By CHRIS TALBOTT
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Lady Gaga vowed to quit pop music rather than compromise, detailing a difficult year that included an underperforming new album during her much-anticipated keynote session at South By Southwest on Friday.
Dressed in a gown made of plastic sheeting and wearing blond dreadlocks, Gaga spent an hour in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session that shed some light on obstacles that included hip surgery, a split from manager Troy Carter and widespread questions about her popularity.
"I refuse to compromise and allow my talents to be monetized to the point that I don't want to be here anymore," she said. "I will stop, I will quit, I will retire from the commercial market if I have to do something other than be myself because if I can't be myself in this moment than everything I have said to my friends since the beginning will be a total lie. Then what? I'll be myself until I have to make money to sustain a luxurious lifestyle, and then I change, right? No, I'll be myself till they (expletive) close the coffin so that you can all be yourselves."
The 27-year-old singer briefly discussed her 2013 tour-canceling hip surgery - she was in a wheelchair for four months and has three screws in her hip - and her messages to fans regarding difficulties she's had with the release of "ARTPOP," which has only sold 673,773 units since its November release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (In 2011, Gaga's "Born This Way" sold 1.1 million copies in its first week; 660,000 copies were sold regularly, and the rest through a 99 cents deal with Amazon).
She reached a low point, she said, when those around her began to encourage her to abandon her instincts and go for a less polarizing image.
"That's the thing that poisoned me ... (people saying) 'We want you to be beautiful' over and over and over in my head until I just wanted to look ugly all the time because I'm rebellious," Lady Gaga said. "Don't tell me not to do anything because it's going to happen. That really crushed me. I've won Grammys now. I've written albums. I've toured the world four times. You're telling me to be beautiful? That's what this is all about? Is it all about tits and a--? That's so sad."
While Gaga is known for her odd looks - including dressing in drag and wearing false teeth - she's also been known to shed her clothing onstage; at the MTV Video Music Awards last year, she stripped down to a seashell bra top and a thong during her performance.
Gaga's rebellious inclination was on display Thursday night during a corporate-sponsored concert at Stubb's BBQ where she invited friend and performance artist Millie Brown to vomit paint on her during the song "Swine."
"It was just exciting to see people talk about performance art on the Internet and debating whether it's art or not," she said.