Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American recording artist. After being signed to and quickly dropped from Def Jam Records at age 19, she began performing in the rock music scene of New York City's Lower East Side. During this time, she was also working at Interscope Records as a songwriter for several established acts, including Akon, who, after hearing Gaga sing, convinced Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine to sign her to a joint deal with the label and Akon's Kon Live Distribution label.
Her debut album The Fame, was released in August 2008 and was a critical and commercial success. In addition to receiving generally positive reviews, it has gone to number one in four countries, also topping the Billboard Top Electronic Albums chart in the United States. The album's first two singles, "Just Dance" and "Poker Face", have become international number one hits, and the former was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 51st Grammy Awards. In 2009, after having opened for New Kids on the Block and the Pussycat Dolls, Gaga embarked on her first headlining tour, The Fame Ball Tour.
Musically, Gaga is inspired by glam rockers such as David Bowie and Queen, as well as pop singers such as Madonna and Michael Jackson. She is also inspired by fashion, which she claims is an essential component to her songwriting and performances. She is supportive of the gay community, crediting them for her early mainstream success. To date she has sold over 20 million digital singles and more than four million albums worldwide.
1986-2004: Early life and education
Gaga was born on March 28, 1986 in Yonkers, New York State as the eldest child to Italian American parents Joseph and Cynthia Germanotta. At age 11, Gaga was set to join Juilliard School in Manhattan, but instead attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school. Playing piano by ear from the age of 4, Gaga went on to write her first piano ballad at 13 and began performing at open mike nights by age 14. At age 17, she 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. Gaga later withdrew from the school to focus on her musical career.
2005-07: Career beginnings
Gaga performing at a restaurant during the early days of her career
Gaga signed with Def Jam Records when she was 19, after record executive L. A. Reid heard her singing down the hallway from his office. However, she claims Reid never met with her, and after three months, she was dropped from the label. She moved out of her parents' house and started performing downtown in the Lower East Side club scene, with bands Mackin Pulsifer and SGBand. Around the same time, she started taking drugs and performing at burlesque shows; Gaga said her father "just didn't understand" it, and that he could not look at her for several months. Music producer Rob Fusari, who helped Gaga write some of her earlier songs, compared her vocal style to that of Freddie Mercury. He nicknamed her Gaga, after the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga." She began to use it as her stage name and was known thereafter as Lady Gaga.
Throughout 2007, Gaga collaborated with performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped her 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 1970's variety acts. In August 2007, Gaga and Starlight were invited to play at the American music festival Lollapalooza. The show was critically acclaimed, and their performance received highly 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 the mix.
During this time, she began writing for artists signed to Akon's Konvict label, as well as Fergie, the Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears, and New Kids on the Block. After hearing her sing a reference vocal for one of his tracks, Akon formed the opinion that she was also a good singer. He ultimately convinced Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine to sign her to a joint deal with his own label, Kon Live Distribution, and would later call Gaga his "franchise player." Through her affiliation with Akon, Gaga started to work on her own new material for her debut album with producer RedOne. Already having a solid selection of electro-glam, David Bowie-esque, and Queen-inspired songs, Gaga wanted to mix her retro dance beats with urban melodies, a pop chorus and still retain a rock and roll edge. The first song they produced together was "Boys Boys Boys", a mash-up of M?tley Cr?e's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and AC/DC's "T.N.T."
2008-present: The Fame
Gaga performing at the New Kids on the Block: Live tour.
By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles, working closely with her record label to finalize her debut album The Fame. Gaga said that she combined a lot of different genres on the album, "from Def Leppard drums and handclaps to metal drums on urban tracks." She began to work with a collective called the Haus of Gaga, who collaborate with Gaga on her clothing, stage sets, and sounds. 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. 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." The Fame peaked at number one in Austria, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland, and at number four in Australia and the United States; worldwide sales as of July 2009 stand at 3 million copies. 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. It received a Grammy nomination for the Best Dance Recording, but lost to Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." 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 Gaga's second consecutive number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2009.
Afterward, the Haus of Gaga turned its focus further upon the American market with Gaga going on her first ever concert tour with fellow Interscope pop group, the reformed New Kids on the Block. Gaga started her stint with them in Los Angeles on October 8, 2008, and continued through the end of November. She appeared as a guest artist on the song "Big Girl Now" from their new album, The Block. Gaga's first headlining North American tour, The Fame Ball Tour, began on March 12, 2009, and has received critical acclaim. In May, Gaga opened for the Pussycat Dolls in Australia. Her performance there was well-received, with a reviewer claiming that she upstaged the Dolls. 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.
Gaga at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
Gaga appeared semi-nude, wearing only plastic bubbles, on the cover of the annual 'Hot 100' issue of Rolling Stone in May 2009. In the issue she discussed that while she was making her beginnings in the New York club scene, Gaga was romantically involved with a heavy metal drummer. Gaga described their relationship and break-up, saying of it, "I was his Sandy, and he was my Danny , and I just broke." He later became an inspiration behind some of the songs on her debut album The Fame. Gaga also stated that she is bisexual and is inspired by beautiful women, which she says makes her boyfriends "uncomfortable." 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." 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. Gaga appeared on rapper Wale's single "Chillin."
Gaga delivers a speech at the National Equality March, October 11, 2009
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. Gaga managed to win 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. Later she appeared on Saturday Night Live, in a comic skit with Madonna and performing a part of her upcoming single "Bad Romance", from the re-release of her debut album titled The Fame: Monster. Gaga attended the Human Rights Campaign's "National Dinner" on October 10th, 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. She then started to perform a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine" while changing some lyrics to reference Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder, the college student's death which has been a rallying cry for the gay rights movement. "I'm not going to play one of my songs tonight, because tonight is not about me," Gaga said before she sat in front of a grand piano to sing and play, "It's about you."
Musical style and influences
Lady Gaga "Just Dance"
A 30-second sample of Gaga's "Just Dance" featuring the chorus sung by Gaga and Colby O'Donis in the range of B3 to C backed by a synth marching beat. The song became Gaga's first international hit single.
Lady Gaga has been primarily influenced by pop singers Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears, Prince, and Madonna. She is also heavily influenced by glam rock stars such as David Bowie, Klaus Nomi, and the band Queen, from whom a song inspired her stage name. Artist Andy Warhol, poet Rainer Maria Rilke, fashion icon/actress/singer Grace Jones, and fashion as a whole, have all been cited as inspirations as well. 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. In reviewing her debut album The Fame, The Sunday Times asserted "in combining music, fashion, art and technology, Lady evokes Madonna, Gwen Stefani circa Hollaback Girl, Kylie 2001 or Grace Jones right now." Similarly, The Boston Globe critic Sarah Rodman commented that Gaga draws "obvious inspirations from Madonna to Gwen Stefani... in girlish but sturdy pipes and bubbly beats." Madonna herself had once commented to Rolling Stone that she sees "self in Lady Gaga." The entertainer explained, "hen I saw her, she didn?t have a lot of money for her production. She?s got holes in her fishnets, and there?s mistakes everywhere it was kind of a mess, but I can see that she has that it Factor. It?s nice to see that at a raw stage." Baby A. Gil of The Philippine Star asserted that Gaga's voice is "just right for the mix of dance and rock that she does." As an artist, Alexis Petridis of The Boston Globe commented that although Gaga lacks originality, "pop music doesn't have to be blindingly original or clever to work: it needs tunes, and Lady is fantastically good at tunes." Though Gaga's lyrics are said to lack intellectual stimulation, " does manage to get you moving and grooving at an almost effortless pace."
Gaga wearing a plastic bubble dress while performing a concert on The Fame Ball Tour.
Gaga has stated that she is "very into fashion" and that it is "everything" to her. Her love of fashion came from her mother, who she stated was "always very well kept and beautiful." She claims 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." 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. Gaga has six known tattoos, among them a peace symbol which was inspired by the late English musician John Lennon who The Guardian remarked as Gaga's "hero," and a curling German script on her left arm which quotes the poet Rainer Maria Rilke with the lines "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?" Gaga described Rilke as her "favorite philosopher," commenting that his "philosophy of solitude" spoke to her. In response to Gaga saying that she considers Donatella Versace her muse, Melissa Magsaysay of Los Angeles Times commented, " aversion to wearing a top and bottom at the same time swigging champagne and being fanned by oily men in Speedos very Donatella-esque." Toward the end of 2008, comparisons were made between the fashions of Gaga and recording artist Christina Aguilera, noting similarities in their styling, hair, and make-up. Aguilera later claimed she was "completely unaware of " and "didn't know if it a man or a woman." Afterward, Gaga released a statement in which she welcomed the comparisons due to the attention providing useful publicity. Gaga 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." Gaga is a natural brunette, but her hair is bleached blonde because she was often mistaken for fellow musician Amy Winehouse.
Gaga attributes much of her early success as a mainstream artist to her gay fans and is considered to be a rising gay icon. She claimed difficulty in the early stages of her career in getting her songs to receive 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." Gaga 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." After The Fame came out, 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'." One of Gaga's first televised performance 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." In June of the same year, she performed the song again at the San Francisco Pride event. When she appeared as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in May 2009, Gaga praised DeGeneres for being "an inspiration for women and for the gay community," and while accepting the Best New Artist trophy at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, she dedicated the award to "God and the gays." She proclaimed that the October 11, 2009, gay rights rally on the national mall was "the single most important event of my career", exiting with an exultant "Bless God and bless the gays!"