It was a sold-out crowd of 11,000 fanatical adoring fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Lady Gaga was in town – and over three nights, fans would indulge in all that she had to offer.
28 May 2012 was the day the then Most Influential Woman in the World, according to Forbes, descended on this tiny dot of an island.
Lady Gaga, of course, doesn’t come without controversy.
The Asian part of her “Born This Way” world tour then had already drawn protests from Christians and anti-gay people even before her shows reached our shores.
Indonesia and Malaysia banned it outright; protests were held in the Philippines and Lebanon; and even South Korea imposed age restrictions on it.
Lady Gaga’s shows were accused of being vulgar and of insulting Christianity, with song titles such as “Bloody Mary”, “Judas” and “Black Jesus Amen Fashion”.
These songs were also in her repertoire for her Singapore shows. (See here.)
But even a year before her “Born This Way” concert in Singapore, Christians here were already expressing disapproval of her songs.
These, said a letter to the Catholic News, “are insulting and disrespectful to the Christian faith, and we hope to raise awareness of what her music seems to promote, that is disrespect and outrageous offensive lyrics.”
The controversy surrounding the performer did not escape the attention of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) either.
Indeed, the NCCS expressed its concerns to the Media Development Authority (MDA) one week before her Singapore shows in 2012, that the singer’s performance would contain “profanity and blasphemous content.”
“Our concern was received and assurance was given that the performances will be closely monitored,” the NCCS said in a statement later in November that year. (See here.)
According to a Yahoo report of Lady Gaga’s first night’s show, the NCCS’ concerns were realised.
“So-called Illuminati influences, invoking Jesus’ name in vain, macabre, irrelevant imagery and lots of skin and blood have come to be what one expects from a Lady Gaga concert,” Yahoo reporter, Elizabeth Soh, said.
Ms Soh reported that the performer didn’t disappoint, and seemed awed by the singer’s showmanship, including Lady Gaga’s “liberal use of the ‘F’ word and simulating sex acts with a motorcycle” which, Ms Soh said, “were all examples of her excellent showmanship…”
Zaki Jufri, reviewing the concert for Insing, said, “Songs bearing titles like ‘Black Jesus † Amen Fashion’, ‘Bloody Mary’ and ‘Judas’ being sung in front of an ‘electric chapel’ have raised the ire of religious groups in some countries in the region, but we saw nothing sacrilegious here. Gaga’s aim in her show, as it has been in all her work, is to provoke, shock and, of course, entertain — part of her so-called performance art.”
Well, that didn’t amuse the NCCS.
“When it was clear that the content was indeed offensive, calls were made to MDA as well as letters written to protest,” the Christian group said in its statement then.
“These resulted in us being invited by the CEO of MDA, Mr. Aubeck Kam for a meeting on 2 July 2012 to discuss the issue,” it added.
It was later reported by the Straits Times that the meeting did not just involve the NCCS and the MDA, but also Lovely Singapore – a group representing a network of 100 churches.
“The MDA said the concert had been licensed with an advisory that it contained ‘some controversial religious content’,” the Straits Times reported. “It said it found the eventual performance was in compliance with guidelines for that rating, which allows for ‘some mature content and coarse language’.”
However, this seems to contradict the account of events by the NCCS statement of 2012.
According to a letter from Mr Kam to the two groups in October that year, the MDA acknowledged that “some segment of the content offended some sector of the community.”
This seems to contradict the MDA’s remarks, as reported by the Straits Times, that the “performance was in compliance with guidelines for that rating.”
Be that as it may, the question one has is why did the MDA or the police not take action against the singer after the first show on the 28 of May when, as the NCCS said, “it was clear that the content was indeed offensive”?
Instead, Lady Gaga was allowed to proceed to hold two more shows – on the 29th and 31st of May.
And still no action was taken, even when the authorities were informed one week in advance that the singer’s shows would be offensive, and which was later confirmed by Mr Kam’ statement that indeed “some segment of the content offended some sector of the community.”
So here we had a singer performing in front of thousands of people, with a “liberal use” of expletives, simulating sex with a motorcycle which the authorities here would expectedly consider obscene (even a cartoon depiction of two old people in sexual activity is deemed to be obscene by the authorities), and singing songs which the authorities would usually frown on (songs which promote the ‘alternative lifestyle’).
But more importantly, her performance was deemed by a large group of Christian church leaders to be offensive to Christians.
But nothing was done to Lady Gaga who was apparently allowed to repeat her performance for another two nights, to sell-out crowds.
Now, compare this to what the authorities did to a 16-year old boy whom they said had “wounded the religious feelings of Christians” with his 8-minute video on Youtube which, before the authorities took notice, was seen by a negligible number of people.
A video of a teenager’s rant in which he only mentioned the word “Christian” twice, and the name “Jesus” only once.
I think the authorities need to explain why it did not do to Lady Gaga what it did to Amos Yee.
Why was one put through the severity of the legal system for a mere online video, effectively imprisoned for 55 days, including 14 days in a mental institution, while the other was not even questioned for what Christian leaders clearly found to be a profane and offensive performance in front of thousands?
Read also: “Amos Yee and the intolerance of the hysterical minority“.