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Lady Gaga Debuts New 'Artpop' Songs at iTunes Festival

Too Short and Twista join onstage for 'Jewels & Drugs'

Lady Gaga performs during the iTunes Festival at the Roundhouse in London.
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
September 2, 2013 9:10 AM ET

Lady Gaga debuted several new songs in a theatrical, hour-long concert at London’s Roundhouse on Sunday, playing eight cuts off her upcoming album, Artpop, as part of a show that was broadcast live online for the month-long iTunes Festival.

Playing for a packed crowd of adoring Little Monsters, the provocative singer wasn’t able to unseat Miley Cyrus as the most controversial star of the moment, but did deliver some musical surprises. The opening song of the night – which found Gaga performing in a freaky black mask while holed up in a cage, Hannibal Lecter-style – featured a dubstep-style bass drop. Later, rappers Too Short and Twista showed up to deliver verses for a hip-hop banger called "Jewels & Drugs." (T.I. was also featured in the song, but he couldn’t make it to the concert, so his voice played over the sound system.) 

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While playing these brand-new selections from Artpop – which comes out on Interscope on November 11th – Gaga occasionally dialed back the theatricality to hint at her human side. At one point, she removed a humongous brown wig to reveal her real hair underneath. Her voice getting shaky, she told the audience that when she was younger, she did things that ended up making her feel "like trash on the inside."

That intimacy didn’t last long, though. Seated at a keyboard, she started playing a song called "Swine," which opened with some quiet, reflective notes before bursting into a wailing rock ballad, and then a pumping club blowout. Gaga banged on drums and cried defiant lines – "You’re so disgusting!" – and in a finale, dancers wearing pig masks and what appeared to be astronaut costumes soared into air on cables, where they pulled off coordinated somersaults. 

The performance was the first installment of this year’s iTunes Festival, a month-long concert series that runs through September 30th. Among the heavy-hitters set to play later this month are Elton John (September 12th), Kendrick Lamar (September 19th), Robin Thicke (September 24th) and Justin Timberlake (September 29th). Concerts can be streamed live and watched afterwards using iTunes, the iTunes Festival app and on Apple TV.

Gaga ended her show with a performance of "Applause," Artpop's lead single. But before that, she debuted a sentimental tribute to her adoring fans. Seated solo at her keyboard, she pointed to her London audience as she sang: "I wanna be with you." With the live-stream beaming across the web, it wasn’t long before fans were professing their love, too, in the form of a Twitter hashtag: #WEWANNABEWITHYOU

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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