Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga
Portrait of Lady Gaga
Gaga at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show
Background information
Birth name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Born March 28, 1986 (1986-03-28) (age 25)
New York City, New York, United States
Genres Pop, dance
Occupations Singer-songwriter, performance artist,[1] record producer, dancer, businesswoman, activist[2]
Instruments Vocals, piano, synthesizer, keytar
Years active 2005–present
Labels Def Jam, Cherrytree, Streamline, Kon Live, Interscope
Website ladygaga.com

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by her stage name, Lady Gaga, is an American singer and songwriter. Raised in New York City, Gaga, elder of two sisters, primarily studied at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. She briefly attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts before withdrawing to focus on her musical career and started to perform in the rock music scene of Manhattan's Lower East Side. By the end of 2007, she was signed with Streamline Records. Employed as a songwriter for the record company, she captured the attention of recording artist Akon who, recognizing her vocal abilities, signed her to his label Kon Live Distribution.

Gaga came to prominence following the release of her debut studio album The Fame in 2008, which received generally favorable reviews from critics. Its first two singles, "Just Dance" and "Poker Face", were number-one singles and the album itself reached the number-one spot on nine record charts worldwide. Gaga embarked on the Fame Ball Tour in order to promote the album. Following it in late 2009, she released an extended play, The Fame Monster, which spawned the international hit singles "Bad Romance", "Telephone" and "Alejandro". In order to promote the EP, she embarked on the eighteen-month long Monster Ball Tour, which became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time. Her second album Born This Way was released in 2011, topping the charts on several major markets and spawning international chart-topping singles including "Born This Way", "Judas" and "The Edge of Glory". Aside from being a recording artist, Gaga has also involved herself with humanitarian causes and LGBT activism.

In her songwriting and performances, Gaga takes influence from glam rock artists such as David Bowie and Queen, as well as dance-pop artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna. Gaga has sold an estimated 23 million albums and 64 million singles worldwide,[3] which makes her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She has won numerous awards, including Grammy Awards and MTV awards, among others, as well as two consecutive appearances on Billboard magazine's Artists of the Year (scoring the definitive title in 2010);[4] regular placements on lists composed by Forbes;[5] and an appearance on the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

Contents

Biography

1986–04: Early life

Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986, in New York City.[6] The first child of Cynthia (née Bissett) and Joseph Germanotta, an internet entrepreneur,[7] Gaga – of Italian[8] and more distant French-Canadian ancestry[9] – has one sister named Natali who was born in 1992.[10] Gaga was raised as a Roman Catholic.[11] Left-handed, Gaga[12] began learning to play piano at the age of 4, went on to write her first piano ballad at 13, and started to perform at open mike nights by the age of 14.[13] While Gaga spent much of her childhood in the family's home in Manhattan's Upper West Side,[14] she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, from the age of 11.[15][16] Despite her seemingly affluent upbringing, Gaga has stressed that she did not come from a wealthy background, stating that her parents "both came from lower-class families, so we've worked for everything—my mother worked eight to eight out of the house, in telecommunications, and so did my father."[17] She described her academic life in high school as "very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined" but also "a bit insecure" as she told in an interview, "I used to get made fun of for being either too provocative or too eccentric, so I started to tone it down. I didn't fit in, and I felt like a freak."[18][19] Acquaintances dispute that she did not fit in at school. "She had a core group of friends; she was a good student. She liked boys a lot, but singing was No. 1," recalled a former high school classmate.[20]

An avid actor in high school musicals, Gaga portrayed the lead roles of Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.[21] She also appeared in a very small role as a mischievous classmate in the television drama series The Sopranos in a 2001 episode titled "The Telltale Moozadell".[22] At age 16, she began to sing and play in front of live audiences and unsuccessfully auditioned for parts in New York shows.[14] When her time at the Convent of the Sacred Heart came to an end, her mother encouraged her to apply to New York University (NYU) to study with the Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP21), a faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts.[14] Aged 17, Gaga gained early admission and lived in a NYU dorm on 11th Street. With CAP21, she studied musical theatre and sharpened her songwriting skills. She also composed essays and analytical papers on art, religion, social issues and politics[13][23] including a thesis on pop artists Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst; such research prepared her for her future career focus in "music, art, sex and celebrity."[24] Gaga felt that she was more creative than some of her classmates. "Once you learn how to think about art, you can teach yourself," she said. Being part of such a prestigious performance course, Gaga tried out for and won auditions while at CAP21,[14] including the part of an unsuspecting diner customer where MTV's Boiling Points – a prank reality television show – was being filmed.[25] Notwithstanding these achievements, by the second semester of her sophomore year, she withdrew from the school to focus on her musical career.[26] Her father agreed to pay her rent for a year, on the condition that she re-enroll at Tisch if she was unsuccessful. "I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen," she remembers.[21]

2005–07: Career beginnings

Gaga (right) performing with Lady Starlight (left) at Lollapalooza 2007

Settled in a small apartment on Rivington Street towards the summer of 2005,[14] Gaga recorded a couple of songs with hip-hop singer Grandmaster Melle Mel, for an audio book accompanying the children's book The Portal in the Park, by Cricket Casey.[27] She also began a band called the Stefani Germanotta Band (SGBand) with some friends from NYU – guitarist Calvin Pia, bassist Eli Silverman and drummer Alex Beckham – in September of that year.[14] The band played a mixture of songs: some self-penned alongside classic rock numbers like Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er".[14] Playing in Lower East Side bars like The Bitter End and the Mercury Lounge, the band developed a small fan base and caught the eye of music producer Joe Vulpis.[14] Soon after arranging time in Vulpis' studio in the months that followed, SGBand were selling their extended plays Words and Red and Blue at gigs around New York while becoming a local fixture of the downtown Lower East Side club scene.[21]

SGBand reached their career peak at the 2006 Songwriters Hall of Fame New Songwriters Showcase at The Cutting Room in June where Wendy Starland, a singer and model, appeared as a talent scout for music producer Rob Fusari. Starland informed Fusari – who was searching for a female singer to front a new band – of Gaga's ability and contacted her. By this time, SGBand had disbanded; Gaga traveled daily to New Jersey to work on songs she had written and compose new material with the music producer.[14] While in collaboration, Fusari compared some of her vocal harmonies to those of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen.[28] It was Fusari who helped create the moniker Gaga after the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga". Gaga was in the process of trying to come up with a stage name when she received a text message from Fusari that read "Lady Gaga."[29] He explained, "Every day, when Stef came to the studio, instead of saying hello, I would start singing 'Radio Ga Ga'. That was her entrance song" and that the text message was the result of a predictive text glitch that changed "radio" to "lady". She texted back, "That's it,"[30] and declared, "Don't ever call me Stefani again."[29] The New York Post, however, has reported that this story is incorrect, and that the name resulted from a marketing meeting.[20]

Full right profile of a young blond woman, surrounded by sitting spectators in a pub. She wears a black leotard and her long hair falls around her side. With her right hand she holds a pair of video sunglasses to her eyes.
Gaga performing at The Bazaar in Atlanta, Georgia, sporting one of her earlier looks (2008)

Although the musical relationship between Fusari and Gaga was unsuccessful at first, the pair soon set up a company titled Team Lovechild in which they recorded and produced electropop tracks and sent them to music industry bosses.[14] Joshua Sarubin, the head of A&R at Def Jam Recordings, responded positively and vied for the record company to take a chance on her "unusual and provocative" performance. After having his boss Antonio "L.A." Reid in agreement, Gaga was signed to Def Jam in September 2006 with the intention of having an album ready in nine months.[14] However, she was dropped by the label after only three months.[31] Devastated, Gaga returned to the solace of the family home for Christmas and the nightlife culture of the Lower East Side. She became increasingly experimental: fascinating herself with emerging neo-burlesque shows, go-go dancing at bars dressed in little more than a bikini[14] in addition to experimenting with drugs.[15] "I was onstage in a thong, with a fringe hanging over my ass thinking that had covered it, lighting hairsprays on fire, go-go dancing to Black Sabbath and singing songs about oral sex. The kids would scream and cheer and then we'd all go grab a beer. It represented freedom to me. I went to a Catholic school but it was on the New York underground that I found myself."[24] It was then when she became romantically involved with a heavy metal drummer in a relationship and break-up she likened to the musical film Grease: "I was his Sandy, and he was my Danny, and I just broke." He later became an inspiration behind some of her later songs.[32]

Her father, however, did not understand the reason behind her drug intake and could not look at her for several months.[30][15] During this time, she met performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped mold her on-stage persona.[33] Starlight explained that, upon their first meeting, Gaga wanted to perform with her to songs she had recorded with Fusari. Like SGBand, the pair soon began playing gigs at many of the downtown club venues like the Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and the Rockwood Music Hall. Their live performance art piece was known as "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue"[34][35] and, billed as "The Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow", was a low-fi tribute to 1970s variety acts.[36][37] Soon after, the two were invited to play at the 2007 Lollapalooza music festival in August that year.[38] The show was critically acclaimed, and their performance received positive reviews.[34][13] Having initially focused on avant-garde electronic dance music, Gaga had found her musical niche when she began to incorporate pop melodies and the glam rock of David Bowie and Queen into her music.[39]

While Gaga and Starlight were busy performing, producer Rob Fusari continued to work on the songs he had created with Gaga. Fusari sent these songs to his friend, producer and record executive Vincent Herbert.[40] Herbert was quick to sign her to his label Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, upon its establishment in 2007.[41] Gaga later credited Herbert as the man who discovered her, adding "I really feel like we made pop history, and we're gonna keep going."[40] Having already served as an apprentice songwriter under an internship at Famous Music Publishing, which was later acquired by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Gaga subsequently struck a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV.[42] As a result, she was hired to write songs for Britney Spears and labelmates New Kids on the Block, Fergie, and the Pussycat Dolls.[42] While Gaga was writing at Interscope, singer-songwriter Akon recognized her vocal abilities when she sang a reference vocal for one of his tracks in studio.[43] He then convinced Interscope-Geffen-A&M Chairman and CEO Jimmy Iovine to form a joint deal by having her also sign with his own label Kon Live Distribution,[31] making her his "franchise player."[44] As 2007 came to a close, her former management company introduced her to songwriter and producer RedOne, whom they also managed.[45] The first song she produced with RedOne was "Boys Boys Boys",[45] a mash-up inspired by Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and AC/DC's "T.N.T.".[30] Gaga continued her collaboration with RedOne in the recording studio for a week on her debut album[42]. Together they made the chart-topping singles, "Just Dance", "Poker Face" and "LoveGame". Gaga also joined the roster of Cherrytree Records, an Interscope imprint established by producer and songwriter Martin Kierszenbaum, after co-writing four songs with Kierszenbaum including the singles "Christmas Tree" and "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)".[42] Despite her secure record deal, she admitted that there was fear about her being too "racy", "dance-orientated" and "underground" for the mainstream market. She responded, "My name is Lady Gaga, I've been on the music scene for years, and I'm telling you, this is what's next."[16]

2008–10: The Fame and The Fame Monster

Right profile of a young blond woman. She wears a mauve leotard with purple stripes. Her hair is curled up behind her head. She holds a silver trophy in her right hand. A black background with red letters is visible behind her.
Gaga at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards

By 2008 Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles, where she worked extensively with her record label to complete her debut album[30] in addition to setting up her own creative team – modeled on Andy Warhol's Factory – Haus of Gaga.[46] Intensive work continued on the album, combining genres "from Def Leppard drums and hand claps to metal drums on urban tracks"[31] while drawing inspiration from 1980s synthpop and incorporating dance music with clear hooks.

The Fame, described as an expression and exploration of her obsession with fame and the intricacies of a rich and famous lifestyle, was first released on August 19, 2008, preceded by lead single "Just Dance" four months earlier. Due to radio play being slow, Gaga supported the releases by performing in the backwaters of Malta and Vietnam in addition to small gay clubs around the United States.[47] She was also billed as a supporting artist on the 2008 North American leg of New Kids on the Block's reunion concert tour.[48] A sleeper hit, "Just Dance" hit the summit of the charts in six countries – Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States – in January 2009. The Grammy Award-nominated song[49] provoked the instant success of The Fame. Receiving positive reviews from contemporary critics whom commended Gaga's ability to discover a melodious hook and compared her vocal abilities to those of Gwen Stefani, the album went to number-one in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland while appearing in the top-five in Australia, the United States and fifteen other countries.[50][51] On Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart, it stayed at the top spot 106 non-consecutive weeks. Since its release, The Fame has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.[52]

Gaga achieved an even greater unexpected success when "Poker Face", another sleeper hit, reached number-one in almost all major music markets in the world including the United Kingdom and the United States in early 2009.[53] The follow-up single won the award for Best Dance Recording at the 52nd Grammy Awards over nominations for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, while The Fame was nominated for Album of the Year and won the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronica Album.[54] Gaga was the recipient of many other honors in 2009 including the accumulation of 3 of 9 MTV Video Music Awards nominations – she won Best New Artist while the video for her single "Paparazzi" gained the awards for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects[55] – and Billboard magazine's Rising Star award.[56] In addition to being an opening act on the Pussycat Dolls' Doll Domination Tour during the first half of 2009 on their legs in Europe and Oceania,[57] she also embarked on her own six-month critically appreciated worldwide concert tour The Fame Ball Tour which ran from March to September 2009.[58]

While she traveled the world on tour, she wrote The Fame Monster, a collection of eight songs, which was released in November 2009. Each song, dealing with the darker side of fame from personal experience, is expressed through a monster metaphor. Its first single "Bad Romance" topped the charts in eighteen countries, while reaching the top-two in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[59][60] It made Gaga the first artist in digital history to have three singles (along with "Just Dance" and "Poker Face") to pass the four million mark in digital sales[61][62] and accrued the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance while its accompanying music video won the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video at the 53rd Grammy Awards[63] The album's second single "Telephone", which features singer Beyoncé, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and became Gaga's fourth UK number-one single[64] while its accompanying music video, although controversial, received a more positive reception from contemporary critics: praising her for "the musicality and showmanship of Michael Jackson and the powerful sexuality and provocative instincts of Madonna."[65] Her following single "Alejandro" paired Gaga with fashion photographer Steven Klein for a music video similarly as controversial – critics complimented its ideas and dark nature[66] but the Catholic League attacked Gaga for her alleged use of blasphemy.[67] Despite the controversy surrounding her music videos, they made Gaga the first artist to gain over one billion viral views on video-sharing website YouTube.[68] Musically, The Fame Monster has also received abundant success. Equating to the amount of Grammy nominations her debut received, The Fame Monster garnered a total of six nominations; the album won for Best Pop Vocal Album and earned her a second-consecutive nomination for Album of the Year at the 53rd annual awards ceremony.[69][70]

 Profile of a young blond woman. Her hair falls in waves up to her shoulders. She wears a purple leotard with visible sequins attached. Ample bosom, arm and leg are visible.
Gaga performing in 2010 at The Monster Ball Tour

The success of the album allowed Gaga to start her second worldwide concert tour, The Monster Ball Tour, just weeks after the release of The Fame Monster and months after having finished The Fame Ball Tour.[71] Upon finishing in May 2011, the critically acclaimed[72][73] and commercially accomplished[74] tour ran for over one and a half years and, according to Billboard, grossed $227.4 million, making it one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time and the highest-grossing for a debut headlining artist.[75] Gaga also performed songs from the album at international events such as the 2009 Royal Variety Performance where she sang "Speechless", a power ballad, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II;[76] the 52nd Grammy Awards where her opening performance consisted of the song "Poker Face" and a piano duet of "Speechless" in a medley of "Your Song" with Elton John;[77] and the 2010 BRIT Awards where a performance of an acoustic rendition of "Telephone" followed by "Dance in the Dark" dedicated to the late fashion designer and close friend, Alexander McQueen,[78] supplemented her hat-trick win at the awards ceremony.[79] Other performances may have included her participation in Michael Jackson's This Is It concert series at London's O2 Arena. "I was actually asked to open for Michael on his tour," she stated. "We were going to open for him at the O2 and we were working on making it happen. I believe there was some talk about us, lots of the openers, doing duets with Michael on stage."[80] A realized collaboration with Polaroid started in January 2010. Excited about combining the company with the digital era, Gaga was named Chief Creative Officer for a line of imaging products for the international optic company with the intent of creating fashion, technology and photography products.[81]

Despite a successful debut, Mermaid Music LLC – her production team – was sued in March of 2010 by past producer Rob Fusari who claimed that he was entitled to a 20% share of its earnings. Gaga's lawyer, Charles Ortner, described the agreement with Fusari as "unlawful" and declined to comment.[82] Five months later, the New York Supreme Court dismissed both the lawsuit and a countersuit by Gaga.[83] In addition to such strife, Gaga has been tested borderline positive for lupus, but she claims not to be affected by the symptoms yet. The revelations caused considerable dismay amongst her fans, leading to Gaga herself addressing the matter in an interview with Larry King, saying she hopes to avoid symptoms by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.[84][85]

2011–present: Born This Way

Gaga performing songs from Born This Way on the Good Morning America "Summer Concert Series".

Gaga's second studio album and third major release Born This Way was released on May 23, 2011. She announced the title of the album during her acceptance speech for Video of the Year at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.[86] Described as "a marriage of electronic music with major [...] metal or rock 'n' roll, pop, anthemic style melodies with really sledge-hammering dance beats" and referred to as an album "about what what keeps us up at night and what makes us afraid",[87] she stated, "It came so quickly. I've been working on [the album] for months, and I feel very strongly that it's finished right now. Some artists take years. I don't. I write music every day."[88] Gaga characterized her new music as "something so much deeper than a wig or lipstick or a fucking meat dress" and upon hearing it, Akon remarked that she will take music to the "next level".[89] Its arrival followed the release of its eponymous lead single on February 11, 2011,[90] which was performed live for the first time at the 53rd Grammy Awards two days after its release. The song debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the 19th number-one debut and the 1,000th number-one single in the history of the charts,[91] while the song had sold over 3 million digital copies in the United States by October 2011, becoming her eighth consecutive single exceeding the sales of two million.[92][93] The song deals with self-acceptance regardless of race or sexual orientation.[94] A music video was released for the song, showing Gaga giving birth to a new race amidst surrealistic images; critics noted artistic and cultural references,[95] and praised its concept.[96] Gaga lent her vocals elsewhere, pairing with Elton John to record an original duet for the animated feature film Gnomeo & Juliet. The song, titled "Hello, Hello", was released on February 11, 2011, without Gaga's vocals. The duet version was only featured in the film.[97][98] In February, Gaga's concerts of her then-ongoing tour at Madison Square Garden in New York City, were filmed for an HBO special aired in May. The special was nominated for five Emmy Awards.[99]

Two other singles, "Judas"[100] and "The Edge of Glory",[101][102][103] as well as a promotional single, "Hair",[104] were eventually released before the album. The music video for "Judas", in which Gaga portrays Mary Magdalene, and Biblical figures such as Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot are also featured, was criticized for its religious references;[105] the video, nonetheless, received acclaim for its overall delivery and praise from others who claimed that there was nothing offensive about it.[106][107] "Judas" additionally peaked within the top ten in several major musical markets. "The Edge of Glory" was intended as a promotional single; nevertheless, due to commercial success in digital outlets,[108] the song was released as a single to critical appreciation, accompanied by a music video. Gaga also undertook a job as a fashion columnist for V, where she wrote about her creative process, her studying of the world of pop culture, and her ability to tune into the evolution of pop-culture meme.[109] Upon release, Born This Way sold 1.108 million copies in its first week in the United States, debuting atop the Billboard 200, and topping the charts in more than 20 other countries.[110] The album received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised its range of different styles as well as her vocals.[111][112] Later, Gaga went to Sydney to promote Born This Way with a one-of-a-kind concert at the Sydney Town Hall on July 13, 2011.[113][114]

She continued her musical endeavors, releasing "You and I" as the fourth single from Born This Way alongside an accompanying video, as well as recording songs with veteran artists like Cher and Tony Bennett.[115] The song recorded with Bennett is a jazz version of "The Lady Is a Tramp",[116] while Gaga described her duet with Cher as a "massive" and "beautiful" track, which she "wrote a long time ago, and I've never put it on one of my own albums for, really, no particular reason."[117] On August 28, at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Gaga won two awards out of four nominations,[118] and attended the event dressed as Jo Calderone, her male alter-ego.[119] For the 2012 edition of the Guinness World Records, Gaga was listed for Most Followers on Twitter, with over 13 million followers, and "Poker Face" was listed for Most Weeks on US Digital Hot Songs, with 83 weeks.[120] Gaga continued her live appearances, and performed at the celebration of former US president Bill Clinton's 65th Birthday alongside Bono, Stevie Wonder and Usher, among others.[121] She wore a blond wig as a nod to the famous performance of Marilyn Monroe for John F. Kennedy and changed the lyrics to her song "You and I" specifically for the performance.[121] Later on, Gaga won four awards out of six nominations in the main categories at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards in November, for Best Female, Biggest Fans, Best Song and Best Video; the latter two with "Born This Way".[122][123][124] On November 14, 2011, Gaga and her choreographer and creative director Laurieann Gibson parted ways, after working together for four years.[125] Gibson's assistant Richard Jackson replaced her as Gaga's choreographer.[125]

Artistry

Musical style and influences

Gaga has been mainly influenced by glam rock artists such as David Bowie and Queen, as well as dance-pop artists such as Michael Jackson and Madonna.[31][126] The Queen song "Radio Ga Ga" inspired her stage name, "Lady Gaga".[20][127] She commented: "I adored Freddie Mercury and Queen had a hit called 'Radio Gaga'. That's why I love the name [...] Freddie was unique—one of the biggest personalities in the whole of pop music."[126] Gaga has also a lot of comparison to Madonna. She stated: "there is really no one that is a more adoring and loving Madonna fan than me. I am the hugest fan personally and professionally."[128] Gaga's other musical inspirations include Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Grace Jones and Blondie singer Debbie Harry.[129] In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, when she answered questions for the media, she stated that Cyndi Lauper is someone she admired, and she also stated the reason why her sophomore album, Born This Way, was more rock-supported. She stated that she wanted her album to be for her fans, as they reacted a stronger way for rock songs than pop, which influenced her rock elements in the album.[130]

A blond woman in a bob-cut, sitting cross-legged on a transparent platform full of bubbles and lit from inside in pink. The woman is wearing a dress made of transparent bubbles of varying sizes. She is holding a microphone in her left hand and appears to be smiling.
Gaga wearing a plastic bubble dress on The Fame Ball Tour

Gaga has the vocal range of a contralto.[131] Her vocals have drawn frequent comparison to those of Madonna and Gwen Stefani, while the structure of her music is said to echo classic 1980s pop and 1990s Europop.[132] While reviewing her debut album The Fame, The Sunday Times asserted "in combining music, fashion, art and technology, [Gaga] evokes Madonna, Gwen Stefani circa 'Hollaback Girl', Kylie Minogue 2001 or Grace Jones right now."[133] Similarly, The Boston Globe critic Sarah Rodman commented that she draws "obvious inspirations from Madonna to Gwen Stefani... in [her] girlish but sturdy pipes and bubbly beats."[134] Following the MTV Awards in 2011 Lady Gaga was voted Best Dressed Female Musician On Earth by viewers on the multimedia rating site founded by Colin Larkin editor of the All Time Top 1000 Albums. Though her lyrics are said to lack intellectual stimulation, "[she] does manage to get you moving and grooving at an almost effortless pace."[135] Music critic Simon Reynolds wrote that "Everything about Gaga came from electroclash, except the music, which wasn't particularly 1980s, just ruthlessly catchy naughties pop glazed with Auto-Tune and undergirded with R&B-ish beats.[136]

Gaga has identified fashion as a major influence.[15][26] She considers Donatella Versace her muse.[15] Gaga has her own creative production team called the Haus of Gaga, which she handles personally. The team creates many of her clothes, stage props, and hairdos.[137] Her love of fashion came from her mother, who she stated was "always very well kept and beautiful."[7] "When I'm writing music, I'm thinking about the clothes I want to wear on stage. It's all about everything altogether—performance art, pop performance art, fashion. For me, it's everything coming together and being a real story that will bring back the super-fan. I want to bring that back. I want the imagery to be so strong that fans will want to eat and taste and lick every part of us."[26] The Global Language Monitor named "Lady Gaga" as the Top Fashion Buzzword with her trademark "no pants" coming in at No. 3.[138] Entertainment Weekly put her outfits on its end of the decade "best-of" list, saying, "Whether it's a dress made of Muppets or strategically placed bubbles, Gaga's outré ensembles brought performance art into the mainstream."[139]

Public image

Gaga, well-recognized for her unconventionality, during a "blood soaked" performance on The Monster Ball Tour

Critical reception of Gaga's music, fashion sense and persona are mixed. Her status as a role model, trailblazer and fashion icon is by turns affirmed and denied.[140][141][142][143] Gaga's albums have received mostly positive reviews,[144] with critics pointing out her unique place in pop music, the need for new movements in popular culture, the attention Gaga brings to important social issues, and the inherently subjective nature of her art.[145][146][147] Her role as a self-esteem booster for her fans is also lauded, as is her role in breathing life into the fashion industry.[148]

Her performances are described as "highly entertaining and innovative"; in particular, the blood-spurting performance of "Paparazzi" at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards was described as "eye-popping" by MTV.[149] She continued the "blood soaked" theme in The Monster Ball Tour, in which she wore a revealing leather corset and is "attacked" by a performer dressed in black who gnaws on her throat, causing "blood" to spurt down her chest, after which she lies "dying" in a pool of blood. Her performances of that scene in Manchester, England, triggered protests from family groups and fans in the aftermath of a local tragedy, in which a taxi driver had murdered 12 people.[150] "What happened in Bradford is very fresh in people's minds and given all the violence which happened in Cumbria just hours earlier, it was insensitive," said Lynn Costello of Mothers Against Violence.[151] Chris Rock later defended her flamboyant, provocative behavior. "Well, she's Lady Gaga," he said. "She's not 'Lady Behave Yourself.' Do you want great behavior from a person named Gaga? Is this what you were expecting?"[152]

She later returned to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards wearing a dress supplemented by boots, a purse and a hat—each fabricated from the flesh of a dead animal.[153] The dress, named Time magazine's Fashion Statement of 2010[154] and more widely known as the "meat dress", was made by Argentinian designer Franc Fernandez and received divided opinions—evoking the attention of worldwide media but invoking the fury of animal rights organization PETA.[155] Gaga, however, later denied any intention of causing disrespect to any person or organization and wished for the dress to be interpreted as a statement of human rights with focus upon those in the LGBT community.[156] At the 2011 show, Gaga walked on stage as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone, and delivered a monologue chronicling his relationship with the gender-bending superstar before a performance of her new single "You and I."[157] Lady Gaga briefly met with United States President Barack Obama at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser in September, 2011. Obama described the interaction as "intimidating" as Gaga was dressed in 16-inch heels making her undoubtedly the tallest woman in the room.[158]

Contrary to her outré style, the New York Post described her early look as like "a refugee from Jersey Shore" with "big black hair, heavy eye makeup and tight, revealing clothes."[20] Gaga is a natural brunette; she bleached her hair blonde because she was often mistaken for Amy Winehouse.[7] She often refers to her fans as her "little monsters" and in dedication, she had that inscription tattooed on "the arm that holds [her] mic[rophone]."[159] She has another six known tattoos, among them a peace symbol, which was inspired by John Lennon, who she stated was her hero,[127] and a curling German script on her left arm quoting the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, her favorite philosopher, commenting that his "philosophy of solitude" spoke to her.[160] Towards the end of 2008 comparisons were made between the fashions of Gaga and fellow recording artist Christina Aguilera that noted similarities in their styling, hair, and make-up.[15] Aguilera stated that she was "completely unaware of [Gaga]" and "didn't know if it [was] a man or a woman."[15] Gaga released a statement in which she welcomed the comparisons due to the attention providing useful publicity, saying, "She's such a huge star and if anything I should send her flowers, because a lot of people in America didn't know who I was until that whole thing happened. It really put me on the map in a way."[161][162]

When interviewed by Barbara Walters for her annual ABC News special 10 Most Fascinating People in 2009, Gaga dismissed the claim that she is intersex as an urban legend. Responding to a question on this issue, she stated, "At first it was very strange and everyone sorta said, 'That's really quite a story!' But in a sense, I portray myself in a very androgynous way, and I love androgyny."[163] In addition to Aguilera's statement, comparisons continued into 2010, when Aguilera released the music video of her single "Not Myself Tonight". Critics noted similarities between the song and its accompanying music video with Gaga's video for "Bad Romance".[164] There have also been similar comparisons made between Gaga's style and that of fashion icon Dale Bozzio from the band Missing Persons. Some have considered their respective images to be strikingly parallel although fans of Missing Persons note that Bozzio had pioneered the look more than thirty years earlier.[165]

During an interview with Harper's Bazaar magazine published in May 2011, Gaga discussed the recent appearance of horn-like ridges on her cheekbones, temples, and shoulders. When asked about the necessary makeup to attach the prosthetics, she responded, "They're not prosthetics, they're my bones." She also clarified that they were not the result of plastic surgery, believing such surgery to only be the modern byproduct of fame-induced insecurity to which she does not subscribe. Further probing by the interviewer only got her to state that they are an artistic representation of her inner inspirational light, part of the "performance piece" that is her musical persona, an inevitability of her becoming who she now is.[166] In view of Lady Gaga's influence on modern culture and her rise to global fame, sociologist Mathieu Deflem of the University of South Carolina since spring 2011, organizes a course titled "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame"[167] with the objective of unravelling "some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga".[168][169]

Gaga's treatment of her fans as "Little Monsters" has inspired criticism, due to the highly commercial nature of her music and image.[141] To some, this dichotomy contravenes the concept of outsider culture. Writing for The Guardian, Kitty Empire opined that the dichotomy "...allows the viewer to have a 'transgressive' experience without being required to think. At [her performance's] core, though, is the idea that Gaga is at one with the freaks and outcasts. The Monster Ball is where we can all be free. This is arrant nonsense, as the scads of people buying Gaga's cunningly commercial music are not limited to the niche worlds of drag queens and hip night creatures from which she draws her inspiration. But Gaga seems sincere."[170] Camille Paglia wrote a cover story "Lady Gaga and the death of sex" on September 12, 2010, in The Sunday Times[171] in which she asserts that Gaga "is more an identity thief than an erotic taboo breaker, a mainstream manufactured product who claims to be singing for the freaks, the rebellious and the dispossessed when she is none of those."[172]

Philanthropy

Besides her career in music, Gaga has also contributed to various charities and humanitarian works. Although declining an invitation to appear on the single "We Are the World 25" to benefit victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake,[173] she donated the proceeds of her January 24, 2010 concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall to the country's reconstruction relief fund. All profits from her official online store on that day were also donated. Gaga announced that an estimated total of $500,000 was collected for the fund.[174] Hours after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011, Gaga tweeted a message and a link to Japan Prayer Bracelets. All revenue from a bracelet she designed in conjunction with the company was donated to relief efforts.[175] As of March 29, 2011, the bracelets raised $1.5 million.[176] However, attorney Alyson Oliver filed a lawsuit against Gaga in Detroit in June 2011, noting that the bracelet was subject to a sales tax and an extra $3.99 shipping charge was added to the price. She also believed that not all proceeds from the bracelets would go to the relief efforts, demanding a public accounting of the campaign and refunds for people who had bought the bracelet. Gaga's spokesperson called the lawsuit "meritless" and "misleading".[177] On June 25, 2011, Gaga performed at MTV Japan's charity show in Makuhari Messe, which benefited the Japanese Red Cross.[178]

Gaga also contributes in the fight against HIV and AIDS with the focus upon educating young women about the risks of the disease. In collaboration with Cyndi Lauper, Gaga joined forces with MAC Cosmetics to launch a line of lipstick under their supplementary cosmetic line, Viva Glam. Titled Viva Glam Gaga and Viva Glam Cyndi for each contributor respectively, all net proceeds of the lipstick line were donated to the cosmetic company's campaign to prevent HIV and AIDS worldwide.[179] In a press release, Gaga declared, "I don't want Viva Glam to be just a lipstick you buy to help a cause. I want it to be a reminder when you go out at night to put a condom in your purse right next to your lipstick."[180]

With the performance of the bilingual song "Americano" from her second studio album Born This Way (2011), Gaga jumped into the debate surrounding SB 1070, Arizona's immigration law. She premiered the tune for the first time on the Guadalajara, Mexico stop of her Monster Ball tour telling the local press that she could not "stand by many of the unjust immigration laws" in the United States.[181]

LGBT advocacy

A blond woman wearing a white shirt and black glasses speaking on a lectern carrying a 'National Equality March' poster. Behind her is a white stone balustrade of a building.
Gaga delivers a speech at the National Equality March, October 11, 2009

Gaga attributes much of her early success as a mainstream artist to her gay fans and is considered to be a gay icon.[182] Early in her career she had difficulty getting radio airplay, and stated, "The turning point for me was the gay community. I've got so many gay fans and they're so loyal to me and they really lifted me up. They'll always stand by me and I'll always stand by them. It's not an easy thing to create a fanbase."[183] She thanked FlyLife, a Manhattan-based LGBT marketing company with whom her label Interscope works, in the liner notes of The Fame, saying, "I love you so much. You were the first heartbeat in this project, and your support and brilliance means the world to me. I will always fight for the gay community hand in hand with this incredible team."[184] One of her first televised performances was in May 2008 at the NewNowNext Awards, an awards show aired by the LGBT television network Logo, where she sang her song "Just Dance".[185] In June of the same year, she performed the song again at the San Francisco Pride event.[186]

After The Fame was released, she revealed that the song "Poker Face" was about her bisexuality. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she spoke about how her boyfriends tended to react to her bisexuality, saying "The fact that I'm into women, they're all intimidated by it. It makes them uncomfortable. They're like, 'I don't need to have a threesome. I'm happy with just you'."[32] When she appeared as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in May 2009, she praised DeGeneres for being "an inspiration for women and for the gay community".[187] She proclaimed that the October 11, 2009 National Equality March rally on the National Mall was "the single most important event of her career." As she exited, she left with an exultant "Bless God and bless the gays,"[188] similar to her 2009 MTV Video Music Awards acceptance speech for Best New Artist a month earlier.[189] At the Human Rights Campaign Dinner, held the same weekend as the rally, she performed a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" declaring that "I'm not going to [play] one of my songs tonight because tonight is not about me, it's about you." She changed the original lyrics of the song to reflect the death of Matthew Shepard, a college student murdered because of his sexuality.[190]

Gaga addresses the crowd at SLDN's "Don't ask, don't tell" rally in 2010

Gaga attended the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards accompanied by four service members of the United States Armed Forces (Mike Almy, David Hall, Katie Miller and Stacy Vasquez), all of whom, under the United States military's "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy, had been prohibited from serving openly because of their sexuality.[191] In addition, Gaga wore a dress fabricated from the flesh of a dead animal to the awards ceremony.[153] Gaga wished that the dress, more widely known as the "meat dress", was interpreted as a statement of human rights with focus upon those in the LGBT community adding that "If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones."[156] She later released three YouTube videos urging her fans to contact their Senators in an effort to overturn the policy. In late September 2010, she spoke at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's "4the14K" Rally in Deering Oaks Park in Portland, Maine. The name of the rally signified the number – an estimated 14,000 – of service members discharged under the DADT policy at the time. During her remarks, she urged members of the U.S. Senate (and in particular, moderate Republican Senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) to vote in favor of legislation that would repeal the DADT policy. Following this event, editors of The Advocate commented that she had become "the real fierce advocate" for gays and lesbians,[192] one that Barack Obama had promised to be.[193]

Gaga appeared at Europride, a pan-European international event dedicated to LGBT pride, held in Rome in June 2011. In a nearly twenty-minute speech,[194] she criticized the intolerant state of gay rights in many European countries and described homosexuals as "revolutionaries of love"[195] before performing acoustic renderings of "Born This Way" and "The Edge of Glory" in front of thousands at the Circus Maximus. She stated that "Today and every day we fight for freedom. We fight for justice. We beckon for compassion, understanding and above all we want full equality now".[196] Gaga revealed that she is often questioned why she dedicates herself to "gayspeak" and "how gay" she is, to which, she told the audience: "Why is this question, why is this issue so important? My answer is: I am a child of diversity, I am one with my generation, I feel a moral obligation as a woman, or a man, to exercise my revolutionary potential and make the world a better place." She then joked: "On a gay scale from 1 to 10, I'm a Judy Garland fucking 42."[197]

Discography

  • The Fame (2008)
  • The Fame Monster (2009)
  • Born This Way (2011)

Concert tours

Headlining
Supporting
Co-headlining
  • Fame Kills: Starring Kanye West and Lady Gaga (Cancelled)

See also


References

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