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Lady Gaga, and her couture COVID masks, dazzle at VMAs

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Even from behind a mask — albeit a high-tech one with digitized sound waves flickering across it — Lady Gaga brought serious star power to MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday night.

Performing a nearly 10-minute medley of tunes from her recent “Chromatica” album, the pop star pole-danced by herself, did intricate choreography with a crew of dancers, dueted with Ariana Grande and left her fans with a helpful little public-service announcement.

“Mask up,” she said — all the more impressive given that the sound-wave number was at least the third elaborate face-covering she was seen wearing on Sunday’s show. (One of them, a sort of industrial pink muzzle, was reportedly a custom job by the Spanish designer Cecilio Castrillo.)

At MTV’s 35th VMAs, the Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande duet “Rain on Me” won song of the year and best collaboration, while Gaga also took home the prize for artist of the year. The Weeknd nabbed the night’s biggest award, video of the year, for “Blinding Lights,” and best direction went to first-time director Taylor Swift for her song “The Man."Hosted by Keke Palmer, the event featured performances by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, Da Baby, Miley Cyrus, BTS, Doja Cat, Latin boy band CNCO and Maluma. Gaga and Grande led the field with nine nominations apiece, followed by The Weeknd and Billie Eilish with six.

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The performance began with a bit of the thumping “911,” which Gaga has said is about her reliance on antipsychotic medication. (“My biggest enemy is me,” the chorus goes.) Then she brought out Grande to do “Rain on Me,” their happy-sad filter-disco jam that went to No. 1 this year.

The stage set was vaguely dystopian, with lightning flashing behind a bank of murky clouds. But the song sounded great — good enough to make you wonder if the coolly received “Chromatica” might have been slept on a bit when it came out in those high-pandemic days of late May.

After “Rain on Me” (which Gaga and Grande finished with a quick show of jazz hands), Gaga changed quickly into a glittery pink bodysuit and sat down behind a piano shaped like a giant brain for a mellow wine-bar take on “Stupid Love.”

But the slow-and-low treatment lasted only about a minute or so until she revved the song to full power. Telling her fans to love and celebrate themselves, Lady Gaga had exuberance left to spend — and nowhere to spend it but here.


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