Looking at an amazing BoingBoing post comparing a recording of Stefani Germanotta (Lady GaGa before she became Lady GaGa) playing at a NYU talent show in 2005 and the official video for Bad Romance that recently became available really shows the degree to which one can radically, radically alter themselves with the help of modern technology.
Go watch and have your mind blown.
I suggest reading some of the comments as well, some of the thoughts there are interesting.
Basically, the question is how one goes from the stereotypical “Cute little brunette girl and a piano” performance (most people are comparing to Norah Jones, that recording in particular strikes me as more similar to Sara Bareilles, but listening to Red and Blue definitely brings out the Norah Jones sound), to the absolutely over-the-top haute fashion/burlesque/modern art look and electropop sound everyone knows in less than four years. I happen to be in the tiny demographic that enjoys both, which makes it great fun to look at the connections.
In the 2005 video, she has a normal, albeit impressively powerful and well trained, human voice. In the 2009 video her voice is autotuned, layered, sampled, and distorted into things no human could produce directly. In the 2005 video the instrumentation is easily recognizable piano work. In the 2009 video, most of the instrumentation doesn’t even strongly suggest what sort of physical instrument it might be modeled after. Likewise, in the 2005 video, she looks like a cute little Italian girl in a green dress. In the 2009 video, she changes hair colors, hair textures, (apparent) skin tones, and bizarre illusion-inducing makeup jobs, and runs through a collection of costumes that look like they belong in a creepy scifi movie (5th element-esque strappy outfit? – check. Translucent medical gown – check. Flamethrower bra – WTF? – check.). All this stuff is really pretty cool technical accomplishments, from the DSP wizardry that goes into producing pleasing, but entirely unnatural, sounds, to the bizarre chemical manipulations (or just wigs, who knows if she has any hair left after all that) for the hair, to the exotic materials that go into the bizarre outfits (go browse some press pictures, it gets way worse. bubble dress for fuck’s sake), to the careful psychology to make the illusions happen (huge-eye makeup, low sloped ceilings, carefully controlled perspectives, and bunches of little head-trips I’m not even sure how happen). You can call it un-genuine, but this is expressing yourself with the full capabilities afforded by modern technology, irregardless of the fact that it deeply erodes one’s ability to perceive her as human.