It's Gaga's birthday, ladies. And you know what that means: time to rank her top ten live performances ever. It's a very, very difficult thing to do, but what kind of queer publication would we be if we didn't try? What follows is the opinion of one (admittedly highly qualified) Gaga fan. This ranking does not necessarily reflect the opinion of anyone other than strange young homosexual Hilton Dresden. Good luck to you and yours.
Post-list Note: Upon attempting to make this list, the emotional and physical toll of choosing between such powerful performances has left Associate Editor Hilton Dresden weak and nauseous. While no one could ever truly define Gaga's best work in such a rigid form, we've done our best to capture the breadth of her skill. Some honorable mentions that must be made are for A Very Gaga Thanksgiving and her performance of "Speechless" for the Queen of England, as well as all performances of "The Edge of Glory," "You and I," and "Marry the Night."
15. The LI Super Bowl
We had to put this in even though it made us mad that she didn't get more political. She did an amazing job and her hard work deserves recognition, especially after seeing the gruelling backstage saga courtesy of Five Foot Two.
14. "The Edge of Glory"/ "Judas" on The X Factor in France
Costume, mashup, vocals, and era are all delivered here in major supply. Let's also not forget about keyboard fringe. Take a look:
13. "La Vie En Rose" at La Fontaine in Copenhagen
There are many versions of Gaga singing "La Vie En Rose," everywhere from the Royal Albert Music Hall to Radio City, and most of those versions are of higher audio quality, with more refined performances from Gaga. But her little stint at a jazz club in Copenhagen is our favorite: here, she's raw, loose, and just having fun. We love:
12. "Imagine" at the Baku 2015 European Games Opening Ceremony
Do you want to get really upset really fast? Watch Gaga's sweet, floral, emotional "Imagine" rendition for a mega-stadium at the 2015 European Games opening ceremony.
11. The Sound of Music at the 2015 Oscars
Performing a tribute to our favorite movie musical at the 2015 Oscars, Gaga sang a medley of the Rodgers and Hammerstein soundtrack that left even Julie Andrews in tears. It was regarded as her big comeback and we cannot breathe at all right now.
10. "Million Reasons"/ "You and I"/ "The Edge of Glory" at One American Appeal 2017
Just before the election, and just after several natural disasters, Gaga sang for a presidential crowd and gave some of the best vocals of her career. Take a look:
9. "What's Up" at Art Rave Vienna
At the Art Rave in Vienna, Gaga covered 4 Non Blonde's "What's Up," our go-to karaoke anthem. She gave a slightly stronger performance than we do at karaoke night in Brooklyn dive bars.
8. "Born This Way" at the 2011 Grammys
She spent three days in an egg is what the rumor mill will tell you. Regardless of how long she was inside said egg, she certainly arrived at music's biggest night inside it, and emerged from it to give choreo, bone structure, pale yellow latex, and hope. Thank you mother.
7. "Dope" at VEVO's Art Rave in Brooklyn
Gaga opens her performance of "Dope," at the Art Rave party to celebrate Artpop, by sharing her story of drug and alcohol abuse before launching into a breathtaking performance that made us want to be sober forever:
6. "You & I" as Joe Calderone at the 2011 VMAs
Here we get to see Gaga flex comedy muscles as the drag king Joe Calderone, to the shock of more banal pop stars like Katy, Britney, and a prepubescent Justin Bieber. But her character does not compromise at all on choreo or vocals. Prepare to scream:
5. "Til It Happens To You" at the 2016 Oscars
The American Crime Story season that needs to happen promptly is about the theft of Gaga's Oscar for "Til It Happens To You." Her performance at the ceremony, accompanied by dozens of sexual assault survivors, is one of the more emotional moments in American history.
4. "Bad Romance" at Tony Bennett's Birthday in the Rainbow Room
In a quieter performance for Our Queen, brought to us in a painfully sad moment of the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, Gaga sings Bad Romance in New York City for Tony Bennett's birthday party. Accompanied only by the piano, and some soft horns, she left us dead, lifeless, and without breath.
3. "Poker Face"/"Speechless"/"Your Song" with Elton John at the 2010 Grammys
Unfortunately, there is not a high quality of this video easily accessible online, but that only adds to the mystique that is this unparalleled performance. This was peak wild Gaga--there's a monstrous set made to look like "The Fame Factory," complete with an elaborate, complicated storyline about Gaga turning everyone into monsters. And then, of course, the duet with Elton John makes us cry and scream--"Speechless" and "Your Song" blend together beautifully. It's one of the moments in her earlier career that truly established her as an icon to champion all icons.
2. "Gypsy" Acoustic at the AMPYA in Germany
You will die now if you watch this performance, which caused the tears of two iconic audience members and the emotional downfall of an entire planet. Prepare to scream your organs out. There are no other words:
1. "Paparazzi" at the 2009 VMAs
Coming in at number one is perhaps the greatest live performance of the 21st century: "Paparazzi" at the 2009 VMAs. Vocals: check. Choreo: check. Gothic chandelier-style set: yep. Piano with foot on keys: of course. But what really is the important takeaway here as that Gaga bleeds to death onstage and is then hung from the ceiling as a high-fashion corpse. It shocked the world. It shocked the audience. And it continues to leave us breathless to this day.