If we’re to believe the rumours, a Lady Gaga comeback is imminent. While she’s spent the last few years in the world of country and cinema, early hints suggest she’s heading back to the wild world of pop and the stans couldn’t be happier. In celebration of her return, we’re taking a trip into the Gaga vault, pulling out our favourite songs of her career. When you inevitably disagree, feel free to get in touch here.
“Let’s have some fun this beat is sick,” is one of the most iconic Gaga intros. LoveGame is a cold, hard banger but it gets somewhat undermined by the gigantic singles that came before it.
Included in the holy trinity of ARTPOP songs that made up the album’s best video G.U.Y. encapsulates the album’s strength. It juxtaposes abrasive, gritty beats with a richly melodic bridge. It’s camp and expensive – ARTPOP in a nutshell.
The second worst song on The Fame Monster also happens to be an A-grade pop songs. It’s a testament to the project that housed in and shouldn’t take anything away from the song. Monster is a nod to ’80s pop and boasts some of Gaga’s best verse writing.
23. The Cure
Out of Joanne’s country dust emerged this glistening pop single. While it was a clear grab for relevancy in a trop-pop climate, Gaga does trends well if she has to. The Cure was an unnecessary Gaga single but aren’t we glad we have that rousing chorus to singalong to with arms open wide?
ARTPOP was an amalgamation of ideas. Some songs housed thousands of them in the same verse and Gypsy is one of those moments. It’s an EDM ballad with tinges of Elton John writing a country song. It’s completely bonkers but it’s brought home by Gaga’s hearty delivery – “I don’t wanna be along forever but I can’t be tonight!”
21. Sexxx Dreams
Some will argue that ARTPOP was ahead of its time. The time it was soundtracking has yet to arrive but Sexxx Dreams was the best example that it was from the future. With its industrial verses and glitchy, disintegrating choruses it sounds like a pop apocalypse that Charli XCX would love an invite too.
A-YO should’ve been Joanne’s lead-single. The jangly, charismatic country romp successfully predicted pop’s yeehaw agenda before it actually arrived on the mainstream. Over hand-claps and howling guitar, Gaga somehow managed to construct a delectable pop song.
19. Heavy Metal Lover
Futuristic pop excellence of the highest honour. Heavy Metal Lover takes the abrasiveness and intensity of heavy metal music and recreates it in a flurry of drilling synths and bass-rattling beats. It’s all topped off by that beautifully restrained chorus.
18. Million Reasons
Joanne may have not been what every Gaga fan wanted and Million Reasons doesn’t always get its props because of that. Million Reasons is an excellent ballad that rightfully awarded Joanne its only true hit. Pop ballads may be in vogue right now but few can compete with Gaga’s genuity.
Applause was not what people were expecting from Gaga. It seemed to find itself caught between pop relevancy and innovation which resulted in something that appeared try-hard. It’s aged better though as ARTPOP has found a cult of adorers. In hindsight, it’s a futuristic depiction of fame and mass adoration, cleverly delivered on a bed of hand claps.
Few could’ve predicted when Gaga was clocking hits at the start of her career that she’d have a number one record with Bradley Cooper. Shallow is the most timeless song of the Gaga collection and that’s because it’s a simple song sung by a popstar at the height of her songwriting powers. Gaga’s soaring delivery on this is one of the true spine-tingling moments in pop culture and one that will forever be a highlight of her career.
15. Just Dance
Back to where it all began. Colby O’Donis should be thanking his lucky stars that his name was just buzzworthy enough to launch a new pop career. It really wasn’t necessary though. While Just Dance is one of the most straight-forward pop songs in the Gaga collection, it had just enough chaos and drama to prove that this girl had something more than the rest. Just Dance is still a blueprint for a great pop song, it’s just that few have the personality to make it great.
14. You & I
Stripped of all the production, Born This Way‘s best songs sound like they could’ve been a hit in any era. You & I, in particular, has this old spirit that made it sound like it had been a hit before Gaga came along with it. It’s a simple love song written with nods to master songwriters like Elton John. As we’ve mentioned several times before, Gaga has a knack for taking something simple and making it extraordinary. Just watch the VMAs performance of this.
13. Stupid Love
More than a decade into her career, Lady Gaga does a sharp detour back to pop and reminds us all why she was so revolutionary in the first place. Stupid Love sounds more nostalgic than boundary-pushing but that’s testament to the foundations she’s laid. Nobody does straight-up pop better than Gaga and she’s not done ruling the charts yet.
12. Bloody Mary
Let’s be honest, Born This Way was a lot. 17 songs – most of them abrasive, soaring or experimental. That’s why Bloody Mary stands out. It’s none of those things. It’s a slinky, holy pop song that does just enough. Gaga’s voice is soft and the instrumental oscillates from spirit-calling choirs to distant screams. Lyrically, she manages to use religious iconography to express dance as a healing tool. Genius.
11. Telephone (Feat. Beyoncé)
Gaga and Beyoncé have taken seperate roads since Telephone but there was a time when the former was the latter’s key to pop innovation. Together they crafted a twisted girl power anthem housing one of the great Bey lyrics, “Sometimes I feel like I live in Grand Central Station.” It was all elevated by an epic video that has etched a place in pop culture history.
After The Fame Monster, Gaga had awarded herself the creative freedom to do whatever she liked. She took that and created one of the most far-reaching pop records of our time. Scheiße looked to the clubs of Europe for sonic influence, delivering a heart-racing beat that gives not one minute of reprieve. The beginning is a ridiculous uttering of fake German but by the chorus she’s turned it into an expression of female empowerment with a stirring melody. As it turns out the fake German is there to show how people can ignore declarations of equality and empowerment.
Gaga can write a song coated in religious metaphor and foreign linguistics and then she can also deliver a gut-wrenching ballad that just gets straight to the point. Speechless is one of those moments. It’s just a really bloody good song that trades metaphor for honesty. Like so many of Gaga’s songs we’ll forever remember Speechless for her 2011 AMAs performance which saw her smashing glass over a burning piano.
8. Born This Way
The whole world was watching when Born This Way dropped. The hype was overwhelming but Gaga delivered with an equality anthem that to this day creates liberating moments in clubs around the world. Queer allyship is the norm in the pop world today but here was a popstar who was launching the biggest album of her career with a gigantic declaration of self-love and support.
7. Poker Face
Poker Face proved there was something really special about Gaga. She obviously knew how to craft a pop song but she was theatrical and intense, willing to push pop back into an era that relished in hyperbole and performance. This was a dirty, gritty pop song disguised as a radio hit. What other song on the radio at the time could get away with a line like, “Russian roulette is not the same without a gun/And baby, when it’s love, if it’s not rough, it isn’t fun”?
6. Marry The Night
Marry The Night, Born This Way‘s epic opener, has become an anthem for Monsters all around the world. Like much of the record it comes from it’s about embracing yourself and what better way to deliver that message than over a pulsating beat. There’s a sense of occasion to Marry The Night. It feels like a new chapter and like all good pop, it’s rejuvenating. Gaga dedicated the song to her “husband” New York and it inhabits the city’s sense of ambition and liberation.
5. Dance In The Dark
Gaga changed pop because she approached all of her songs like immersive art. Each song was rich with historical references but disguised as an emotive pop song. Dance In The Dark sounds like it’s dripping in diamonds, featuring one of Gaga’s richest beats. Lyrically, however, it’s about overcoming self-esteem, referencing Judy Garland, Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe – all superstars who allegedly struggled with self-esteem issues. The idea of dancing in the dark is designed to strip you of those insecurities. “Find you freedom in the music,” she sings and you get the feeling that’s something Gaga truly invests in.
Alejandro, Gaga said, was her saying goodbye to all of her past boyfriends. Sounds simple enough. Too simple for Gaga maybe? So, she sung about a Spanish lover and delivered it with enough drama to fill a Telenovela. For the video, she referenced totalitarianism in a nine-minute, black-and-white experience. And that is why Gaga succeeds. She does the absolute most every single time and we need that in pop.
3. The Edge Of Glory
The Edge Of Glory was the final chapter in the Born This Way epic. It’s about facing the final moments of your life and knowing that you’ve won. Gaga told Oprah that she wrote it with her Dad by her side and a bottle of tequila as her Grandpa was nearing the end of his life. There’s something incredible about taking a sombre moment like that and turning it into a rousing anthem that celebrates life. The saxophone solo at the end shoots it into the stratosphere and the fact that it was one of Clarence Clemens’ final pieces of work gives the song even more weight.
Gaga’s early projects were all obsessed with fame. Some of it relished in the glitz and glamour but most of it was a damnation of fame. On Paparazzi, she’s reckoning with what she wants. Does she want fame or does she want privacy? It’s ambitious but it’s also really dark – a daring statement to make at the very beginning of your career. Like all of Gaga’s best moments though, Paparazzi appears as a love song, driven by one of the most recognisable hooks in modern pop music. This was the one that showed what she was truly capable of.
1. Bad Romance
If Paparazzi showed what Gaga was capable of, Bad Romance upped the anti. It was the moment she decided to bring experimentation, drama, theatrics and mystery to pop. One of the most influential pop songs of this millennium, Bad Romance took the idea of the pop diva and maximised it like she was creating for cinema. Here, she wants what she can’t have and she’s going crazy longing for it. “I want your love, and I want your revenge,” she sings in a bullet of a chorus, surrounded by ra-ra-ah-ah-ah’s and French. It’s completely outlandish and yet it cuts straight through the heart.
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