorf show officially kicked off The Chromatica Ball earlier this month, reviews swiftly flooded in from the Little Monsters of Germany and beyond. With fans dubbing the show an operatic-epic, many began drawing parallels to the Nick Knight-directed visuals of The Monster Ball. The excitement online led me down a rabbit hole of fan theories via Twitter threads on the meaning behind the show. That, along with friends who overnight became desperate Debbies on the hunt for a golden ticket to this weekend’s festivities, lit a nostalgic fire within me.
While I’ve learned that searching for understanding in any creative’s work is oftentimes a futile endeavour, if there is something you can always count on from Lady Gaga it’s her ever-evolving point of view. Promising to take fans on a journey through the highs, lows, and rebirths one experiences while navigating fame (and life in general), it’s the Chromatica era’s optimism that’s sure to define her latest world tour. With the release of the first single ‘Stupid Love’ in 2020, a new era of 'Kindness Punks' was among us, marking the album as a beacon of self-love, acceptance, and hope in a world perpetually on fire.
As I dust off my faded Monster Ball tour t-shirt from the box of sentimental fashions i’ll never be capable of discarding, I think back on one of the show’s interludes: The Manifesto of Little Monsters. ‘They are the kings, they are queens. They write the history of the kingdom, and I am something of a devoted jester’, Gaga states. As the superstar prepares to entertain the hordes of stans all weekend long, it's the master showman’s unwavering devotion to her craft and her fans that's sure to inspire a whole new generation of Little Monsters.
Get ready to serve it ancient city style at The Chromatica Ball on 29-30 July at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.