A big creative talent coupled with a comparable big vision leads to extreme creativity. Performers who can conceive an audacious, outlandish creative vision that jolts the status quo and can successfully realize it are incredible. I’ve been blessed to work with a couple of people gifted with the ability to envision and realize extreme creativity. Even in a business setting where you can only get so extreme, it’s amazing how exciting it is to be around them. In entertainment, however, the boundaries for how extreme a big creative vision can be are exponentially bigger. And that my friends brings us to “Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: Madison Square Garden” on HBO. The Saturday debut of the HBO special from the five-night run Lady Gaga had at Madison Square Garden not only confirmed her big creative talent, but demonstrated a performer who marries it with the strategic focus of a big creative vision as well.
From the opening night showing, here are 4 extreme creativity lessons for those of us with much humbler creative talents and visions than Lady Gaga possesses:
1. Make it clear to your audience you have real talent to realize your vision.
I’ve not been a huge Lady Gaga fan. But I have been tremendously impressed when she sits alone at the piano and sings. In these moments, it’s quite clear Lady Gaga isn’t a “produced” talent (think TAYLOR SWIFT), but truly possesses great musical chops. She sprinkled such unaccompanied moments throughout The Monster Ball, making it clear to her audience they were getting her, sans lip-syncing. This acapella version of “Born this Way” which ran during the shows credits is great evidence for her talents. At our house, there was complete silence during the credits because of this chilling performance. With Gaga’s big talent, she has the platform to bring her big vision to life.
Creative Lesson: For those of us with lesser talents, make sure we surround ourselves with an array of talented people to carry out a bigger vision.
2. It’s fine for a big vision to be derivative, so derive it from the biggies.
I’ve been carrying around this Entertainment Weekly quote from Lady Gaga for more than two years waiting for the right place to run it: “Nothing I say is really that new. I mean, it’s Andy Warhol. I’m not claiming to be the newest innovative thinker. But I do think the execution is very different.” Gaga speaks the truth. She grabs symbols and creative elements from ubiquitous sources (the Catholic Church, The Wizard of Oz, Madonna, comic books), but she definitely executes it with a flair that can obscure her original sources.
Creative Lesson: For all of us feeling like we have to come up with everything on our own, start getting on with deriving from your influences – the more well-known, the better.
3. Giving credit to your strategic influences doesn’t diminish you. You’ll get the credit back.
Lady Gaga was comfortable in sharing her influences, calling out concert-goers Liza Minnelli and Marisa Tomei among the attendees. Both women were touch points for Lady Gaga when she was still Stefani Germanotta at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Gaga said she typically wouldn’t have called attention to who was there, but made an exception given how important both performers were for her. It would be easy to think that was a line of BS, and that she pointed to the big stars at the concert to feed her own ego. Those thoughts were blown away later when the camera cut to an unannounced Paul McCartney dancing at his seat.
Creative Lesson: Celebrating your influences empowers you when you do it with a spirit of respect, gratitude, and humility. When you do it to blow smoke up somebody’s you-know-where, you just come off as pathetic.
4. Your vision may form your own world, but everybody can know you there – if you let them in on all the wonder and secrets of it.
Even with the ego’s big talents have, it still has to be unsettling to create your own world. Lady Gaga hinted at some of those insecurities during her spoken segments of the concert. But part of creating your own world is inviting others to join you there. Lady Gaga truly embraces this concept, casting her “little monsters” as characters in her world. And part of being a character is being given direction so that you can perform your parts well. In that regard, Lady Gaga is more than happy to provide direction: scream, dance, put your paws up, etc.
Creative Lesson: Don’t leave your creative team in the dark. Give them the direction they need to perform.
Wrap-up – I have to let you know that there are a whole bunch of things about the Lady Gaga concert I don’t support, including her language and some of her points of view. But the depth of her talent (and especially the video clip) prompted me to share these thoughts about her concert performance despite those issues. Lady Gaga’s performance was truly riveting! – Mike Brown
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