Lady Gaga's 32 Best Live Performances for Her 32nd Birthday: Critic's Picks
There is no modern-day performer who brings it live quite like Lady Gaga. Whether she’s performing alone with her piano, or with a full band and a crew of backup dancers, she commands the crowd like no other.
While the artist born Stefani Germanotta used to be known primarily for her crazy fashion antics (meat dress, anyone?), Gaga has since proved herself as a respectable performer who can sing show tunes, pop, jazz, rock, and any other style she sets her mind to.
In honor of Lady Gaga’s 32nd birthday this Wednesday (Mar. 28), here are 32 of her best live performances, encompassing both covers and originals. Hope it's a good one, Stefani, and here’s to another 32 years of creating music and inspiring monsters across the world to be themselves!
32. “New York, New York” (Sinatra 100 All-Star Grammy Concert in Las Vegas, 2015)
A born-and-bred New Yorker, here Gaga proves she can hold her own on a Frank Sinatra standard. This was probably the performance responsible for making your grandparents realize Gaga actually has talent!
31. “Do What U Want” (American Music Awards, 2013)
Here, we have Lady Gaga serving up Marilyn Monroe vibes performing in the Oval Office with President R. Kelly, with whom she’s having a scandalous affair. The elaborate performance ends on a different note, with a backdrop full of negative headlines like, “Lady Gaga is fat!” and “Lady Gaga is over!”
30. “Fooled Me Again, Honest Eyes” (102.7 KIIS FM Slot Music Studio, 2009)
If you haven’t spent hours of your life watching YouTube videos of Lady Gaga, you might not be aware of this beautiful unreleased song. Even this early in her career, she was proving she can command an audience with just her voice and a piano.
29. “Imagine” (2015 European Games Opening Ceremony, 2015)
If there ever was a John Lennon song made for Lady Gaga to sing, it’s “Imagine.” She puts her own very Gaga twist on this, especially towards the end. (Fast forward to 4:45 and thank us later). Not to mention, the piano is covered in beautiful flowers.
28. “Just Dance” (The View, 2009)
Where it all started, back when everyone was still asking, “Who even is Lady Gaga?” Even though the masses weren’t convinced of her raw talent just yet, there was no denying that her stage presence and energy were amazing.
27. “A-YO”/ “John Wayne” (Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, 2016)
Amongst all the Victoria’s Secret angels, Gaga reigns supreme as the most talented of them all. Plus, she’s dancing in heels that are about a 10 inches higher than any of the models’ shoes, while still delivering a flawless vocal.
26. “You’ve Got A Friend” (MusiCares Person of the Year dinner, 2014)
Dressed in all-white at a white piano, Gaga is angelic as she puts her spin on the Carole King classic. At one point, she has King herself saying “Wow!” with her hand on her chest. Now that’s something.
25. “Poker Face” (The Ellen DeGeneres Show, 2009)
Here we have Gaga performing with metal rings around her face! We get the best of both worlds with this performance, since she starts out with an acoustic rendition of the Hot 100-topper, and then transitions into full choreography.
24. “Til It Happens To You” (Academy Awards, 2016)
Not only is this song beautifully sung, but it also represents Lady Gaga, a sexual assault survivor, standing in solidarity with everyone who has survived sexual assault and rape. Towards the end, she’s joined by other assault survivors, creating a powerful message.
23. “Swine” (South by Southwest, 2014)
The ARTPOP era was a strange time, indeed, perhaps best exemplified by this SXSW appearance -- which sparked headlines around the world about the girl who threw up on Lady Gaga. It’s called performance art, look it up.
22. “Teeth” (The Today Show, 2010)
As the camera lens gets splattered with rain and audience members are under umbrellas, Gaga remains unphased, using the elements in her favor for a powerful and sexy performance of Fame Monster gem “Teeth.” After she’s finished, she lays in the rain, and thanks New York for making her dreams come true.
21. “Bad Romance” (Tony Bennett’s 90th Birthday Celebration, 2016)
For her collaborator’s birthday, Gaga performed a version of “Bad Romance” that had never been heard before, years after the release of the song. Her vocals and piano playing sound beautiful, making for a heart-wrenching performance.
20. “Bennie and the Jets” / “Artpop” (Lady Gaga & The Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular, 2013)
The two legendary songwriters and performers join forces to sing each other’s tunes on Gaga’s holiday special. John warns Gaga he’s gonna switch the song up a bit, and he adorably changes his rock classic's lyrics to “Gaga and the jets.”
19. “Applause” (MTV Video Music Awards, 2013)
Through an electric performance, Gaga takes us on a journey with her wigs, each representing an era corresponding with one of her albums. This was the introduction to the ARTPOP era, and a preview of the craziness that was to come.
18. “Telephone” / “Dance in the Dark” (BRIT Awards, 2010)
In a performance dedicated to the late Alexander McQueen, Gaga sings a bluesy slowed down version of “Telephone” before bursting into the deep cut “Dance in the Dark,” a song she rarely performed at big appearances. Also worth mentioning that she’s performing in front of a giant statue of herself.
17. “Paparazzi” (Capital FM, 2009)
Gaga delivers a completely different version of “Paparazzi” with a long -- like, over a minute long -- intricate piano intro. It gives the song a fresh take and a completely different vibe from the original... and it works!
16. “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” / “Ragtime” / “Poker Face” (Taratata, 2009)
People who aren't die-hard Gaga fans might not even know how damn good she is at playing the piano. After singing deep cut “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” from The Fame, she goes on to nail a little bit of "Ragtime" before transitioning into “Poker Face.”
15. Medley (Much Music Awards, 2009)
We can’t talk about Lady Gaga performances without talking about the time she shot fireworks out of her boobs. While she was still relatively new on the scene, she was already oozing confidence and star power as she performed a medley of songs from 2008 debut album The Fame.
14. David Bowie Tribute (Grammy Awards, 2016)
Gaga was extremely inspired by David Bowie throughout her career, and looked up to him as a performer. Few artists, if any, could have done a better job with a career-spanning tribute to Bowie, as Stefani did with this medley homage at the Grammys following the rock legend's passing in 2016.
13. Gypsy (Saturday Night Live, 2013)
Another beautiful performance by Gaga at her piano. She starts slow and emotional, before the band joins in and the energy picks up, as she masterfully belts out one of the best songs from ARTPOP.
12. “Edge of Glory” / “Judas” (X Factor France, 2011)
In this epic Born This Way song combo, Gaga belts while playing the keytar and then slays the performance of “Judas” after a quick outfit change. Gaga hits all her notes, while simultaneously nailing all of the detailed choreography.
11. “Speechless” / “Your Song” (Grammy Awards, 2010)
What a dynamic duo! The two greats perform on opposite ends of a piano, as even John is wearing Gaga-esque sunglasses. You can just tell how happy and honored Gaga is to be performing with Sir Elton John, and it’s so heartwarming.
10. “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live, 2014)
Almost unrecognizable in a giant black curly wig, Gaga demonstrates her ability to transcend genres and show off her classically trained voice. There’s a good reason a legendary crooner like Tony Bennett wanted to collaborate with her!
9. “You and I” (MTV Video Music Awards, 2011)
We don’t talk about this performance enough! Here we see Gaga as her sexy male alter ego, Jo Calderone. After a three-minute monologue, Jo/Gaga heads to the piano to start out slow. Then, the song goes full force and we’re treated to Jo and back up dancers in matching outfits, simply killing it.
8. “Hair” (Paul O’Grady Show, 2011)
This performance suggests that the bombastic “Hair” should’ve been recorded for Born This Way with just vocals and piano. The stripped-down arrangement gives the song a new, more emotional meaning. Also, a “hair” dress that perfectly matches her wig? YAS!
7. “The Star-Spangled Banner” (Super Bowl 50, 2016)
One of the best performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that there's ever been, and the standard that subsequent Super Bowl renditions will likely be held to for years to come. Her vocal control is incredible and her high notes are goosebump-inducing.
6. “Speechless” (VEVO Launch Event, 2009)
Hard to say what’s more iconic here: Stefani's gigantic platinum blonde hair bow or her vocals. Gaga gives an incredible performance of the ballad, as the emotion she conveys through her voice and her facial expressions make you feel for her so much. Also, a big thumbs up to the leg up on the piano, a signature Gaga move.
5. “Marry the Night” (Alan Carr: Chatty Man, 2011)
In a giant pink bow surrounded by candles at her piano, Gaga delivers an emotional rendition of this underrated Born This Way single. As with "Hair" on Paul O'Grady, the performance is so naturally perfect that it makes it seem like “Marry The Night” should’ve been recorded as a ballad like this for the album.
4. The Sound of Music Tribute (Academy Awards, 2015)
If every other award show didn’t have the masses convinced that Gaga was filled with pure talent, this one certainly did the trick. She flawlessly and gracefully sang a variety of Sound of Music classics, after having trained with a vocal coach everyday for 6 months leading up to the medley. It showed that Gaga is such more than a pop star in a meat dress.
3. “Born This Way” (Grammy Awards, 2011)
Everything about this performance, from the choreography to the vocals to the costumes, is DAMN PERFECT. Let’s not forget she literally was inside of the egg for the entirety of the red carpet up until she hatched during this performance wearing shoulder and facial prosthetic horns and a latex outfit. With a nation's eyes on her, she preaches individuality and acceptance, a message that many needed to hear.
2. “Paparazzi” (MTV Video Music Awards, 2009)
This was the performance that really made Lady Gaga. It proved she was more than just a superficial pop star -- she was an artist, and quite unlike one we'd ever seen before, a true force to be reckoned with. Chills every damn time. Could any other pop star pull off bleeding to death on stage at the VMAs? Don’t think so.
1. Super Bowl Halftime Show (Super Bowl LI, 2017)
Could anyone in the world have been disappointed in this performance?! Stefani trained just as hard as the Patriots and Falcons so she could sing and dance non-stop for 13 minutes. No matter which Gaga era was your favorite, she touched on all her best moments throughout, never missing a beat. This is a halftime show that will be hard for any future performer to top, and the best representation of Gaga's peerless strengths as a live performer.