As her rise this year suggests, Lady Gaga likes to move fast: In mid-October, just two weeks after canceling her planned Fame Kills arena tour with Kanye West, Gaga announced her solo Monster Ball Tour — a characteristically ambitious and arty venture that she calls a "pop-electro opera." Prepping for rehearsals in L.A., Gaga is vague about the reasons for the death of Fame Kills — which faced poor initial ticket sales. "It really was mutual," she says. "We had a really levelheaded talk about it, and I respect and care for Kanye. It wasn't the right time, and we both just knew it wasn't. I've been able to pick up and put this tour together very quickly."
The show will include every song from Gaga's debut, The Fame, but takes its theme from a set of eight new songs she recorded for November 23rd's re-release of the album — called The Fame Monster — including the first single, "Bad Romance." "The single just came out this morning, and it's been on the radio, like, seven times already," says Gaga. "I wondered if I could ever top The Fame. Then I woke up one day, and I did. It was like, 'Just put it all out, don't be afraid.'"
The new songs are more personal than the glossy pop of The Fame. "Each one represents a different demon that I've faced in myself," Gaga says. "I don't write about fame or money at all on this new record. It's all about my fear of death and my fear of love and my fear of sex and my fear of loneliness."
Monster Ball, which kicks off November 27th in Montreal, was originally intended to hit arenas in February, after the joint Kanye tour ended. Now, it will start mostly in theaters, with plans to expand to arenas early next year. As you'd expect from the artist who pioneered the bubble suit, the see-through piano and the glowing disco stick, the show won't be typical mainstream-pop fare: "The theme is evolution. It begins with me as a very tiny cell, and then I grow. We go through sand and water and fire, and it's really a metaphor for childhood into teenage years into becoming an adult, but it's done with all these incredible light projections and light installations."
Like a smaller-scale U2, Gaga plans to bring her own stage with her. "The stage that I've built is a frame," she says. "You're used to seeing a giant stage, and then there's a huge ceiling with all this open space. I've been thinking about ways to play with the shape of this stage and change the way that we watch things. It's going to be the greatest post-apocalyptic house party that you've ever been to."
This is a story from the November 12th, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.