Lady Gaga

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A blond female standing. She has a bob cut and wears a black tutu. On the right side of the dress, a silvery triangular piece is set. The woman is holding a microphone in her left hand to her mouth while her right hand is placed on her waist.
Lady Gaga.

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American recording artist sometimes described as a "gay icon"[1] and "bisexual"[1] with a "larger-than-life" style and a critically acclaimed voice.[2] She began performing in the rock music scene of New York City's Lower East Side. She signed with Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, in 2007. During her early time at Interscope, she worked as a songwriter for fellow label artists and captured the attention of Akon, who recognized her vocal abilities, and had her also sign on to his own label, Kon Live Distribution. Dubbed a "chanteuse", she has been nominated for "best international female artist" at the UK Music Industry's version of the Grammy awards, called the "Brit Awards,"[3] and has won accolades for her "well planned outlandishness" and music featuring "catchy, stuttering choruses."[3] American idol judge Simon Cowell hoped to have her as a judge on his show:

I think we should have Lady Gaga because she is the most relevant pop artist in the world at the moment.--Simon Cowell.[4]

Her debut album, The Fame, was released on August 19, 2008. In addition to receiving generally positive reviews, it reached number-one in Canada, Austria, Germany, and Ireland and topped the Billboard Top Electronic Albums chart. Its first two singles, "Just Dance" and "Poker Face", co-written and co-produced with RedOne, became international number-one hits, topping the Hot 100 in The United States as well as other countries. The album later earned a total of six Grammy Award nominations and won awards for Best Electronic/Dance Album and Best Dance Recording. In early 2009, after having opened for New Kids on the Block and the Pussycat Dolls, she embarked on her first headlining tour, The Fame Ball Tour. By the fourth quarter of 2009, she released her second studio album The Fame Monster, with the global chart-topping lead single "Bad Romance", as well as having embarked on her second headlining tour of the year, The Monster Ball Tour.

Lady Gaga's visual influences include Queen, David Bowie, and other glam rockers. Her musical influences include Michael Jackson, Madonna, and other pop musicians. She has also stated fashion is a source of inspiration for her songwriting and performances.[5] To date, she has sold over eight million albums and fourteen million singles digitally worldwide.[6][7] She appeared topless in Q magazine and has appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan with more clothes on.[8] She describes herself as "delusionally ambitious" and said that at one point she told her ex-boyfriend:

Someday, when we're not together, you won't be able to order a cup of coffee at the (effing) deli without hearing or seeing me.[8]

Biography

1986–2004: Early life

Stefani Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986, as the eldest child to Italian American parents Joseph and Cynthia Germanotta (née Bissett), in New York City.[9][10][11] Playing piano by ear from the age of 4, she went on to write her first piano ballad at 13 and began performing at open mike nights by age 14.[12] At age 11, the singer was set to join Juilliard School in Manhattan but instead attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private Roman Catholic school.[5][13] She described herself in high school as "very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined" but also "a bit insecure" as she told in a 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."[14][15]

At age 17, Germanotta gained early admission to the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. There, she studied music and improved her songwriting skills by composing essays and analytical papers focusing on topics such as art, religion and socio-political order.[12][16] She later withdrew from the school to focus on her musical career.[17]

2005–2007: Career beginnings

Germanotta had initially signed with Def Jam Recordings at the age of 19 after Island Def Jam Music Group Chairman and CEO L. A. Reid heard her singing down the hallway from his office. After three months, she was dropped from Def Jam,[18] although at the same time, her former management company introduced her to songwriter and producer RedOne, whom they also managed.[19] The first song she produced together with RedOne was "Boys Boys Boys",[19] a mash-up inspired by Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and AC/DC's "T.N.T."[20] She moved out of her parents' house and started performing downtown in the Lower East Side club scene, with bands Mackin Pulsifer and SGBand.[21] Soon after she began taking drugs and performing at burlesque shows.[5] She said her father "just didn't understand it", and that he could not look at her for several months.[5][20] Music producer Rob Fusari, who helped her write some of her earlier songs, compared her vocal style to that of Freddie Mercury. Fusari helped create the moniker Gaga, after the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga". The singer 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".[22]

Every day, when Stef came to the studio, instead of saying hello, I would start singing "Radio Ga Ga". That was her entrance song. [Lady Gaga] was actually a glitch; I typed 'Radio Ga Ga' in a text and it did an autocorrect so somehow 'Radio' got changed to 'Lady'. She texted me back, "That's it." After that day, she was Lady Gaga. She’s like, "Don’t ever call me Stefani again."[22]

—Rob Fusari

Woman with sunglasses singing.
Gaga performing in Sweden.

She was known thereafter as Lady Gaga.[20] Throughout 2007, she collaborated with performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped her create her onstage fashions.[23] The pair began playing gigs at downtown club venues like the Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and the Rockwood Music Hall,[24] with their live performance art piece known as "Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue".[25] Billed as "The Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow",[26] their act was a low-fi tribute to 1970s variety acts.[27] In August 2007, she and Lady Starlight were invited to play at the American Lollapalooza music festival.[28] The show was critically acclaimed, and their performance received highly positive reviews.[12][24] Having initially focused on avant-garde, and electronic dance music, Lady Gaga found her musical niche when she began to incorporate pop melodies and the vintage glam rock of David Bowie and Queen into the mix.[29] During this time she was featured on a couple of songs in a two-CD audio book that was done to go along with the children's book The Portal in the Park by Cricket Casey. She performed with Melle Mel on the songs "World Family Tree" and "The Fountain of Truth".[30]

Rob Fusari sent songs he produced with her to his friend, producer and record executive Vincent Herbert.[31] Herbert was quick to sign her to his label Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, upon its establishment in 2007.[32] She has credited Herbert as the man who discovered her, while adding that "I really feel like we made pop history, and we're gonna keep going".[31] Having already served as an apprentice songwriter under an internship at Famous Music Publishing, which was later acquired by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, she subsequently struck a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV.[33] As a result, she was hired to write songs for Britney Spears, as well as being commissioned by Interscope to write for labelmates New Kids on the Block, Fergie and the Pussycat Dolls.[33] While she was writing at Interscope, singer-songwriter Akon recognized her vocal abilities during her singing of a reference vocal for one of his tracks in studio.[34] 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,[18] and would later call her his "franchise player."[35] She pursued her collaboration with RedOne by working with him in the studio for a week on her debut album,[33] spawning the debut international hit singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". She 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 single "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)".[33]

Music business savvy

The Wall Street Journal described her as having "digital dominance" and "business savvy" and as a "new model for success."[36] She has made "shrewd use of digital platforms."[36] To get started, Gaga gave away much of her music for free, legally, via free streams by the hundreds of millions on YouTube and MySpace.[36] She's had 321.5 million plays on MySpace as of February 2010.[36]

She is a product of a new kind of recording contract which goes beyond just selling records to encompass everything from touring, merchandise–even her make-up deal. Though she writes her own material, she is as focused on visual theatrics, fashion, and global appeal as she is on the music.[36]

A new arrangement between music artists and labels is called the "360 deal" in which a label invests heavily in an artist up front in exchange for percentages of revenues from merchandise sales, touring revenues, and other sources; for example, Gaga's label Interscope gets money from promotional ties with make-up seller Estee Lauder.[36] Major record companies have cut their work forces by as much as 60%, according to one source, forcing labels to pursue artists who can "drive hits."[36] Still, she earns fractions of a penny each time a song is streamed on Yahoo, according to the Wall Street Journal.[36]

But her business model is working. Her debut album generated four Number One songs.[36] She sold 15.3 million digital tracks in 2009.[36] She was nominated for five Grammy awards in 2010 including record of the year.[36] Music industry analysts expect her to "soften up" her image, and rocker Alice Cooper suggested she might sing a Karen Carpenter song.[36]

2008–present: The Fame and The Fame Monster

A blond female performs onstage. She is surrounded by male dancers
Gaga performing on stage.

By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles, working closely with her record label to finalize her debut album The Fame.[20] She said that she combined a lot of different genres on the album, "from Def Leppard drums and hand claps to metal drums on urban tracks."[18] She began to work with a collective called the Haus of Gaga, who collaborate with her on her clothing, stage sets, and sounds.[5] The Fame received mostly positive reviews from critics; according to the music review aggregation of Metacritic, it has received an average score of 71/100.[37] Times Online described the album as "a fantastic mix of Bowie-esque ballads, dramatic, Queen-inspired midtempo numbers and synth-based dance tracks that poke fun at celebrity-chasing rich kids."[5] The Fame peaked at number one in Austria, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland, and the top-five in Australia and the United States.[38][39] The album's lead single, "Just Dance," was released on April 8, 2008, and has topped the charts in six countries – Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[40] It received a Grammy nomination for the Best Dance Recording, but lost to Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger."[41] The second single, "Poker Face", was released on September 23, 2008, and has reached number one in nearly twenty countries, including almost all major music markets in the world. "Poker Face" became her second consecutive number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2009.[42] Afterward, the Haus of Gaga turned its focus further upon the American market with Gaga going on her first concert tour with fellow Interscope pop group, the reformed New Kids on the Block. She started her stint with them in Los Angeles on October 8, 2008, and continued through the end of November.[43] Her first headlining North American tour, The Fame Ball Tour, began on March 12, 2009, and has received critical acclaim.[44][45] She opened for the Pussycat Dolls on the UK and Australian leg of their World Domination Tour in May. Her performance there was well-received, with a reviewer writing that she "upstaged the Dolls".[46][47] Around the same time, the music video for her international third single, "LoveGame," was banned by the Australian channel Network Ten, who refused to play the video reasoning that it contained sexually explicit imagery.[48]

Gaga appeared semi-nude, wearing only plastic bubbles, on the cover of the annual 'Hot 100' issue of Rolling Stone in May 2009.[49][50] In the issue she discussed that while she was making her beginnings in the New York club scene, she was romantically involved with a heavy metal drummer. She described their relationship and break-up, saying of it, "I was his Sandy, and he was my Danny [of Grease], and I just broke." He later became an inspiration behind some of the songs on her debut album The Fame.[51] She later regretted disclosing her orientation, saying, "I don't like to be seen as somebody who is using the gay community to look edgy. I'm a free sexual woman and I like what I like. I don't want people to write that about me because I feel like it looks like I'm saying it because I'm trying to be edgy or underground."[52] She had previously told a crowd at one of her concerts that her song "Poker Face" lyrically discusses fantasizing about a woman while being in bed with a man.[53] She appeared on rapper Wale's single "Chillin."[54] Gaga was nominated for a total of nine awards at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Female Video and Best Pop Video for "Poker Face" and Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Special Effects, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction for "Paparazzi."[55] She won the award for "Best New Artist" while her single "Paparazzi" won two awards for "Best Art Direction" and "Best Special Effects."[56]

Rocker Alice Cooper described her as "very vaudevillian" and noted that "she can really sing."[36] On stage, Gaga bleeds from simulated stab wounds (Alice Cooper used to fake being guillotined in some of his stage concerts decades back.)[36] She wore six different costumes at the MTV Video Music awards.[36] But what is her appeal?

Gaga's allure is that of a misfit run amok in the system, a role that has helped her cut across disparate subcultures, including teens, finicky hipsters and gays, to whom she sends frequent shout-outs. While Gaga's bared skin and professed androgyny have raised the eyebrows of interviewers like Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters, she isn't shocking, per se.--Wall Street Journal[36]
Gaga on stage.
Gaga performing on The Monster Ball Tour.

In October 2009, Gaga received Billboard magazine's Rising Star of 2009 award.[57][58] She attended the Human Rights Campaign's "National Dinner" on October 10, 2009, before marching in the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. "In the music industry there's still a tremendous amount of accommodation of homophobia. [...] So I'm taking a stand," she commented.[59][60] She performed a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine", changing the lyrics to refer Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder; the college student's death is a rallying cry for the gay rights movement.[59] In November 2009 she announced the release of The Fame Monster, a collection of eight songs that dealt with the darker side of fame as experienced by her over the course of 2008–2009 while travelling around the world, and are expressed through a monster metaphor. "Bad Romance" was released as the first single from the album. It topped the British, Canadian, Irish, Finish, Danish and Swedish charts while reaching the top-two in the United States, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.[61][62] On December 11, 2009, she met and sang the song "Speechless" for Queen Elizabeth II.[63] She also announced The Monster Ball Tour associated with the release of her sophomore album.[64] The singer was named chief creative officer for a line of imaging products for Polaroid at the Consumer Electronics Show on January 7, 2010 where she commented that she will create fashion, technology and photography products. "I'm working on bringing the instant film camera back as part of the future."[65]

On January 14, 2010, Gaga had to cancel the Monster Ball concert in West Lafayette, Indiana, due to health concerns; she was having trouble breathing in the hours leading up to the show, and paramedics later stated that she was suffering from an irregular heartbeat as a result of dehydration and exhaustion.[66][67][68] In an interview with Barbara Walters, she dismissed an urban legend, the claim that she is intersexual and responded to a question on the issue by stating: "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."[69] Gaga received her first Grammy Award at the 52nd Grammy Awards on January 31, 2010. She was nominated for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Dance Recording for her single "Poker Face", winning the last of the three.[70] The Fame itself had been nominated for Album of the Year and Best Electronic/Dance Album, winning the Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album.[70] She has won all three of her Brit Nominations, winning Best International Breakthrough Artist, Best International Album and Best International Female Solo Artist.[71]

Musical style and influences

Lady Gaga's influences are glam rock artists which include David Bowie, Queen, as well as pop music artists which include Madonna and Michael Jackson.[18] John Dingwall of Daily Record wrote: "[Gaga] says she has been inspired by Madonna and the late Michael Jackson, but her number one inspiration has been Freddie Mercury."[72] The Queen song "Radio Ga Ga" inspired her stage name.[73] 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."[72] Madonna told Rolling Stone that she sees "[her]self in Lady Gaga."[74] In response to the comparisons between herself and Madonna, Lady Gaga stated: "I don't want to sound presumptuous, but I've made it my goal to revolutionise pop music. The last revolution was launched by Madonna 25 years ago."[72] Fashion icon/actress/singer Grace Jones has also been cited as an inspiration.[75] She has often been likened to Blondie singer Debbie Harry.[76][77] Alice Cooper called her style "vaudevillian".[78]

Lady Gaga's vocals have drawn frequent comparison to Madonna and Gwen Stefani, while the structure of her music is said to be reminiscent of classic 1980s pop and 1990s Europop.[79] Her music has been described as an "infectious blend of pop and electronic."[1] In reviewing her debut album The Fame, The Sunday Times asserted "in combining music, fashion, art and technology, Lady GaGa evokes Madonna, Gwen Stefani circa Hollaback Girl, Kylie Minogue 2001 or Grace Jones right now."[80] 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."[81] Baby A. Gil of The Philippine Star asserted that her voice is "just right for the mix of dance and rock that she does."[82] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian commented that although, as an artist, she lacks originality, "pop music doesn't have to be blindingly original or clever to work: it needs tunes, and Lady GaGa is fantastically good at tunes."[79] Though her lyrics are said to lack intellectual stimulation, "[she] does manage to get you moving and grooving at an almost effortless pace."[83] Simon Reynolds has written that "Everything about Gaga came from electroclash, except the music, which wasn't particularly 1980s, just ruthlessly catchy noughties pop glazed with Auto-Tune and undergirded with R&B-ish beats.[84]

Lady Gaga has stated that she is "very into fashion" and that it is "everything" to her.[5][85] Her love of fashion came from her mother, who she stated was "always very well kept and beautiful."[10] She said that: "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."[85] Columnist Trish Crawford of The Star commented, "Fashion is her calling card, a way to stand out as unique in a very crowded field."[86] She 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.[87] She has six known tattoos,[88] among them a peace symbol which was inspired by the late John Lennon who The Guardian stated was her "hero,"[89] and a curling German script on her left arm which quotes the poet Rainer Maria Rilke:

In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?

Rainer Maria Rilke

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. (We're still not sold on the hair bow, though.)"[90]

Lady Gaga described Rilke as her "favorite philosopher," commenting that his "philosophy of solitude" spoke to her.[91] In response to Lady Gaga saying that she considers Donatella Versace her muse,[5] Melissa Magsaysay of Los Angeles Times commented, "[Gaga's] aversion to wearing a top and bottom at the same time [...] swigging champagne and being fanned by oily men in Speedos [is] very Donatella-esque."[92] Toward the end of 2008, comparisons were made between the fashions of Lady Gaga and recording artist Christina Aguilera, noting similarities in their styling, hair, and make-up.[5] Aguilera later said she was "completely unaware of [Gaga]" and "didn't know if it [was] a man or a woman."[5] Afterward, Lady Gaga released a statement in which she welcomed the comparisons due to the attention providing useful publicity.[93] She said, "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."[93][94] Lady Gaga is a natural brunette, however she had cited a reason for bleaching her hair blonde was that she was often mistaken for Amy Winehouse.[10]

Woman blowing bubbles wearing a costume made of bubbles.
Lady Gaga blowing bubbles wearing a bubble costume in March 2009.

Lady Gaga attributes much of her early success as a mainstream artist to her gay fans and is considered to be a rising gay icon.[52][95] 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."[96] She thanked FlyLife, a Manhattan-based LGBT marketing company with whom her label Interscope works, in the liner notes of her debut studio album, 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."[97] 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".[98] In June of the same year, she performed the song again at the San Francisco Pride event.[99] 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'."[100] 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".[101] 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,"[59] similar to her 2009 MTV Video Music Awards acceptance speech for Best New Artist a month earlier.[102]

Philanthropy and activism

Aside from recording music, Lady Gaga contributed to a number of charities and causes throughout her career. In the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake there were numerous celebrities working together for the cause of helping restore what had been destroyed, and also helping those left to survive. Gaga donated all of her proceeds from the January 24 show of her current tour, the Monster Ball (ticket sales, merchandise, etc.), and from her online store; the total amount donated was over $500,000.[103] She has also been very proactive with raising awareness to young women about the risk of HIV/AIDS. Along with recording artist Cyndi Lauper, Gaga teamed up with MAC AIDS Fund's VIVA Glam campaign, which raised over $160 million to fight against AIDS and HIV, and bring awareness about the diseases to women around the world.[104] By purchasing VIVA Glam lipgloss and/or lipstick, all of the proceeds goes directly towards the fund to aid those infected with the disease.[105] In a statement, Gaga said that, "We want women to feel strong and feel strong enough that they can remember to protect themselves. To have this lipstick as a reminder in your purse, that when your man is laying naked in bed, you go into the bathroom, you put your lipstick on, and you bring a condom out with you...There are no exceptions."[106] Lady Gaga partnered with her idol, singer Cyndi Lauper, on a charitable crusade to fight against AIDS.[107] They seem "natural together" and CBS News described both singers as "New Yorkers with scratchy voices."[107] She has supported causes such as human rights and equality.[1] At the black-tie Human Rights Campaign gala in the Washington Convention Center in October 2009, 3,000 gay advocates and allies gave her two standing ovations, and United States President Obama remarked "It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady Gaga."[1]

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