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Letter from the editor | May 19

How Lady Gaga got me through 2020

Sage Valentine lip-syncs to “Stupid Love” by Lady Gaga at Manito Park in Spokane, Wash. on June 2, 2020. “Stupid Love” was the first single from the Chromatica album which Valentine lip-synched for a digital drag show during the pandemic.  // Photo by Sol Vandeman

If you’ve stumbled upon my Instagram stories, you’ve probably noticed I excessively post about Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga. Okay, “excessively” is somewhat of an exaggeration, but what isn’t an exaggeration is my love for this century’s queen of pop. 

Before you complain that “oh, you’re just another stan about to write a letter about how awesome your favorite music artist is,” let me say this: I am also going to talk about how she got me through the hardest year of my life. And don’t act like you don’t also obsess over music artists (I’m looking at you Swifties and Stylers). 

I became a Little Monster in 2016 and started to religiously listen to her when “Joanne” was released on Oct. 21, 2016. I was in my first year in high school and I found her when I first started to come to terms with my queerness. Her fierce acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and unapologetic authenticity were exactly what I needed to gain the courage to be fully myself. 

Since then, Gaga has either been my #1 or #2 top artist on my Spotify Wrapped. She has always been a beacon of light for me, which is why I needed her more than ever when the world suddenly went dark in 2020. 

“Chromatica,” her sixth studio album, was originally set to be released in early April, but COVID had other plans. Concerts, graduations and weddings across the globe were put on hold, and I was no exception. It was my last year of high school, and once March rolled around, every day I got new notifications about special events being canceled.

I lost my graduation, my prom and numerous drag shows I was booked for. Stay-at-home orders caused me to be isolated in my home and away from all my friends and the Spokane drag community. And the cherry on top of it all? “Chromatica” was postponed. 

I was crushed.

Nevertheless, I survived and sat through long days of Zoom class, hoping that things would suddenly go back to normal. But they never did, and I continued to feel too numb to feel sad anymore. 

In May 2020, that all changed. Gaga announced the new release date for “Chromatica” and for the first time in months, I had something to look forward to. 

“Rain On Me (with Ariana Grande)” became the second single on the album and came out on May 22, 2020, also known as my 18th birthday. I already felt like shit knowing that my introduction to adulthood would be spent in my house, away from all my friends and family. But at least I had a new Gaga song to listen to. 

I sat down alone in my room to play the song. What ensued was the start of a light-hearted sound with heavy lyrics.  

“I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive.”

Chills went down my body as that lyric played during the first chorus. It instantly resonated with me in a cathartic way. In the song, Gaga and Ariana Grande are singing about persevering through dark times and finding comfort in knowing that things will get better, even when the future seems bleak. 

Being “dry” for me meant escaping the grief I was feeling about losing my last year of high school and my entire life turning upside down. However, the storm of the pandemic was too heavy and I had to face reality. Despite the downpour of darkness and emotional damage the pandemic brought to my life, I was still alive. 

Without me realizing it, I was persisting through the storm and surviving it. The pandemic may have mentally destroyed me, but I was still getting up out of bed every day and working towards brighter days. I was alive and breathing and able to give and receive love. The pandemic was not the end of my story, and I had to realize that. 

“Rain On Me” taught me that I was capable of getting through my troubles and that better days were ahead, even when it seems like the storm may never pass. I found this was a recurring message throughout “Chromatica” when I listened to it when it was released. When I was finally able to listen to the album, I entered a world where I felt validated and at peace with how I was feeling. 

“Alice” validated my struggle with finding inner peace.

“Fun Tonight” and “911” helped me recognize my self-destructive behaviors. 

“Plastic Doll” and “1000 Doves” reminded me that I have the strength to overcome anything. 

But most of all, “Chromatica” taught me to dance through the pain. 

Gaga masterfully mixes heavy themes and dark lyrics, which ultimately allowed me to have an escape during 2020 and address my inner demons. While “Chromatica” wasn’t the key to solving all my problems in 2020, it served as a beacon of hope and a reminder of my own resilience.

Sol Vandeman

Sol Vandeman (they/he) is the campus life editor for The Front this quarter. They’re a sophomore currently pursuing a major in journalism with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies. Sol would describe themselves as the “Elle Woods” of The Front. As a reporter, they focused on art and social justice at Western. Outside of journalism, Sol enjoys doing drag and religiously listening to pop music divas. Their Instagram is @solasinthesun. 

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