Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by the 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 singers 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 August 2010, Gaga has sold more than 15 million albums and 51 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, to an Italian American family, the eldest child of Joseph Germanotta, internet entrepreneur, and Cynthia (née 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 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
Gaga (right) performing with Lady Starlight (left) at “Lollapalooza 2007″.
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 some of her vocal harmonies to that of Freddie Mercury. Fusari helped create the moniker Gaga, after the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga”. Germanotta 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.” 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. [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.”
She was known thereafter as Lady Gaga. The New York Post, however, has reported that this story is incorrect, and that the name resulted from a marketing meeting. 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 electronic dance music, Gaga found her musical niche when she began to incorporate pop melodies and the 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–present: The Fame, The Fame Monster and Born This Way
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 twelve 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 said 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 March, Rob Fusari sued Gaga’s production company Mermaid Music LLC, claiming 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. In August, the New York Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit. 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.” She announced the title, Born This Way, during her acceptance speech for Video of the Year at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. She signed a long-term licensing deal with global perfume company Coty Inc. to produce fragrances under her name. The first fragrance is due for release in spring 2012.