Lady Gaga came to prominence as a recording artist following the release of her debut album, The Fame (2008), which was a critical and commercial success that topped charts around the world and included the international number-one singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". After embarking on the The Fame Ball Tour, she followed the album with The Fame Monster (2009), which spawned the worldwide hit singles "Bad Romance", "Telephone", and "Alejandro". The Fame Monster's success allowed her to embark on the eighteen-month long Monster Ball Tour, which later became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time. Her most recent album, Born This Way (2011), topped the charts of most major markets and generated more international chart-topping singles, including "Born This Way", "Judas", and "The Edge of Glory".
Influenced by Britney Spears, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Queen, Lady Gaga is recognized for her flamboyant, diverse and outré contributions to the music industry through her fashion, performances and music videos. As of October 2011, she had sold an estimated 23 million albums and 64 million singles worldwide and her singles are some of the best-selling worldwide. Her achievements include five Grammy Awards and 13 MTV Video Music Awards. Lady Gaga has consecutively appeared on Billboard magazine's Artists of the Year (scoring the definitive title in 2010), ranked fourth in VH1's list of 100 Greatest Women in Music, is the sixth best selling digital singles artist in US according to RIAA, is regularly placed on lists composed by Forbes magazine, including The World's 100 Most Powerful Women from 2010 to 2013, and was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Besides her musical career, she involves herself with humanitarian causes and LGBT activism.
Life and career
1986–2004: Early life
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986, in New York City, to Cynthia (née Bissett) and Joseph Germanotta, an internet entrepreneur. Descending from Sicilian/Italian roots, Gaga is the elder of two children. Her sister, Natali, a fashion student, was born in 1992. Despite her affluent upbringing on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Gaga says 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." Gaga was raised Roman Catholic. From age eleven she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school on Manhattan's Upper East Side. She described her academic life in high school as "very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined" but also "a bit insecure": "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 at school. Gaga began playing the piano at the age of four, wrote her first piano ballad at thirteen, and started to perform at open mike nights by the age of fourteen. She performed lead roles in high school productions, including Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. 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" and auditioned for New York shows without success.
After high school, her mother encouraged her to apply for the Collaborative Arts Project 21 (CAP21), a musical theatre training conservatory at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. By age seventeen, after becoming one of twenty students to gain early admission, she lived in an NYU dorm on 11th Street. In addition to sharpening her songwriting skills, she composed essays and analytical papers on art, religion, social issues and politics, including a thesis on pop artists Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst. She also auditioned for various roles and won the part of an unsuspecting diner customer for MTV's Boiling Points, a prank reality television show.
2008–10: The Fame and The Fame Monster
By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles in order to work extensively with her record label to complete her debut album and set up her own creative team Haus of Gaga, modeled on Andy Warhol's Factory. The Fame was first released on August 19, 2008 to slow radio play. Gaga supported it by performing around Europe and in small gay clubs around the US in addition to being billed as a supporting artist on the North American leg of New Kids on the Block's reunion concert tour. A sleeper hit, lead single "Just Dance" had preceded the album's release by four months but only hit the summit of the international charts in January 2009, provoking the instant success of the album, earning her first Grammy Award nomination (for Best Dance Recording) and becoming one of the best-selling singles worldwide. Gaga achieved a greater unexpected success when "Poker Face", another sleeper hit, reached number one in most major music markets worldwide in early 2009, selling 9.8 million singles worldwide. 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.
The Fame itself was nominated for Album of the Year while winning Best Dance/Electronica Album at the same ceremony. Contemporary critics lauded the album, describing it as an exploration of her obsession with fame and the intricacies of a rich and famous lifestyle, noting its combination of genres "from Def Leppard drums and hand claps to metal drums on urban tracks", the inspiration drawn from 1980s synthpop and incorporation of dance music with clear hooks. The Fame went to number one in Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK and appeared in the top five in Australia, the US and 15 other countries. It also stayed atop the Dance/Electronic Albums chart for 106 non-consecutive weeks and, since its release, has sold over 12 million copies worldwide. The album's success spawned many 2009 honors including Billboard magazine's Rising Star award and the accumulation of 3 of 9 MTV Video Music Awards nominations, winning Best New Artist with the video for her single "Paparazzi" gaining Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects. In addition to being an opening act on the Pussycat Dolls' Doll Domination Tour during the first half of 2009 in Europe and Oceania, she also embarked on her own six-month critically appreciated worldwide concert tour The Fame Ball Tour which ran from March to September 2009.
While she traveled the globe, she wrote The Fame Monster, an EP of eight songs released in November 2009. Each song, dealing with the darker side of fame from personal experience, is expressed through a monster metaphor. Making Gaga the first artist in digital history to have three singles (alongside "Just Dance" and "Poker Face") to pass the four million mark in digital sales, its lead single "Bad Romance" topped the charts in eighteen countries and reached the top two in the US, Australia and New Zealand while accruing the Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video. The 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; its accompanying music video, although controversial, received positive reception from contemporary critics who praised her for "the musicality and showmanship of Michael Jackson and the powerful sexuality and provocative instincts of Madonna." 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 but the Catholic League attacked Gaga for her alleged use of blasphemy. 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. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Gaga won 8 of her 13 nominations, including Video of the Year for "Bad Romance" (with "Telephone" also nominated), which made her the first female artist to be nominated twice for the award. In addition, The Fame Monster garnered a total of six nominations at the 53rd Grammy Awards – equating to the amount of Grammy nominations her debut received – winning Best Pop Vocal Album and earning her a second-consecutive nomination for Album of the Year. The Fame Monster and the 2010 compilation The Remix were Gaga's final releases under Cherrytree Records. While her reasons for departing the label are unknown, her manager Troy Carter stated in 2011 that they still collaborate with label head Martin Kierszenbaum on strategies for marketing Gaga overseas.
The success of The Fame Monster allowed Gaga to start her second worldwide concert tour, The Monster Ball Tour, just weeks after the release of the album and months after having finished The Fame Ball Tour. Upon finishing in May 2011, the critically acclaimed and commercially accomplished tour ran for over one and a half years and 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. Concerts performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City were filmed for a HBO television special titled Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden. The special accrued one of its five Emmy Award nominations and has since been released on DVD and Blu-ray. 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; 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; 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, supplemented her hat-trick win at the awards ceremony. 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."
In 2009, she collaborated with consumer electronic company Monster Cable Products to create a pair of in-ear jewel-encrusted headphones titled Heartbeats. "They are designed to be the first ever fashion accessories that double as the absolute best sonically sounding headphones in the world," she commented. Gaga also partnered with Polaroid in January 2010 as their Creative Director. Excited about "blending the iconic history of Polaroid and instant film with the digital era," Gaga unveiled the first trio of new products called Grey Label: a pair of picture-taking sunglasses, a paperback-sized mobile printing unit and an updated version of the traditional Polaroid camera at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. But her collaboration with past producer Rob Fusari led to her production team, Mermaid Music LLC, being sued in March 2010 when he claimed that he was entitled to a 20% share of the company's earnings. Gaga's lawyer, Charles Ortner, described the agreement with Fusari as "unlawful" and declined to comment, but five months later, the New York Supreme Court dismissed both the lawsuit and a countersuit by Gaga. In addition to such strife, Gaga was tested borderline positive for lupus, but claimed not to be affected by the symptoms. The revelations caused considerable dismay among fans, leading to Gaga addressing the matter in an interview with Larry King, saying she hopes to avoid symptoms by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
2011–present: Born This Way and ArtpopGaga released her second studio album, 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 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 received 3 Grammy Award nominations, including her third consecutive for Album of the Year. In March 2012, Gaga was ranked fourth on Billboard's list of top moneymakers of 2011, grossing $25,353,039 dollars, which included sales from Born This Way and her Monster Ball Tour.
In the months prior to its unveiling, Gaga released the singles "Born This Way", "Judas" and "The Edge of Glory" alongside promotional single "Hair". The lead single and title track, 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. The single 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, with worldwide sales of 8.2 million copies by November 2011, 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 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 but 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 video which was notably stripped down from her usually "extravagant" efforts. She released "You and I" and "Marry the Night" as the following singles from Born This Way. Although their "crazy and ambitious" videos were praised for their audacity, both songs failed to match the similar international success that their predecessors achieved. Gaga was later ranked as the second most-played artist of 2011 in the UK by the PPL.
Throughout 2011, Gaga 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 says that she wrote a long time ago, but had not put it on any of her albums. 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. She also continued her live appearances in 2011, performing a one-of-a-kind concert at the Sydney Town Hall in promotion of Born This Way and at the celebration of former US president Bill Clinton's 65th birthday, 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 titled 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. Lady Gaga also appeared in Times Square to perform songs from Born This Way on the 40th anniversary of ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and in addition, she also had the honor of welcoming 2012 by dropping the famous Times Square Ball with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at midnight. In 2012, Gaga also guest-starred on the 23rd season finale of The Simpsons titled "Lisa Goes Gaga". In June 2012, Gaga announced her first fragrance in association with Coty, Inc., Lady Gaga Fame, which was released worldwide in September 2012. In December 2012, Gaga made an appearance at the final show of The Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary concert series to perform "Gimme Shelter", along with Bruce Springsteen and The Black Keys.
he accompanying tour for Born This Way, titled simply The Born This Way Ball, kicked off at the end of April 2012 at Seoul's Olympic Stadium in South Korea. Although the tour – consisting of 110 shows across the globe – was a commercial success with positive reviews, several conservative political commentators denounced the Born This Way Ball shortly after the conception of the tour. This early controversy, particularly notable in several locations of the tour's leg in Asia, saw protests from several religious groups who viewed the tour as satanic and against religious values, resulting in protests mainly from the Islamic Defenders Front, causing a cancellation in the Indonesian city of Jakarta, where Gaga was denied a license to perform. She and promoters were initially optimistic that the performance would go on but, due to threats of violence from Muslim hardliners, Gaga decided to cancel the concert although 52,000 tickets had sold out in just a few days. Due to a labral tear of her right hip, Gaga announced on February 12, 2013, that the remainder of her Born This Way Ball was canceled. She posted on her blog February 20, 2013, that she had hip surgery, and was recovering.
New songs for her new album Artpop (stylized as ARTPOP) were "beginning to flourish" as she worked with producer Fernando Garibay in early 2012. Gaga's manager, Vincent Herbert, said that Gaga began work on her upcoming album during the Born This Way Ball tour, stating that the material is "insane, great records." She is also planning to record a collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett whom she has already collaborated with. Gaga will make her debut film appearance in Robert Rodriguez's upcoming movie Machete Kills. She will play the role of La Chameleón, starring alongside an ensemble cast in the action film that is due to hit cinema screens on September 13, 2013. On December 25, 2012, Gaga announced that Terry Richardson was also working on a documentary about Gaga's life, the Haus of Gaga and "the creation of Artpop".