A defiant Lady Gaga closes out Roseland Ballroom
For anyone else, Lady Gaga's 2013 would be seen as an incredible success.
Her "Artpop" (Interscope) album hit No. 1. It spawned two Top 10 singles -- "Applause" and "Dope" -- and a critically acclaimed duet with R.Kelly, "Do What U Want," that landed in the Top 15. And she managed it months after she was confined to a wheelchair for four months after hip surgery that left her with three pins holding the bone in place.
Of course, Lady Gaga is not just anyone else. The first-week sales of "Artpop" were 258,000 -- a 77 percent drop from the massive 1.1 million first-week sales of her previous album, "Born This Way." And though sales were in line with new albums from Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry, blogs were lining up to call it a flop, and generally reputable outlets were making (or repeating) unsubstantiated claims that Interscope had spent $25 million on album promotion and now had to lay off 50 employees. That turned out to be untrue, but the "Artflop" myth had been built.
"I'm held to such an insane standard," Gaga said in her keynote address at the South by Southwest Music Conference earlier this month. "When it comes to me, everybody forgets where the music business is now."
Between her speech and her upcoming run of shows set to close down Manhattan's historic Roseland Ballroom, Gaga seems ready to take control of the "Artpop" narrative again.
"I'm proud of what we did," she says. "Making that record, it healed my soul every single night."
Lady Gaga says she understands all the negative publicity the album received. "It's an age-old tale, right?" she says. "They build you up to tear you down. You watch it happen and you see so many artists try so hard to act like it's not affecting them."
However, in online posts and in her SXSW keynote, she made it clear that it has affected her. "People in your life change," she says. "Money makes everything so complicated. People betray you. I decided that I owe it to my work just to be an open book."
Gaga says she refused advice from many in the music industry to tone down her act now. "I refuse to compromise and allow my talents to be monetized to the point that I don't even want to be here anymore," she says. "I will stop. I will quit. I will retire from the commercial market if I have to do something other than be myself. If I can't be myself in this moment, then everything I have said to my fans since the beginning would be a total lie. Because then what? I'll be myself until I have to make money? Sustain a luxurious lifestyle? Oh, and then I'll change, right? No, I'll be myself until they ---- close the coffin, so that you can all be yourselves."
That take-no-prisoners approach will be on display at the upcoming shows at Roseland.
"I feel really honored as a New Yorker to be closing it out," she says. "I want to do it justice and leave my heart on the stage."
Gaga says she remembers going to countless concerts at Roseland while growing up in Manhattan. "I view it as the place my mom didn't want me to go to," she says. "It's a really true New York classic. It's really sad to see it go."
The Roseland shows will be different from Gaga's full "artRAVE" tour, which starts in May, and different from the show she did at SXSW, where she once again made headlines after performance artist Millie Brown vomited colored milk on Gaga and canvasses as part of the show. Both the performance and its sponsor, Doritos, drew criticism on the Internet, but Gaga defended both.
"We believe in the performance and we believe in what it meant to the song," she says, adding, "There's a very deeply creative rebellious spirit in 'Artpop.' Really what it's about is freeing yourself from the expectations of the music industry or the expectations of the status quo ... As you become more and more successful, they push the rule book closer to you."
Gaga told the aspiring artists at SXSW that they should simply focus on their music and be willing to suffer for it.
"Be careful what type of business you're selling because if you're selling anything other than talent, anything other than good songs, you're in the wrong business," she says. "Your talent will never leave you. Love your passion. Love it harder than anything else ... My talent means more to me than the money does. What I have to say matters more to me than the money does."
Milestones in Roseland's history
Roseland Ballroom has been a major factor in Manhattan nightlife since it opened in 1919 for ballroom dancing, operating at its current location on 52nd Street since 1958. Concerts became its main focus in the early '90s, though Roseland has always been known for its wild mix of events, ranging from movie premieres to sex-themed parties. Although Lady Gaga will likely try to add to Roseland's historic legacy, here's a look at some of the venue's memorable moments:
July 23, 1993 Nirvana was a last-minute addition to that year's New Music Seminar, headlining Roseland to introduce songs from the follow-up to their breakthrough "Nevermind." While getting ready to perform, Kurt Cobain overdosed on heroin in his hotel room, but was revived and went on as scheduled.
April 30, 2000 After struggling with sound issues, Fiona Apple had a meltdown onstage that became legendary, especially after she threatened to kill critics who wrote negative things about the performance.
Oct. 11, 2000 Radiohead entered the second, more mysterious phase of its career with its show at Roseland, unveiling its "Kid A" songs in North America.
Nov. 5, 2000 Madonna made her first New York concert appearance in seven years at Roseland, creating a spectacle that started with bikini-clad cowboys in the lobby as greeters and ended with her performing on both Roseland stages. Madonna used the show as a test to see whether she wanted to tour more. She's been a road warrior ever since.
Sept. 30, 2002 To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the Rolling Stones embarked on the "40 Licks Tour," where the group alternated playing shows in arenas, stadiums and clubs. Their New York run featured shows at Madison Square Garden, Giants Stadium and Roseland.
Aug. 14, 2011 Beyoncé didn't mount a full tour for her "4" album, but she did create a show for four special nights at Roseland that she filmed for the "Live at Roseland: Elements of 4" DVD.