With the release of her new single, “Applause,” Lady Gaga has served a visual feast to the news media. On August 12 she conspicuously wore Kabuki-inspired face paint while making the rounds in Los Angeles to promote the first single off her forthcoming album ARTPOP. Publications ranging from Buzzfeed to The Huffington Post responded predictably by plastering her image across the media landscape. But by appearing in face paint, Lady Gaga has done more than promote “Applause” and ARTPOP to the news media: she has created a brilliant visual hashtag for her fans.
Literally all over the world, Little Monsters are creating ARTPOP-inspired fan art and selfies seemingly every few minutes on sites such as Instagram and her own LittleMonsters community. And I’m not exaggerating. My LittleMonsters feed is flooded with a nonstop river of orange, blue, green, and red hues as fans show their support for Lady Gaga — and for each other — with their Gaga-style self-portraits and art. Here are just a few examples from Chile, France, and Wales:
There is something touching about seeing fans just putting themselves out there, braving their fear of creating amateur art because they simply want to share. For example, Little Monster nicolaHMW from Paris says that his fan art is “not amazing, but im proud of it [sic]”:
And the self-expression is not limited to her own website, as a few of these Instagram photos show:
The ARTPOP face paint is like a totem: a visual symbol of something that inspires and moves people. But it’s also a way for Little Monsters to spot each other instantly and bond, like fans of sports teams who wear the same logos or people on Twitter following a trending topic through hashtags. Therein lies the brilliance of her latest promotion: she’s given her fans a way to celebrate her music but also to create a reflection of each other.
Lady Gaga carries the mantel for many rock artists who long ago mastered the art of iconography. In the 1970s, for instance, Kiss inspired the Kiss army with the band’s colorful costumes, make-up, and onstage theatrics, as did David Bowie. (In fact, one of those Bowie fans was Lady Gaga, and the cover of ARTPOP has been compared to the cover of Bowie’s 1980 album Scary Monsters.)
What Lady Gaga does (as Madonna once did) is express herself visually onstage and offstage (whereas Kiss remained a mystery offstage during the band’s heyday). In doing so, she creates and sustains a whirlwind of conversation.
ARTPOP itself lands November 11. Looks like it’s going to be a colorful fall.