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For the better part of the last decade, GRAMMY winner Lady Gaga has been turning heads and raising questions with her brazenly bold attire and over-the-top performances. But her South by Southwest keynote address hosted by Fuse's John Norris at South by Southwest on March 14 showed a side of the Fame Monster that many of her fans in attendance had been eager to see, evidenced by the line that formed outside the Hilton Grand Ballroom two hours before her address began. Holding true to the brave spirit she strives to instill in her fans, Gaga had bold words to share about skeptics who questioned her SXSW appearance and the music industry as a whole.
When Gaga entered the room, she garnered a standing ovation as she carefully made her way up the stairs, being careful not to tear her elaborate plastic dress. The dress could have been useful at her Doritos-sponsored performance at Stubb's Bar-B-Q last night that, according to Norris, led some critics to say put the "gag" in Gaga.
"It was just exciting to see people talking about performance art on the Internet, and debating about whether it's art or not," said Gaga, who received some negative backlash from her concert, which at one point included the singer being covered in vomit. "We really just did it because we believe in the performance and we believe in what it means to the song ['Swine'].
"I'm so deeply passionate about anyone who has an artistic spirit," she added. "You never know where that crazy idea might lead you. Martin Luther King Jr. thought he could start a revolution without violence. … Sometimes things that are really strange and feel really wrong can change the world.
"I'm not saying vomit is going to change the world," she said with a laugh.
When asked about those who criticize SXSW because of the festival's tendency in the last decade to host "superstar" artists rather than new talent in the spirit in which the festival was founded, Gaga said, "Without sponsorships … we won't have any more artists in Austin. We won't have any festivals because record labels don't have any f***ing money."
She added, "Why shouldn't someone in Austin have the chance to see Jay Z up close and personal?"
But Gaga didn't just have something to say for SXSW skeptics; she had some insightful words to offer new artists.
"The truest way for us to maintain the music industry is to put all of the power back into the hands of the artists," she said. "What are we as an industry if we aren't telling our artists to be creative?"
Gaga reminisced on her own beginnings on Stanton Street in New York, performing in small clubs and bars.
"The way to make it in this business is to write songs and to go out into the world, pick up your guitar, and walk from block to block and say, 'Hi, I'm Lady Gaga. I'm an artist. Can you book me at 7 p.m. on Friday?'"
Addressing the music business professionals in the room, she said, "You should be promoting songwriters, not somebody who has a bunch of followers on Twitter."
While Gaga did let the crowd in on some exclusive information (she's dropping a new music video on March 22 and next week she'll release an image of the set design for her upcoming tour), she was really at SXSW to advocate authenticity.
"I'll be myself until they f***ing close the coffin," she proclaimed. "So then you can all be yourselves."