Women in Music 2019

Lady Gaga, Ninja & 'Fortnight' (JK, 'Fortnite'): An Explainer

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Lady Gaga attends the 24th annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on Jan. 13, 2019 in Santa Monica, Calif. 

An answer to your burning questions about what Lady Gaga's "who are you" tweet may or may not have meant.

All right, who had "Lady Gaga and Ninja being uttered in the same sentence" in the 2019 weird news headlines pool? Congrats!

It's true: the "who are you" heard 'round the world (or at least the Twittersphere) this week involves two of the biggest stars on either end of their respective entertainment voids. In one corner, there's Gaga, pop maven, enigmatic artist, Jackson Maine flame Ally. Ninja, meanwhile, was the most-followed streamer on Twitch, where he broadcast himself playing video games such as FortniteHalo and Apex Legends -- and making a lot of money doing it -- before switching this summer from Twitch to Mixer in a highly publicized move.

OK, sure, you might still be scratching your head. Worry not; we've got you covered on what a lot of those words above mean, why some of them are capitalized and italicized, all that jazz.

Let's start with Fortnite.

No, you're not crazy; Fortnite has been in the news a lot lately. That's not because of Ninja or Lady Gaga or anything of the sort, though. For the unitiated, Fortnite is a video game for a variety of consoles in addition to one's computer or even phone, with the objective of the original (Save the World), released in 2017, to shoot and kill these zombie-esque creatures after an apocalypse-like event on Earth decimates the majority of the world's population, while the companion entry, Battle Royale, allows players to compete against one another rather than in a story format.

Last week, it was business as usual on the Fortnite map until a meteor strike wiped out everything players had known and loved for the past two years, creating a black hole that showed up whenever gamers attempted to play -- with no explanation for what was going on. That lasted until Tuesday, when Epic Games, the developer, unveiled Fortnite Chapter Two, replete with a brand-new map/island for players to explore.

Tyler "Ninja" Blevins is one of, if not the pre-eminent Fortnite streamer out there, regularly streaming to the Internet his rounds playing the game (first on Twitch, then via Mixer) and also uploading some of those exploits to YouTube, where he has more than 22 million subscribers. Non-gaming music fans may remember him as the guy who brought Drake (as well as Travis Scott) to Twitch to play Fortnite last year in an event that set the then-record for most viewers on an individual's stream at once (635,000). His star has continued to rise since, so much so that he was able to depart Twitch for Microsoft-owned streaming service Mixer in a move meant to allow him to move outside the realm of mere gaming-based streams.

In August 2018, Ninja had a brush with controversy via his admission in a Polygon interview that he, uh, didn't play video games with women -- at least on his stream. “If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever,” he told Polygon. Poor bb, right? Naturally, this statement was walked back a few miles, with Ninja saying that it was out of respect to his marriage (he wed wife Jessica in 2017) and to avoid the vaunted Internet rumor machine rather than because he only wanted to play with dudes, only respected male streamers, didn't want to try helping female streamers gain prominence in a male-dominated sphere and other accusations in light of the interview. Since then, he's reiterated what he meant by the comment and that women are very much welcome to compete with him -- at events or in a group (see: not one-on-one in a stream), as he told ESPN.

You might wonder why that's important to note. There's no guarantee that it even is, but some have posited that Gaga's interaction with Ninja isn't so much one of sheer ignorance of the gaming world and more some sly shade given his past comments about women in gaming.

Oh, right, that exchange.

First, on Tuesday, Lady Gaga tweeted, "what is fortnight." She's probably confused. She doesn't know why everyone's talking constantly about Fortnite, which debuted its aforementioned new map that day. She misspells Fortnite. LOLs are had.

In swoops Ninja, who takes it upon himself to reveal either A) his knowledge of the Lady Gaga Songbook, or B) his knowledge of the Lady Gaga Wikipedia page, responding to Gaga's tweet with, "Call me on the Telephone. I'll give you a Million Reasons to play. You and I." 

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta does not reply to Ninja's tweet in the way he did hers. She does not even quote tweet his response, something she very much seems to know how to do. Instead, she mentions @Ninja -- with the period before it, ensuring it will show up on everyone's timelines; we have no choice but to stan Twitter literacy -- and asks, simply, "who are you," sans question mark, much like the typesetting of Fifth Harmony's classic 2013 song of the same name, except lower case.

An example of Lady Gaga throwing a bit of shade at one of the world's most popular streamers? A joke continuing the theme of her previous tweet (could she have misspelled Fortnite, gasp, on purpose?!)? A legitimate question?

We may never know. We do know how Ninja responded, though.

Which, I mean, fair.

Both sides have remained mum on the subject of each other since, though it's important to note that while Ninja has since tweeted, Gaga has not, and her original tweets actually came well over a day apart from each other (most recently on Wednesday evening).

So, uh, stay tuned, maybe.


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.