Lady Gaga is obviously no stranger to shaking the table. Today, it’s the new photographs she's released ahead of her residency in Las Vegas, which is appropriately titled Enigma, that are the talk of the town for Gaga stans on Instagram.
The photos—which were taken by Eli Russell Linnetz, the young photographer responsible for that nude Yeezy campaign earlier this year that had everybody seeing double, and recently shot the video for “Nervous,” a single by Shawn Mendes in which disembodied hands rub all over the Canadian crooner—are dramatically edited to present a warped version of Mother Monster herself. In one photograph, Lady Gaga stands far above the camera as it gazes up at her crotch, which bears the mask of a strategically placed fox face with sharp teeth. In another, we see a close up of Gaga with a distorted, pointy nose.
The third and final photograph of the triptych features her face stretched, to the point where one could imagine a banshee-like screech flinging out of her agape mouth, above her enlarged chest. It also looks like Linnetz’s own rendition on the “skinny legend” meme (a phrase that is commonly applied to heavily pinched images of Mariah Carey, showing off an impossibly tiny waist). Nearly everything Gaga posts on her Instagram functions as the perfect fodder for wacky memes (she can't even support her dad's new restaurant at Grand Central Station without her own stans laughing about it online), and this aesthetic plays perfectly into the Cindy Sherman school of portraiture, which hinges upon the implosion of the constraints culture places on its human commodities (there is even an entire Instagram account, @bazsongs, dedicated to the excessive smushing and pinching of the faces of contemporary pop icons like Lana Del Rey). Never mind the bedazzled cowboy hats, this new era of Gaga's career could end up being weirder than anticipated.
The photos are unsettling, and that’s because Gaga, despite her dip into normalcy with her unrelenting Oscars campaign for A Star Is Born and her upcoming Las Vegas residency (at this point there is almost nothing more mainstream than a pop star getting a residency in Vegas), wants you to remember she is still a total weirdo. After all, this is the same woman who jumped into the cultural consciousness by repeatedly calling her fans “Little Monsters,” wearing a dress made of meat to the VMAs (and hanging from the ceiling as fake blood filled her eyes during a performance of “Paparazzi”), showing up to the Grammy Awards in a giant egg, and just generally always topping one outlandish act with the next. Sure, posting these promotional photos for her Vegas residency on Instagram are not the most bizarre thing she’s ever done, but the trio of images speaks volumes for the weirdness within her that will never leave.