One afternoon this past July, in the West Village, in Electric Lady Studios, Jimi Hendrix’s old dream, I met Lady Gaga. She came up a flight of steps and was through the door almost before I could stand up, hugging me. She wore a black Mary Quant hat, and was dressed in a white T-shirt and crisp black jeans.
The 30-year-old performer was in New York, in this temple of music, recording her new album, “Joanne.” She said we might as well begin by listening to some songs from it and led the way into an inner studio of large electronic boards and glass. She sat on a stool by one of the boards and plugged in her iPhone. A cameraman — she is making a documentary about the new project — filmed the whole time.
The first song she played, the lead single, “Perfect Illusion,” is a driving, flat-out, dance-a-mess tune. A ballad followed, a tribute to her aunt Joanne, whom she never knew but was named for. (She was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.) Joanne died at age 19, of complications from lupus, and Gaga said, tears in her eyes as the touching song hung in the air, that her family never stopped grieving the loss.
To snap us out of it, she selected another upbeat number. Right off, she turned toward me and hit the air guitar, lip-syncing, rocking her shoulders. At one point, she was up on her Doc Martens, bopping, then thrashing around, a woman possessed. It is impossible to resist Gaga churning it up, maxing out, only a few feet away — and why would you want to? As with, it seems, every room she walks into, Gaga came into this one and put it all on the line. In her work, her trust is as vivid as the risks she takes.