While all artists toy with experimentation in their own way, few have fully committed themselves to pushing boundaries and exploring the unknown with the ferocity that Lady Gaga has. Since releasing her first album, The Fame, in 2008, Lady Gaga has spent time in the spotlight as pop’s most shocking provocateur, the 21st century’s big-band jazz starlet, and has brought her A-game to every genre in between, from heavy metal to techno. Like Madonna before her, Lady Gaga has an appetite for reinvention. Today, it’s what has made her one of the most fascinating entertainers of our time.
It takes a lot of grit to transform oneself over and over again. Then again, grit is something that Lady Gaga has never had a shortage of. Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta to two Italian American parents in New York City, Lady Gaga recalls growing up with parents who worked tirelessly for all that they had. Her family was Catholic, and she attended an all-girls Catholic school where her natural eccentricity often left her scrutinized by her peers. However, she never balked or changed who she was.
While her eccentricity may have been a hindrance in school-age life, it did the opposite in her life as a performer: Lady Gaga’s early career has been marked by jaw-dropping costumes and outfits that dazzle and shock in equal measure. It was clear from the start that Lady Gaga was not interested in playing by anyone else’s rules— she has always been making them up herself.
This dedication to individuality helped earn Lady Gaga her dedicated fanbase. Known as “Mother Monster” to her fans, Lady Gaga quickly became more than just a pop star in the lives of her fans: she has been an inspirational figure, too. While Lady Gaga has always been a fierce advocate for women, minorities, and the LGBTQA+ community, her 2011 record Born This Way was a major declaration of what she believed in. The album was an act of liberation, an empowering celebration of universal human dignity, declaring everyone’s right to take pride in who they are. The same year that the record was released, Lady Gaga and her mother created the Born This Way Foundation to support the mental health of young people.
Since Born This Way, Lady Gaga has released three solo studio albums, all of which have a completely distinct sound, representing unique periods of artistic expression in her career. She has also made two collaborative jazz albums with none other than the legendary Tony Bennett himself, who has been a dear friend of Lady Gaga’s since they first met. Her wide range of musical expression is a testament to the depths of her creativity.
At only 37 years old, Lady Gaga’s career is far from being in its late eras. However, that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t already created an enormous legacy. While Lady Gaga continues to evolve and transform, the rest of the music industry soaks in her influence and transforms itself as a result. She has always treated her music as a full sensory experience, making statements not only through sound but through fashion and aesthetics. This commitment to creating something otherworldly and immersive has emboldened other artists to treat their live performances as full-blown spectacles, too. Her style as a performer has permanently altered the landscape of live pop performances.
Whether she’s recording music or spearheading philanthropic projects, Lady Gaga is driven by creative curiosity and an empathetic heart. While her projects may appear diverse at the surface level, they have all been united under her intention to create a kinder, more free world.
Natalli Marie Amato
Natalli Amato is a music and lifestyle journalist from Sackets Harbor, New York. Her bylines include Rolling Stone, Vice, and The Boot. She is also the author of several collections of poetry.