Why is everyone so surprised that Lady Gaga can sing? – The Washington Post

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Singer Lady Gaga performs onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards
at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo
by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Lady Gaga received a standing ovation at the Oscars for her rousing “Sound of Music” tribute. Even Julie Andrews approved.

On the
Internet, the praise was swift, effusive and tinged with the slight
skepticism of a backhanded compliment: It was good, but unexpected.

But here’s a question — why are we so surprised that Lady Gaga, professional singer, can actually sing?

For
one, Lady Gaga is as much a persona as she is a person. It’s hard to
focus on vocal prowess when a performance includes such theatrics as vomit art or a dress made entirely of raw meat. A 2009 Washington Post review of Gaga’s debut album “The Fame Monster,” noted that the pop star’s antics often overshadowed her music.

The
thing is, Gaga doesn’t really need to rely on gimmicks and glitz: She’s
a competent songwriter in her own right. She co-penned every track on
“The Fame” and has written catchy tunes for fellow dance-pop vixens the
Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears. Her piercing voice expresses the
desperation of “Paparazzi” far better than fake blood ever could, and
she doesn’t need raunch to capture falling out of love on the chirpy
ballad “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say).”

But the collective reaction to Gaga’s performance goes beyond her penchant for the dramatic. In the age of the isolated vocal track, we’ve found another way to parse talent. When it’s bad, we tear down the artists we build up — zeroing in on the ways that they might not be as talented as we’re led to believe. When it’s good, we hold it as proof that we’ve found the real deal.

[15 things you missed from the show]

On Twitter, some viewers offered theories as to why Gaga sounded so darn good:

Because she got engaged

Because #everythingisawesome

Because she is a singer and can actually, you know, sing*

Here’s
why we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s hardly the first time Lady Gaga has
stunned with her ear for the classics. She and Tony Bennett have been collaborating since 2011 and
recorded the chart-topping pop album, “Cheek to Cheek,” last year. It’s
an eyebrow-raising partnership — he’s 60 years her senior — but it’s
clearly working. The duo recently performed at this year’s Grammy
Awards, where “Cheek to Cheek” took home the award for best traditional pop vocal album.

And
long before she was Lady Gaga, the singer put her vocals on display as
Stefani Germanotta, NYU student. Here she is performing in a 2005 talent
show, where one judge concluded, “Norah Jones, look out!”

In
many ways, Lady Gaga’s Oscar performance was as Gaga as it gets. She
appeared on stage in a flowing, shimmery gown, her bicep tattoos on full
display. She was herself and she wowed us (and Julie Andrews). Why
would we expect anything different?

*Yep.

Bethonie
Butler is a producer and a reporter on The Post’s engagement team. She
oversees online comments and has also contributed to The Style Blog and
She The People.

 – The Washington Post

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