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    RedOne and Akon interviewed by EW about Lady Gaga's Just Dance for its 10th anniversary

    Before the invasion of disco sticks and leotards, before Born This Way birthed a new breed of superfan and Joanne galloped away with the world’s collective heart, the first chapter in the legend of Lady Gaga’s career rested on little more than a throwback beat and a wide-eyed girl with nothing to lose and only pop cultural domination to gain.
    Now, one decade after Gaga splashed onto the scene with her debut single “Just Dance” (and ushered in a new era of glistening electro-pop on mainstream radio), EW caught up with its creators — longtime Gaga producer RedOne and recording artist Akon, who helped launch Gaga’s career via his KonLive record label — to celebrate the track’s 10th birthday on April 8. Below, the pair dishes on the songwriting process that almost placed “Just Dance” in the hands of other artists, why Akon’s smooth, featured vocals were replaced by newcomer Colby O’Donis’ on the final version, and what the success of the song means to them.
    [EW contacted Gaga’s team for an interview, but a representative indicated she was unavailable to contribute to this article.]
    REDONE: At that time, I just did my first hit with Kat DeLuna called “Whine Up.” After that hit, I told my management that I wanted to work with established artists. But they called me and said, “Hey, we [want you to work with] this girl…. She’s talented if you want to meet her for five minutes.”…. I met her outside of the Sony building in New York, and I liked the vibe I was getting! She was like, “Oh my God, I love ‘Whine Up!’” [Laughs]. In those five minutes, I felt like she was so special. And those five minutes turned into a few sessions. [Despite multiple attempts, EW could not reach Vincent Herbert for comment.]
    REDONE: We were talking about rock like Mötley Crüe, you know, “Girls, girls, girls!” but we needed “Boys, boys, boys!” instead…and that created the sounds for the whole album. For “Just Dance,” I wanted to do a rock song with big drums but instead of guitars, it’s synths. That’s what “Just Dance” is! The opening [synths] are like a guitar chord…. [I began] taking her to every session I had with other artists, too, but as a writer. And every artist got scared of her and asked me to not bring her again. I remember telling her, “Gaga, you’re an incredible artist and they feel your energy!” She was so creative, giving them ideas about how to dress and how to behave, and they started feeling so small. And Gaga started crying, like, “I just want to help them!” I said, “Yes, but keep those ideas for yourself. You’re an incredible artist.” In one of those sessions, I presented her to an [industry friend] named Efe, and the first time I played her music he was like, “Oh my God, this girl is the next Madonna!”
    AKON: I [was struck by] her in general. When I see a star, I just know it. From the moment she walked in [for our first meeting], her appearance and her attitude felt brand new and fresh. She was so fearless. When I [had discussions with] Jimmy Iovine, from that moment everything ignited. We got excited about her, started making records, and started to craft her image. At that time, she was doing jazz-type music, and I think she needed someone to hear it all the way out and see what made sense with her idea, her look, and then pairing her with music that meshed it all into one platform.
    REDONE: After that, we did all the [iconic] songs: “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame”…and Akon said, “Red, hold on to that file. Don’t give it to anybody until I come for it, because I want to take these songs to Jimmy so we can make her a priority!”
    AKON: I was contracted to do songs for The Pussycat Dolls and I had writer’s block the day of, so I asked RedOne if we could collaborate together to open our minds…and “Just Dance” was originally going to be submitted for The Pussycat Dolls. When we finished, there was no way “Just Dance” could be for them.
    REDONE: We met with Jimmy and he heard the songs. He said, “I love the song. Can I give [it] to The Pussycat Dolls?” And Akon was like, “No! It’s Gaga! She can be the next big thing!” Jimmy said, “Okay, but one thing: I have a problem with [Gaga’s similarities to] her highness.” I was like, “Who is her highness?” And he said, “Gwen Stefani. She reminds me of Gwen Stefani.’” And Akon goes, “No, she’s totally different!” [EW spoke to Iovine. Though he did not want to be quoted directly for this story, he felt that both Akon and RedOne were correct in expressing a desire to keep the song for Gaga.]
    AKON: Literally every song that we wrote was done within 30 minutes to an hour. It was all chemistry. The Fame was done in 30 days: mixed, mastered, and ready to push out. That was another reason I was so excited about working with her, because the ideas and things she sparked were so fresh. We opened our minds and tried everything. No bars, no barriers, whatever we felt that felt good, whatever we wanted to say, we said it. It was the first time she had no one telling her what she should be doing or how she should be doing it.
    REDONE: She reminded me of an artist who was the whole inspiration of the Gaga sound — her name is Leila K, from Sweden back in the day. I said, “Gaga, I want to play for you this artist because if we can do what she did and make it now, it can change the world.” That’s how I wanted to do an album that was different at the time for everybody — with synths, big drums, big hooks — but with the attitude of Gaga inspired by Leila K.
    AKON: I featured on the song originally, but Universal didn’t clear my vocals. [Several contacts at Universal and Interscope did not respond to EW’s request for comment.] It was a crazy moment…so I got Colby O’Donis to feature on it and do my verse. But, I kept my background vocals on the song, because background vocals aren’t considered a “feature.” There was a lot of politics going on, a huge competition between Interscope and [parent company] Universal, and I like to think that because I claimed my record deal at Interscope instead of [directly with] Universal, where I was actually signed as an artist, they were kind of getting me back for that. It was so political that I didn’t want to fight it. The song was done, finished, ready to go all the way until two days before we shot the video, and that’s when we got the notice that we couldn’t get clearance. It was a huge shock to Gaga [because] this was her first megaproject and her first real moment! [O’Donis did not respond to requests for comment.]
    REDONE: The melody is so good anyway. Whoever heard it didn’t care if it was Akon or not. They just heard a good song. It was written as a good song.
    REDONE: We dropped it [on April 8, 2008], and it took a long time for people to love it. It wasn’t accepted in America, [but] she became No. 3 right away in Sweden because that’s the country of pop and they loved it!
    AKON: My motto has always been to not put a label on any record, and let it find its own audience. That was one of the biggest challenges, even in the beginning, and why it took so long for it to hit on radio. We tried working radio in the U.S., and they didn’t bite because it was an ‘80s-sounding record, and that wasn’t the [popular] sound at that time. “Just Dance” didn’t fit the  format. It wasn’t a song that a DJ could play before or after any song that was a top hit at that moment.
    We flew out to the U.K. and tried to do things over there, but it didn’t work. When we went to Canada, that’s when it hit. There’s an international crowd there that’s more daring as far as what they’re willing to listen to [and] Gaga whipped their airwaves. Then, the U.S. caught it and it changed the whole game and created a new movement, [especially] on the West Coast and in San Francisco, where the crowds were really eclectic and gave her a shot. The gay community was the one that actually was like, “This record is a f—ing anthem!” and they supported her from that moment, and that became her core audience. From there, everyone else caught the wave.
    AKON: Everything on the radio sounded exactly the same…you had a brand new artist coming out with something fresh! [We didn’t] try to A&R it. We let the audience choose. That was [what I said] to every station that I went to. I was like, “I know you guys have a specific playlist that you set up, but can this one record that doesn’t sound like anything else be chosen by the audience? Just give us a fair shot! You don’t have to give us a full-time rotation, just play it one time a week. Give it to the audience raw and let them make the decision!” It took almost a year to pop [in the U.S.] When we did the Interscope promo tour, we didn’t get a full [run], so I took her on my personal promo tour for my album. We couldn’t give up. I refused to because I knew she was a big star; it was just a matter of the stations giving her a fair chance. I’m happy I did that. At the end of the day, it opened up for a new genre and wave of music. It was worth the fight!
    REDONE: Every time I hear it, it’s like yesterday. It’s so beautiful. It’s the song that changed our lives. The lyrics are Gaga. I can’t take any credit for the genius lyrics. It comes to her so fast. I love perfection and she gives you perfection every time. She’s a machine! It spoiled me because everybody I was working with that was talented and globally known, they [couldn’t] match how Gaga spoiled me with class and genius lyrics. I helped her with words here and there, but I can’t say I wrote or co-wrote the “Just Dance” lyrics. but I can take credit for melodies, chord progressions, and production.
    AKON: The artists that have the door open to be themselves are the ones that win. Their opinions should be the first thing that matters. The moment record companies get involved and try to tell you to go in one direction for this sound or to try something else for a certain amount of hit records, that’s bulls—t. It’s about if you bring something fresh and new to the game and it works, everyone else is going to cling on and try to do the same. If you’re the creator, you have the longevity in the business and it gives you the creativity and freedom to try something else new and fresh, and it always works.
    REDONE: People always tell me, “Oh my God, I thought she was saying red wine!” This is the story of my life, that the world thinks she’s saying “red wine!” Especially because Gaga sings, “I’ve had a little bit too much” at the start. People think she’s talking about alcohol! Like she had a little bit too much red wine. I’m still happy that we made history, so I don’t care! It’s a beautiful thing I was a part of. We created history that will last forever.
    Source

    Lukas Nelson talks working with Lady Gaga on 'A Star Is Born'

    When Bradley Cooper went to Desert Trip in October of 2016, he didn't view the festival as a casting opportunity for his upcoming Lady Gaga–starring directorial debut A Star Is Born. But then Neil Young took the stage and Cooper's eyes wandered over to his guitarist, Lukas Nelson. Not only was the 27-year-old son of Willie Nelson crushing everything Young threw at him – from a gentle, acoustic "Comes a Time" to a wild, frenetic "Cowgirl in the Sand" – but he looked like a movie star while doing it.
    His band Promise of the Real continue their musical explorations on the road with Young – and never want it to stop
    "Bradley is a huge Neil Young fan," says Nelson on the phone from Australia where he's playing festivals with his band Promise of the Real. "He looked at me and said to himself, 'I want this guy to teach me how to present myself as a musician in this movie.'" Nelson was originally just contracted to be a music consultant, but once he began writing with Gaga they discovered such a great chemistry that Cooper brought him and Promise of the Real on board to serve as his character's onscreen backing band. "We just had the look he was going for," says Nelson. "And it just kind of kept going."
    Lukas grew so close to Lady Gaga that she agreed to sing background vocals on his song "Carolina," which appears on Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real's 2017 self-titled LP. Check out a new video for it below.
    What did you learn from your acting experience in A Star Is Born?
    The hours are a lot worse than musician's hours. [Laughs] That's a lot of hurry up and wait. As musicians, we get a lot of time off. It's a blessing. That said, I do think I'll be doing more acting in my life. It'll be down the road since music is always my first priority.
    I'm sure when you formed your band back in the day you never imagine you'd be backing Lady Gaga in a big Hollywood movie.
    Exactly. I never had that in my head in any way, shape or form. But years ago, Bob Dylan did offer me a job to go on the road. I sat in with him [in 2004] and he made the offer afterwards, though my mom forbade it. That was OK since I was working on developing my own band and I was playing with dad. My mom wanted me to stay in school. Back then I said to myself, "Well, if that ever happens again. If there's anybody besides Bob, because that ship sailed, but if Neil [Young] were to ever call and asked me to play with him, I would."
    What inspired "Carolina?"
    We've played there quite a few times and every time I'm surprised at how much I just really love it and how beautiful it is. The people there love music so much. I just find it to be a fantastic place. I wanted to write a song about it.
    How did Gaga wind up singing on it?
    She came over the studio one time and we played it for her and she loved it. She was like, "I hear these harmonies," and I said, "Well, go put 'em on there." And she did. That's just kind of how it went. It was real natural.
    What's it like to write with her?
    Oh, she fantastic. I really feel like our brains work similarly in music. She's just a super talent. It's like a dream come true. She's a fantastic human being. She's a really great person.
    How was she different than how you imagined her?
    I knew she was on the level when I saw her with Tony Bennett. I mean, I knew she was an actual musician rather than a just a pop star.
    Source.

    LISTEN: Lady Gaga's Studio Version of "Your Song".

    Lady Gaga performed a special version of Elton John's "Your Song" for his I’m Still Standing TV special which will air on April 10th on CBS. All performances will later be published in a compilation available on Spotify and iTunes. Today BBC radio broadcasted Lady Gaga's performance after interviewing Elton John, who denied his completely retirement from music. Listen to the track below!

    Sean Penn praises A Star is Born: It's Fantastic!

    In a recent interview with WTF.com, American actor, director and political activist Sean Penn has discussed and praised Lady Gaga's upcoming movie with Bradley Cooper A Star Is Born. He stated that he saw the movie and called it the most beautiful that has seen in years.
    "I just saw, what should be a disaster. I saw a remake, the third remake of A Star is Born. And if I could do that today, what he did with that story, I'd be staying in the game. This is one of the most beautiful, fantastic, it's the best, and most importantly, commercial film I have seen in so many years. The two of them (Gaga & Bradley) are miracles in it." 
    Source.

    Jennifer Lawrence praises Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper's upcoming movie.

    In a recent interview, Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, spoke about her friend Bradley Cooper and the film he is currently producing: "A Star Is Born" starring Lady Gaga. Jennifer praised the movie describing it as "phenomenal". You can hear the full interview below (skip to 53:00). Lady Gaga's movie with Bradley Cooper is set to be released on October 5th.    
     

    A Tribute: Donatella Versace - Narrated by Lady Gaga via CNN Style

    Donatella Versace is one of the fashion industry's most recognizable figures. Versace's fans call her an icon, a title that was further established at the Fashion Awards hosted in London at the end of last year when she received the Fashion Icon award. The moment capped off a successful year for Versace's artistic director who wowed the fashion industry and fans online when she staged a special tribute to her late brother, and the brand's founder, Gianni Versace, during the label's Spring-Summer 2018 show during Milan Fashion week in September.   Marking 20 years since her brother's murder in 1997, the show brought together Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen and Carla Bruni, who walked arm in arm down the catwalk during the finale as George Michael's "Freedom" played. On the eve of the latest round of shows during Milan Fashion Week, Donatella Versace's name and image remain firmly in the public eye, with Ryan Murphy's "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace," in which Penelope Cruz plays the role of Donatella Versace, undoubtedly contributing to the spike in interest.   But it's her contribution to the fashion industry and influence extending far beyond the sector that makes Donatella Versace an icon in the eyes of many. The sheer green, navel-deep dress that she designed for Jennifer Lopez for the 2000 Grammy Awards is regarded as the reason Google Image Search exists. More recently, she created all of the costumes for Lady Gaga's 2012-2013 "Born this Way" tour. And in 2015 she modeled Ricardo Tisci's Autumn-Winter 2015 Givenchy campaign. Tisci, who was creative director of Givenchy at the time said in a statement, "I approached my friend Donatella because she represents what a Fashion Icon is to me." As part of a series of features commissioned by CNN Style's guest editor Claudia Schiffer, Donatella Versace stars in an exclusive film directed by Ivan Olita and narrated by Lady Gaga. The video, featuring cameos from model Gigi Hadid and British Vogue editor Edward Enninful among others, is a playful tribute to Donatella Versace, the icon.
    Watch the video here - source.
     
     

    Lady Gaga cancels remaining European dates of Joanne World Tour

    Live Nation confirmed today the European leg of Lady Gaga’s Joanne World Tour concert has unfortunately been cancelled. The remaining 2-weeks European leg, which included London, Berlin and Paris, was scheduled to end on Feb. 23 in Berlin, Germany. Lady Gaga is suffering from severe pain that has materially impacted her ability to perform live.  As a result, Live Nation and Lady Gaga are announcing the cancellation of the final 10 dates of the European leg of her Joanne World Tour. Last night, with strong support from her medical team, Lady Gaga made the tough decision to immediately come off the road.  She is extremely sorry and deeply saddened that she cannot perform for her European fans, who have waited so patiently.
    She is in the care of expert medical professionals who are working closely with her so she can continue to perform for her fans for years to come.
    Ticket Holders may obtain a refund beginning Tuesday, 6-February at point of purchase.
    Live Nation and Lady Gaga apologize sincerely for the inconvenience.

    Lady Gaga performs Joanne & Million Reasons at the Grammy's

    Lady Gaga, with the help of Mark Ronson, wowed the audience as they performed the piano version of Joanne followed by an amazing version of Million Reasons at the 60th annual GRAMMY Awards in New York City. The piano version of Joanne went on iTunes earlier this week to help bring awareness to the autoimmune disease known as Lupus.
    You can watch a video of the full performance below.
    Don't forget to close all unwanted adds after pressing play. This player will only work on browsers.

    [LIVE STREAM] Lady Gaga attends & performs at the 60th GRAMMY Awards

    Lady Gaga is set to attend and perform LIVE at the 60th Annual edition of the GRAMMY Awards, which airs live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on tomorrow at 7:30 PM ET / 4:30 PM PT on CBS and CBS All Access.
    As previously announced, Lady Gaga will perform a song from her album Joanne.  
    Lady Gaga has received a total of 2 nominations: Best Pop Vocal Album for her album Joanne and Best Pop Solo Performance for her song Million Reasons.
    TIMINGS: 7:30 pm EST / 4:30 pm PST / 12:30 pm GMT / 1:30 am CET. The red carpet also airs on CBS 1 hour before the actual show.
    Please notice the stream will not work on mobile and the second one doesn't work on SAFARI.
     
    STREAMING 1:

    STREAMING 2:

    STREAMING 3:
     
    You can also watch the livestream and join the discussion on our forum.
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