Debt-inducing ticket prices and armies of nostalgic soccer moms may have given Madonna the highest grossing tour of 2012. But is there any doubt who this decade's Queen of Pop is?
What? Britney who?
The crown rests firmly on the head of one Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. Lady Gaga, a.k.a. Mama Monster, the 25-year-old pop phenomenon who will launch the next phase of her Born This Way Ball tour today in Vancouver, BC before making her way back to the Tacoma Dome on Monday, Jan. 14. The first leg of that tour raked in $161.4 million, making it the fifth highest grossing tour of 2012, according to concert trade publication, Pollstar.
Since Gaga last visited Tacoma in 2010 she has exceeded 32.8 million Twitter followers, reached the No. 4 spot on Billboard's list of top moneymakers of 2011 and released her second full-length studio album, “Born This Way.” The disc debuted atop the Billboard 200 after selling 1.1 million copies its first week and went on to move more than 6 million units worldwide, bolstered by hits “Marry the Night, “Judas,” “You and I” and “The Edge of Glory.”
Now fans are wondering what inescapable dance anthems Gaga has cooked up for 2013, and the fans in Tacoma may be among the first to hear them.
Gaga recently announced that her forthcoming “ARTPOP” album will be released as an interactive app filled with music, videos, games, digital magazines, chats, fashion updates and more.
"You inspired me to create something that communicated with images, because YOU do," she posted on her fan site. "YOU communicate with me and each other with .gifs and pictures, and artwork, graphics ALL DAY 24/7/YOU'RE an ARTPOP generation."
There's no official word on when “ARTPOP” will be released, but it's expected to surface some time this spring.
But if her last appearance in Tacoma is any indication, any new music will be overshadowed by the sheer scale and spectacle of her live show anyway. As Gaga delivered “Poker Face,” “Telephone” and other hits, she and her dancers roamed a foreboding, fairy tale metropolis stocked with spooky subway cars, full-sized taxis and - during the “Paparazzi” finale – a massive, piranha-squid-beast operated by a team of puppeteers.
And, of course, there were plenty of costume changes showcasing Gaga's freaky fashion sense: a crystalline fairy gown with sparkly, mechanical projections; some sort of Cousin It inspired hair suit; a brazier that gushed sparks after she broke free from the aforementioned piranha-squid.
Her “little monsters” are working with much smaller costume budgets, but they're sure to provide hours of fun people watching before and after the show; “little monsters” being Gaga's pet name for her fans, many of which show up in flamboyant, gender-bending costumes. The styles du jour last time included bright, pastel wigs, corsets, wings and aluminum cans used as curlers.
The anything goes fashion is consistent with Gaga's core message of tolerance and individuality. That, her charitable work and her public stances on social issues - especially those pertaining to marriage equality and acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people – have helped cement her large, fanatical fan base.
For 2012, DoSomething.org ranked Gaga the No. 4 “celeb gone good” for pledging $1 million towards Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and setting aside $1.2 million to start the Born This Way Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to fighting bullying and promoting acceptance of the LGBT community.
Born This Way Foundation recently debuted the BornBrave Bus which, according to a statement the group posted via Tumblr, “will travel the country to serve as a place where youth can go to feel connected and learn about civic engagement opportunities.”
Through her fan site, Gaga said the bus will also make mental health professionals available to counsel troubled teens before each tour stop.
Gaga's foundation and tour sponsor, Virgin Mobile, are teaming up to make donations to local charities in each city, as well. In Tacoma the beneficiary will be Camp Fire USA Orca Council, a non-profit outreach program for homeless and at-risk youth.
Mary Grant, the agency's teen outreach program director, said she was not sure how much would be donated but it would likely be between $5,000 and $10,000 which would go a long way toward paying operations costs and buying clothing, hygiene items and other supplies needed by kids that her agency serves.
The amount will vary based on a challenge Gaga will issue during the show. The pop star will call one of her local fans and challenge them to complete some sort of volunteer project in conjunction with Camp Fire USA that will affect the tally.
“It's pretty exciting that she's doing this and giving back to the community that's coming out to support her,” Grant said. “She doesn't know it, but she's my new BFF.”