Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American recording artist. She began performing in the rock music scene of New York City’s Lower East Side in 2003 and enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She soon signed with Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records. 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 signed her to his own label, Kon Live Distribution.
Released on August 19, 2008, her debut album, The Fame, reached number one in the UK, Canada, Austria, Germany and Ireland, and reached the top-ten in numerous countries worldwide; in the United States, it peaked at two on the Billboard 200 chart and topped Billboard’s Dance/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 Billboard Hot 100 in the United States as well as the charts of 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 she embarked on her first headlining tour, The Fame Ball Tour. By the fourth quarter of the year, she had 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 is inspired by glam rock artists such as David Bowie and Queen, as well as pop musicians such as Madonna and Michael Jackson. She has also stated fashion is a source of inspiration for her songwriting and performances. Gaga was ranked the 73rd Artist of the 2000–10 decade by Billboard. As of May 2010, Gaga has sold over 15 million albums and over 40 million singles worldwide. In May 2010, Time magazine included Gaga in its annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In June 2010, Forbes listed Gaga fourth on its list of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential celebrities in the world; she is also ranked as the second most powerful musician in the world.
1986–2004: Early life
Stefani Germanotta was born in New York City on March 28, 1986, the eldest child of Joseph Germanotta, an Italian American internet entrepreneur, and Cynthia Bissett. She learned to play piano from the age of four, went on to write her first piano ballad at 13 and began performing at open mike nights by age 14. At the age of 11, Germanotta attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private Roman Catholic school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, but has stressed that she does not come from a wealthy background, saying 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.” An avid thespian in high school musicals, Germanotta portrayed lead roles as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. 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.” Acquaintances dispute that she did not fit in 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. Referring to her “expressive, free spirit”, Gaga told Elle magazine “I’m left-handed!”
At age 17, Germanotta gained early admission to the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts on August 23, 2003 and lived in a NYU dorm on 11th Street. There she studied music and improved her songwriting skills by composing essays and analytical papers focusing on topics such as art, religion, social issues and politics. Germanotta 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. By the second semester of her sophomore year, she withdrew from the school to focus on her musical career. Her father agreed to pay her rent for a year, on the condition that she re-enroll for 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 said.
2005–07: Career beginnings
Germanotta had initially signed with Def Jam Recordings at the age of 19, although she was dropped by the label after only three months. Shortly after, her former management company introduced her to songwriter and producer RedOne, whom they also managed. The first song she produced with RedOne was “Boys Boys Boys”, a mash-up inspired by Mötley Crüe’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” She moved into an apartment on the Lower East Side and 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. She also started the Stefani Germanotta Band with some friends from NYU. They recorded an EP of their ballads at a studio underneath a liquor store in New Jersey, becoming a local fixture at the downtown Lower East Side club scene. She began experimenting with drugs soon after, while performing at neo-burlesque shows. Her father did not understand the reason behind her drug intake and could not look at her for several months. Music producer Rob Fusari, who helped her write some of her earlier songs, compared her vocal style to that of Freddie Mercury. It was during this time that she came up with the name Lady Gaga, after the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga”.
She was known thereafter as Lady Gaga. Throughout 2007, Gaga collaborated with performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped create her onstage fashions. The pair began playing gigs at downtown club venues like the Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and the Rockwood Music Hall, with their live performance art piece known as “Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue.” Billed as “The Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow”, their act was a low-fi tribute to 1970s variety acts. In August 2007, Gaga and Starlight were invited to play at the American Lollapalooza music festival. The show was critically acclaimed, and their performance received positive reviews. Having initially focused on avant-garde and electronic dance music, Gaga found her musical niche when she began to incorporate pop melodies and the vintage glam rock of David Bowie and Queen into her music.
Fusari sent the songs he produced with Gaga to his friend, producer and record executive Vincent Herbert. Herbert was quick to sign her to his label Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, upon its establishment in 2007. She credited Herbert as the man who discovered her, adding “I really feel like we made pop history, and we’re gonna keep going”. 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. As a result, she was hired to write songs for Britney Spears and labelmates New Kids on the Block, Fergie, and the Pussycat Dolls.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. 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 and later called her his “franchise player.” Gaga continued her collaboration with RedOne in the studio for a week on her debut album, spawning the future 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).”
2008–2010: The Fame and The Fame Monster
By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles, working closely with her record label to finalize her debut album The Fame. She combined different genres on the album, “from Def Leppard drums and hand claps to metal drums on urban tracks”. The Fame received positive reviews from critics; according to the music review aggregation of Metacritic, it garnered an average score of 71/100. The album peaked at number one in Austria, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland, and the top-five in Australia and the United States. Worldwide, The Fame has sold over thirteen million copies. Its lead single “Just Dance”, topped the charts in six countries—Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and later received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance Recording. The following single, “Poker Face”, was an even greater success, reaching number-one in almost all major music markets in the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States. It won the award for Best Dance Recording at the 52nd Grammy Awards, over nominations for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The Fame was nominated for Album of the Year; it won the Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Although her first concert tour happened as an opening act for fellow Interscope pop group, the reformed New Kids on the Block, she ultimately headlined her own concert tour, The Fame Ball Tour, which began on March 2009.
The cover of the annual “Hot 100″ issue of Rolling Stone in May 2009 featured a semi-nude Gaga wearing only strategically placed plastic bubbles. In the issue she discussed that while she was beginning her career 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 The Fame. She was nominated for a total of nine awards at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, winning the award for “Best New Artist”, while her single “Paparazzi” won two awards for “Best Art Direction” and “Best Special Effects.” In October, Gaga received Billboard magazine’s Rising Star of 2009 award. She attended the Human Rights Campaign’s “National Dinner” the same month, before marching in the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. Gaga released 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. Her second concert tour, The Monster Ball Tour, was announced in support of The Fame Monster and began in November 2009. “Bad Romance” was released as the first single from the album and topped the charts in eighteen countries, while reaching the top-two in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. “Speechless”, a song from The Fame Monster, was performed at The 2009 Royal Variety Performance where Gaga met and sang for Queen Elizabeth II.
Gaga was chosen as of one the “10 Most Fascinating People of 2009″ by Barbara Walters during Walters’ annual ABC News special. When interviewed by the journalist, the singer went to dismiss the claim that she is intersex as an urban legend, responding to a question on this 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.” In January 2010, she was named chief creative officer for a line of imaging products for Polaroid, stating that she will create fashion, technology and photography products. The second single from The Fame Monster, “Telephone”, which features R&B singer Beyoncé, became her fourth UK number-one single. In April, it was reported that her music videos gained over one billion viral views, becoming one of the first artists to reach this milestone. Later that month, Gaga was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year.In May, in an interview with The Times, Gaga hinted at having Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly referred to as lupus, which is a connective tissue disease. In an interview with Larry King, Gaga confirmed that she does not have lupus but the results were borderline positive.
By March 2010, in an interview with MTV United Kingdom, Gaga stated that she had begun work on her new studio album and already finished writing the core theme of it.Three months later, in an interview with Rolling Stone, she stated that her third studio album was finished but will not be released until 2011. She said: “It came so quickly. I’ve been working on it 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.”
2011-present and future: Born This Way
Gaga released her second studio album and third major release, Born This Way, on May 23, 2011. Described as a marriage of electronic music with metal, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and anthemic style melodies with sledge-hammering dance beats and referred to as an album “about what what keeps us up at night and what makes us afraid,” Gaga characterized it as “something so much deeper than a wig or lipstick or a fucking meat dress” and, upon hearing it, Akon remarked that she is taking music to the “next level.” Upon release, the album received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised its range of different styles and her vocals. Born This Way sold 1.108 million copies in its first week in the US, debuted atop the Billboard 200, and topped the charts in more than 20 other countries. In addition to exceeding 8 million copies in worldwide sales, Born This Way has received 3 Grammy Award nominations, including her third consecutive for Album of the Year.
In the months prior to its unveiling, Gaga released the singles “Born This Way”, “Judas” and “The Edge of Glory” alongside a promotional single “Hair”. The eponymous lead single, which was first sung live at the 53rd Grammy Awards in a performance that saw Gaga emerge from an egg-like vessel, deals with self-acceptance regardless of race or sexual orientation and 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. It sold more than 3 million digital copies in the US by October 2011, becoming her eighth consecutive single to exceed sales of 2 million and one of her five best-selling singles worldwide. Critics noted artistic and cultural references and praised the concept of the song’s accompanying music video, in which Gaga gives birth to a new race amidst surrealistic images. 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; the video, nonetheless, received acclaim for its overall delivery and praise from others who claimed that there was nothing offensive about it. “Judas” also peaked within the top ten in several major musical markets while “The Edge of Glory”, first a commercial success in digital outlets, was later released as a single to critical appreciation, accompanied by a music video which notably stripped down compared to her usually “extravagant” efforts.
She released “You and I” and “Marry the Night” as the fourth and fifth singles from Born This Way. Although their “crazy and ambitious” music videos were praised for their audacity, both songs failed to match the similar international success that its predececors achieved. Nonetheless, she continued her musical endeavors by pairing with veteran artists like Tony Bennett to record a jazz version of “The Lady Is a Tramp”. She also recorded a duet with Cher on a “massive” and “beautiful” track, which Gaga “wrote a long time ago, and I’ve never put it on one of my own albums for, really, no particular reason.” Gaga also lent her vocals to an original duet with Elton John for the animated feature film Gnomeo & Juliet. The song, “Hello, Hello”, was released without Gaga’s vocals but the duet version features in the film. As she enters 2012, songs for a new album are “beginning to flourish” as she works with producer Fernando Garibay while the accompanying tour for Born This Way materializes.
Gaga continued her live appearances throughout 2011 including a one-of-a-kind concert at the Sydney Town Hall on July 13 in promotion of Born This Way. She also performed at the celebration of former US president Bill Clinton’s 65th Birthday alongside Bono, Stevie Wonder and Usher, among others, wearing a blond wig as a nod to the famous performance of Marilyn Monroe for John F. Kennedy and changing the lyrics to “You and I” specifically for the performance. Televised appearances comprised her own Thanksgiving Day television special entitled A Very Gaga Thanksgiving which was critically lauded, attained 5.749 million American viewers, and spawned the release of her fourth extended play A Very Gaga Holiday. Her second performance on Saturday Night Live saw her singing a selection of Born This Way songs alongside appearing in number of sketches with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg.