Lady Gaga's support of sophomore effort "Born This Way" has been unprecedented. She's rolled out several singles, high profile videos and multiple high profile interviews (including our own amazing special "Inside the Outside"), all in the interest of rewarding her Little Monsters with more access while also expanding her fan base. But could it be that the most crucial 5 minutes for gaining new fans came sitting behind a piano solo in front of Howard Stern pounding out "The Edge of Glory"? My unofficial survey says "yes."
Since her appearance on the show July 17, I've spoken with various pockets of people across all demographics who would not consider themselves Lady Gaga fans. Upon hearing her naked version of "Edge of Glory," they have been left stunned and converted. All have said the same combination of things: "I had no idea she could sing like that." "She is the real deal." "Wow!"
Backstory: Howard Stern had been trying to get Lady Gaga on his show for months, but she kept turning him down. The show's producers promised that at some point she would appear on his Sirius XM show and Stern never lost faith. When she finally appeared on the show, there were no handlers pushing her out the door to her next press stop. There was just candid conversation. About an hour's worth in which she touched on everything from how she spends her money to her love of you Little Monsters. She even revealed her creative process, playing Howard the audio clips on her Blackberry of when she was coming up with her "JUDA, JUDA-AS" riffs in her home. (Sidenote: It takes a master interviewer to think to ask about these moments and proves again that there's no one better or more underrated at making stars feel comfortable enough let their guard down than Stern.)
Stern asked Gaga about writing "The Edge of Glory" and she revealed the story of how it came out of her grandfather's death. "Glory" in this case was his crossing over and as he lay in the hospital slipping away, she wrote the song as she bonded with her father drinking tequila and reminiscing. As she played it for Stern, all of her raw emotion poured out into the keys, while her voice, stripped of the single's heavy production and Clarence Clemons' sax solos, erupted. Extra admirable considering it was 8AM.
Stern was clearly blown away, calling it one of the best performances in the long history of his show, and this is a man who's had everyone from Paul McCartney and Elton John to Foo Fighters and David Bowie bring their act to his program.
His legion of fans was rocked too. Callers flooded the lines in the hours and weeks following the performance, universally agreeing that their opinion of Gaga had changed from the beginning of the song to the end. None of these doubters knew she had those reserves of power in her. Stern's producers haven't let go of their gold, putting it on repeat during show breaks over the past weeks to continue to let the buzz build.
In my pocket of suburban Jersey, 30 miles away from the buzz of the Newsroom, I've seen a similar reaction and it culminated last Friday during a spin class where my instructor played it during a heavy climb and then announced to the room where the gem came from. I thought that was the end of it until hitting the locker room and listening to a group of men of all ages continue to discuss that it was a revelatory moment for them. Here was a group clearly outside of the traditional Little Monster demo, moved to sing "the edge, the edge, the EDGE," surprised by her power and clearly won over. As I informally polled them about it, they said that she had immediately shown them a side of herself as a performer that put her heads and shoulders above her peers.
So my unofficial survey says that this performance -- one she may not have been thinking about as a crucial part of her press tour -- has served as a perfect showcase many what her Little Monsters already know: she is a songwriter and performer with unique power, confidence and conviction.Follow Me on Twitter