Lady Gaga appeared on the Academy Awards stage Sunday night to deliver a surprise performance of “Hold My Hand,” the Oscar-nominated song from “Top Gun: Maverick” — and the only thing more startling than that it happened at all, after earlier denials, was just how stripped-down, yet enormously effective, her reading of the song was.
Gaga had originally been expected to skip the show due to the filming demands of the sequel “Joker: Folie à Deux,” but, in a speedy change of plans, the star was confirmed to be performing by Variety sources early Sunday morning.
Befitting the last-minute nature of the performance, Gaga was more dressed-down than she’s ever been in a television performance, belting out her ballad in a T-shirt, shorts and with little apparent in the way of hair or makeup glam. The song got a surprisingly rootsy, rock-band production, as opposed to the far slicker soundtrack version, and was interrupted by whoops and hollers from a clearly captivated audience.
“It’s deeply personal for me,” she said in offering a spoken introduction to her performance. “We all need each other. We need a lot of love to walk through this life. We need heroes sometimes. There’s heroes all around us…. You might find that you can be your own hero, even if you feel broken inside.”
As the audience gave her a standing ovation at song’s end, a dedication to original “Top Gun” director Tony Scott appeared on an overhead screen at the Dolby Theatre.
Gaga is the first artist to receive three nominations in the best original song category with “Holy My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick” following “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” in 2016 and “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” in 2019. The latter granted Gaga her first Oscar win, alongside co-writers Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando.
“Thank you so much to the Academy for nominating my song ‘Hold My Hand’ for an Oscar this year! Writing this song for the film ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was a deep and powerful experience that I will never forget,” Gaga wrote on social media at the time of the nomination announcement. “So grateful for the magic of music and cinema.” Giving props to her co-writer Bloodpop, she signed off with, “I’m on set filming now big love to little monsters!”
She made her first on-stage debut in 2015, delivering a medley of four songs from “The Sound of Music” to honor that film on its 50th anniversary. She returned in 2016 to perform “Til It Happens to You” and again in 2019 for a performance of “Shallow,” alongside duet partner Bradley Cooper.
“Hold My Hand” is one of six nominations that “Top Gun: Maverick” received. The Tom Cruise-starring film is up for best picture alongside two other box office giants, “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Elvis,” along with Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans,” ”Tár,” “Women Talking” and “Triangle of Sadness.” See the full list of nominees here.
Gaga first released “Hold My Hand” in May 2022 and simultaneously dropped the song’s accompanying music video, which was helmed by the film’s director Joseph Kosinski.
This year, Gaga joins fellow best original song nominees Rihanna (“Lift Me Up”), Sofia Carson and Diane Warren (“Applause”), Stephanie Hsu, David Byrne and Son Lux (“This Is a Life”) and Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava (“Naatu Naatu”) as performers on the Oscars stage.
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