Lady Gaga channeled the late David Bowie through song and style on Monday night at the 58th Grammy Awards, and thanks to an innovative technological partnership with Intel, her performance also generated the most buzz for creativity.
Perhaps because she was born this way, Gaga seemed a rather obvious choice to pay tribute to the rock icon who died last month at the age of 69. She showed up on the Grammy red carpet with flaming red hair and dramatic blue eye shadow to match her dress.
Her performance lasted more than six minutes and featured parts of 9 Bowie songs: “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Suffragette City,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Fashion,” “Fame,” “Let’s Dance” and “Heroes.” She was accompanied by Nile Rodgers on guitar and Raphael Saadiq on bass.
But the work of Intel made the whole thing stand out thanks to computer graphics, holograms, interactive video and robotics. In a new story, Vanity Fair details the work that went into transforming Gaga into the Starman.
“Lady Gaga had been speaking to Intel as early as September, brainstorming ways in which she could use technology to express herself in a way that had never been done before,” Paul Tapp, Intel’s director of technology, told Vanity Fair. “She’s an amazing dancer and she really pushes boundaries with fashion. She said, ‘Help me to go beyond these standard constraints.'”
The coolest looking technological gimmick of the night was the “living canvas” deployed at the very beginning. It “allows her to basically have what we call digital skin — which has been used in tech art installations, but never before for a live performance,” Tapp told VF. That digital skin projected onto Gaga made it look like her makeup was changing as she sang.
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In a short film put together by the Grammys before Monday’s big event, Gaga spoke about the Intel partnership and the preparation she was putting into making technology part of the performance.
“Technology certainly matters to me and I think that it has a really profound way that it can effect stage performance and really take it to another level,” Gaga said. “The times that it works is when you have the time to really test it.”
Intel in fact built a mock Staples Center stage for Gaga that allowed her to have an entire month to test everything. The video shows her working out the details of how a keyboard on robotic legs would dance and how the Intel Curie technology in a ring on her finger would control an L.E.D. wall and more on stage.
“I love artists,” Gaga said. “And I think what’s so exciting about this collaboration is I get to shine a light on all of these scientists that are artists in my opinion. All of the things that they develop, that they research, that they invent … they are dreamers and that is at the essence of being an artist, is that you have a strong vision that you chase after.”
For all of the innovation that went into making Gaga’s medley seem so futuristic, it all still came off looking like a David Bowie show. Which, in the end, serves as the best tribute to the man who was such an icon and groundbreaker for the stars who followed him.