The bizarre banality of the 58th Annual Grammy Awards was not only largely dominated by Taylor Swift, but a batch of mixed reactions to Lady Gaga’s David Bowie tribute, in which she corporatized it beyond belief by not only doing a behind-the-scenes mini documentary in promotion of Intel, but also choosing only to perform the most commercially accepted songs, the kind designed to appeal to casual Bowie listeners, some of whom have only recently glommed onto his canon of work based on the frenzy prompted by his death.
But to ignore the majesty and brilliance of his final record, Blackstar, was an egregious oversight on the part of Lady Gaga, who could have at least sung a few bars from the last single he released, “Lazarus,” as a closing to the tribute. And while many seem to be on the bandwagon of applauding everything Gaga does of late (maybe they feel they have to throw her a bone after ARTPOP), let’s not deny that putting on a jumpsuit and making one’s hair red makes them in any way able to say they’ve paid adequate homage to Bowie. Then again, she’s still coasting off the high praise of her Julie Andrews tribute at last year’s Oscars, which was actually way better than what she did last night due to its minimalism.
Her selection of the tracks “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Suffragette City,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Fashion,” “Fame,” “Let’s Dance” and “Heroes” is ideal for someone unfamiliar with Bowie beyond a cursory level. It would be like paying tribute to Madonna and only singing “Material Girl,” “Like A Virgin,” “Like A Prayer,” “Express Yourself,” “Vogue,” and maybe if we were lucky enough to get something “modern,” “Music.” But where is the “Erotica”? Where is the “Living For Love”? Using this analogy, it is fair to ask: Where is the “Station to Station”? The “Ashes to Ashes”? The “I’m Afraid of Americans”? Shouldn’t a fair tribute to Bowie be more all-encompassing? But instead, Gaga took her six and a half minutes and used them to peddle a prosaic setlist that somewhat mocks the legacy of Bowie, who always subverted and went against the norm.
And this is precisely why, at the bare minimum, a representative track from Blackstar should have been performed. But then, this is the same person who got a Bowie tattoo just to be chic.