With nothing particularly interesting to do Saturday night, I found myself on an AT&T live stream, where Lady Gaga was headlining the cable giant’s “Super Saturday Night” concert. Looking back on those two hours, I wish I’d done anything else.
It’s been an interesting year for Lady Gaga since she and not-lover Bradley Cooper wrapped up the incredibly joyless A Star Is Born press tour during 2019 awards season. In March, she found herself at the center of a complex Starbucks scam designed by fans to bolster her streaming numbers. In July, she broke the Amazon Prime Day picket line to launch Haus Laboratories cosmetics, with product names like HAUS of Chained Ballerina. In October, an enterprising hotel worker tried selling off her Oscars 2019 dress. The following month, Gaga claimed she didn’t even remember ARTPOP, which is sad, considering its one of her better albums. (And the very first pop culture emergency.)
Amidst this, she’s been busy at work on her Las Vegas residency, “Enigma.” The show itself hinges on her alter ego, a motion capture entity also named Enigma.
There’s probably more to this mythos than the brief synopses I found in press releases, but on the night of its debut back in August 2018, I bore witness to a wig she wore onstage and believed it better to opt-out of the experience than fall deep into the clutches of post-ARTPOP despair. I wish I had listened to my intuition when I clicked play on the live stream.
For her first look of the concert, she wore a disco-ball inspired catsuit, replete with matching gloves and headset. Her wig was mid-length, blue, and wavy; expectable for Gaga, but not entirely terrible! The color suits her well, and paired with her makeup for the night—Haus Laboratories, as she reminds the audience frequently—the overall effect is cohesive! When she eventually removes that headpiece, the wig has nice body and bounce, which compliments her jumping and gyrating and stomping and bobbing and twisting and spinning and yelling and shaking. I’ve included one such example below:
As you can see, despite her stomping around, the wig maintains its shape, and somehow makes the entire experience of a grown woman power walking around onstage in a disco catsuit enjoyable, even innovative. This is wig work at its finest—resilient, bold, and aesthetically cohesive. Too bad she didn’t keep it on!
After the first set, Lady Gaga disappears, and a (somewhat lengthy) instrumental begins. Eventually, she re-emerges from a cloud of smoke, bedecked in neon and pleather and a wig twice as long, and twice as perplexing, as the last one. Her makeup is still Haus Laboratories, though!
It’s at this moment that the Enigma experience broke down for me, like her Oscars chances, or Volantis, the jetpack dress she tried to take off in during her ARTPOP era. Her onesie—pleather, with some sort of tulle stapled around its outer frame, gives her a lopsided appearance, like a peacock that was just unceremoniously slimed by Nickelodeon in 2006. And then there’s the wig—part bob, part clip-in ponytails, that evokes an aura that less-rude viewers might describe as “futuristic,” or even “cyberpunk.”
In a banter session with one of her dancers later on in the show, Gaga is possessed by the malevolent spirit inhabiting the wig, sent to the mortal plane with the express purpose of terrorizing me. Controlled by a demonic entity, she grabs her dancer’s finger and begins to lick and suck on it like a dick.
If anything, the wig (and the spirit possessing it) is indicative of the variance in creative choices Lady Gaga has taken over her long and storied pop career. Some land, and become culturally defining touchstones, while others, like Volantis, barely achieve liftoff before drifting back down to the surface of the earth.
From the side, the rough-hewn layers of the wig are put on full display. The bodysuit isn’t so bad—I like the side stitching!—but its construction is hampered by the human-length ponytails plopped over the front of it. Unfortunately, it only gets worse from here. Her next outfit is another bodysuit, a glittery purple ensemble complete with cutouts. The color, again, is fabulous, and looks great on her! The fit leaves something to be desired—stretch fabrics tend to do that—but its the wig I can’t peel my eyes away from. After some more jumping and gyrating and stomping and bobbing and twisting and spinning and yelling and shaking, it’s come loose from its ponytails, giving it the look of a My Little Pony doll with a bad haircut.
Later, she dons a gold ensemble that calls back to her earlier eras, which is fine. Again, the construction does some weird things to its fit, but I don’t hate it! Her team has also done her the favor of combing out the wig into something more manageable, as the concert hits its crescendo.
Ultimately, as Gaga tends to do, she ends the night as a piano, with a Metallica-adjacent t-shirt dress done up with safety pins. The wig also redeems itself, ever so slightly, in its final moments onstage. I couldn’t tell if they combed the layers to disguise the bob, or if an act of divine intervention did the work for her, but either way, it looks much better!
As “Enigma” trudges toward its conclusion, I’m left to wonder what new wig journey will Stefani Joanne Ally Maine Germanotta take me on next. From the sound of her recently leaked song, which I am unaware of and have definitely never listened to, I expect to be at least mildly exhilarated. But for the moment, join me in sending this wig off with a proper piano goodbye!