Lady Gaga Tells SXSW Keynote Address Audience, ‘I Will Retire if I Can’t be Myself’

Jon Wiederhorn
Yahoo Music
Lady Gaga's SXSW Keynote: 'I'm Not Saying Vomit Will Change the World'

Even dressed in a gown made completely of plastic sheets, there was no way Lady Gaga could deliver a SXSW keynote address that could upstage her controversial March 13 appearance at Stubbs. In a show more noteworthy for its shock value than its musical content, Gaga was roasted on a spit and rode a mechanical pig while grinding naughty bits with another woman. As if that alone wouldn't garner front-page headlines, a performance artist vomited on her while she sang "Swine."

However, during her speech at the Hilton Austin Downtown's Grand Ballroom, Gaga focused on creative empowerment, artistic integrity, and being an artist -- not a pin-up girl. The event was hosted by Fuse's John Norris and marked the first time in 15 years a woman delivered the SXSW keynote address.

Of course, Gaga knew she couldn't escape the Q&A session without discussing her bizarro concert, which was sponsored by corporate giant Doritos. Explaining why performance artist Millie Brown repeatedly puked on her during the show, Gaga said, "I've known Millie for five years now, and we've actually collaborated before. She was just in town and so we thought we would collaborate again. We really just did it because we believe in the performance and we believe in what it meant to the song."

In addition to addressing her striking SXSW concert, Gaga talked about the hip surgery that forced her to cancel the 2013 Born This Way tour. She had three screws inserted into her pelvic bone, and spent four months in a wheelchair after the surgery. She also addressed the pressure she faced from the music industry when "Artpop," which came out last November, didn't live up to the sales of "Born this Way." The latter sold 1.1 million copies in its first week. The new album has gone gold with sales of 673,773 copies.

"I'm very proud [of the record],” Gaga said. "I'm held to such an insane standard, and it's almost like everybody forgets where the music business is now."

She said that in response to the sales dip, her handlers and label encouraged her write more mainstream music, downplay her quirky antics, and try to look more like an attractive female pop star. "Once you have so much attention, they think it's better for you to make inconsequential music," she said. "That's the thing that poisoned me. People said, 'We want you to be beautiful' over and over and over in my head until I just wanted to look ugly all the time because I'm rebellious. That really crushed me. I've won Grammys now. I've written albums. I've toured the world four times. You're telling me to be beautiful? That's what this is all about? Is it all about tits and a--? That's so sad."

Gaga confirmed that she will be releasing her next video on March 22, though she didn't say what song it was for; Gaga’s current radio single is "Do What U Want." She also revealed that she has already recorded "a whole second act of 'Artpop,'" although currently there's no release date for the album.

When asked how she sees herself in relation to pop star Katy Perry, Gaga became annoyed: "I don't know what the f--k I have to do with Katy Perry. My music is so completely different, and I couldn't be more different."

Gaga added that rather than compromise or play to the demands of the pop marketplace, she would continue to play by her own rules, even if that means alienating fans. And she urged other musicians to maintain artistic integrity as well. "Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can't be exactly who you are," she said.

She added that she'd rather quit than compromise. "I will stop," she threatened. "I will retire from the commercial market if I can’t be myself… I’ll be myself until they f--kin' close the coffin."