Lady Gaga, страница 1
Fame, Fortune and Monsters
This electronic version published in 2010 by
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Thank you to Batman, Prince Nicky and the Annoying Blonde, without whom this book would not have made it to completion!
Lady Gaga is one of today’s best known music artists. Combining a fresh, modern music style with somewhat outlandish fashion, she has risen to the top echelons of showbiz.
So how did this female phenomenon become such a massive star? Was she plucked from obscurity by a canny (or perhaps lucky!) record executive, or did she work hard for fame, toiling away at her art?
This book looks at the human being behind the celebrity, at the style, the fashion, the music. It asks - and answers - many questions about her life, her personality and her opinions. We also discuss the rumours that have followed Lady Gaga to the top, and explore the darker side of her past.
But let us start – as we should – at the beginning, before this superstar was the Lady we know today…
The Girl Who Was To Become A Lady
Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, and she was born on the 28th March 1986 in New York City. Her parents – Joseph and Cynthia were both hard-working Italian Americans, not on the breadline, but certainly not extremely wealthy in today’s terms.
Stefani was a talented child – perhaps not a genius but certainly one who showed flair and ability from a young age. She first started playing the piano at the age of four, and was academically bright.
Stefani attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private Roman Catholic school in Manhattan – the school that Paris Hilton had attended. Her parents worked hard to send her to such a good school – Stefani has been quoted as 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’. It would be reasonable to suppose that her parents – as most parents do – only wanted the best for their talented daughter.
Because of her parents’ dedication to giving her the best education they could afford, Stefani took her studies seriously. She has recalled an early concert she played in front of twenty or so girls, saying ‘I did a really good job. I was quite good’.
By the time she was eleven, Stefani attended acting classes on Saturdays. In interviews, she has said how important learning the basics (and advanced!) techniques of acting has been to her performing – ‘I can feel the rain too, when it’s not raining’.
By the age of 13, Stefani had written her first piano ballad, and even began to perform at open-mike nights when she was 14, one such being at New York nightclub The Bitter End.
At high-school, as one would expect, Stefani took part (and was more often than not, the lead) in a number of high school musicals, including playing Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. She has told how other girls, jealous of her talent, would call her ‘the Germ’. Perhaps this mickey-taking bastardisation of her surname planted the seed of seeking stage-name, a stage-personality.
On the subject of having a ‘stage-personality’, Stefani did have a reputation amongst her fellow actors and actresses for some unusual tendencies: one being that she refused to let anyone call her by her real name backstage, answering only to the name of the character she was portraying at the time. One friend said ‘It was so bizarre, because we were kids’.
Stefani has indicated that at times she was jealous of her wealthier classmates – always showing off their latest fancy purses or bags. Always the hard-worker, she found herself a job after school (she was one of the very few students at the prestigious convent who did this) as a waitress at a diner. With her first paycheck, she bought herself a Gucci purse…
Although her classmates recall she was not a wildchild, she did show some signs of the exhibitionism she would become famous for. At the age of 15, she was dating a 26-year-old Greek waiter, and was going out on the town using a fake ID. She got into trouble with her teachers for wearing low-cut tops. Despite pointing out that another girls was wearing the same top (surely something that wouldn’t happen today!), she was told ‘Well, it looks different on her!’
In 2003, When she was 17. Stefani was awarded a place at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She continued to demonstrate her academic abilities by studying music, writing brilliant essays and analytical papers one many media-related and sociological subjects, such as art, politics and even religion. With some arrogance (but perhaps some truth), she considered herself to be more creative than some of her classmates (many of whom were a year older than her). Stefani has been quoted as saying ‘Once you learn how to think about art, you can teach yourself’.
In her second (sophomore) year, Stefani decided to quit school to concentrate on her music career. This didn’t go down particularly well with her parents, however her father did agree to let her try – on the condition that she re-enrolled at the University one year later if she was unsuccessful.
First steps on the career ladder
Stefani’s early music (both her compositions and her performances) showed signs of the bands and artists who had influenced her. These range from obvious icons such as Madonna and Michael Jackson, but also take in others including The Beatles, Queen, David Bowie and even Pink Floyd.
Her first real attempt at fame was as the lead (of course!) of the Stefani Germanotta Band, formed with friends from university. The style of the band was focused on ballads and classic love songs, and became well known in the club scene in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Stefani signed with Def Jam Recordings when she was 19, however this was not the big break she hoped it would be. She was released from her contract after just three months, not having made any significant inroads into her pursuit of fame and fortune.
Her first commercial recording success was a couple of songs recording with hip-hop artists Grandmaster Melle Mel for an audio cd accompanying a children’s book called The Portal In The Park.
A prodigious songwriter, Stefani spent a great deal of time writing and recording in studios. She often worked with music producer Rob Fusari, who helped her write some of her earliest songs. Fusari noted that some of Stefani’s harmonies were comparable to those of Queen’s Freddie Mercury. Whenever she came into the studio, Fusari would sing their hit ‘Radio Gaga’.
One day, Fusari texted Stefani, and intended to write ‘Radio Gaga’. However a mis-pressed button, and with predictive text correction, the message actually read ‘Lady Gaga’. Fusari received a text back which said ‘That’s it’. Lady Gaga had been born, and announced ‘Don’t ever call me Stefani again’.
Along came Akon
Whilst continuing to work with Rob Fusari, Gaga reconsidered the style of music she was writing, and looked back to her glam rock influences such as David Bowie and Queen. She began to incorporate pop melodies and these glam-rock influences into her modern electronica backing, and the fusion of these styles started to work exceptionally well.
Fusari was certainly impressed, as he sent the recordings to Vincent Herbert, a producer and record executive. Herbert quickly signed Lady Gaga to Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records. With enthusiasm that this signing would prove more successful that her time at Def Jam, Gaga continued to work hard.
Whilst at Streamline, Gaga also used her contacts to gain a music publishing deal with Sony/ATV (she had served as an apprentice songwriter under an internship at Famous Music Publishing, which was later acquired by Sony). Here she was hired to write songs for artists such as Britney Spears, New Kids On The Block, Fergie and The Pussycat Dolls.
Her compositions were mature, catchy pieces, and she was very much making a name for herself as a songwriter. However, was this enough for an exhibitionist like Lady Gaga? Since her time at school, she had seen herself as someone to perform at the microphone, not be an invisible name behind the studio glass.
Signer-songwriter Akon called for Lady Gaga’s songwriting talents (signed to Sony/ATV, it seemed sensible to work with a writer who had been successful for other artists).
Akon and Gaga were working in the studio together; He asked her to sign a reference vocal for a track, and Akon was struck by her vocal talents. Feeling he had spotted an amazing talent, he decided to act.
Whilst others had seen her songwriting as her strength, Akon believed she was the complete package – a star who could write, sing and perform.
Akon contacted Interscope’s Chairman and CEO Jimmy Lovine, and proposed a joint deal for Gaga as an artist in her own right, with her being signed to his own label Kon Live Distribution.
Lady Gaga now had gained her first major achievement – signed to a label who truly believed in her all-round talent, and one that would enable her to work with gusto on her first studio album.
In 2008, Lady Gaga relocated to Los Angeles, to work closely with Kon Live and finalise her album The Fame. Using songs she had written over the past few years, adding the production quality only a major studio can give input to, she mastered an eclectic album, full of multiple genres mixed together into a rich, catchy and fresh sound.
Gaga and her management chose ‘Just Dance’ as the best song to start her on the path to international celebrity. It had a ‘sing-along’ quality to it, yet was still an instantly recognisable pop song, ensuring the public would know what the unique ‘Lady Gaga’ sound meant.
As with many pop songs with dance elements, Just Dance first found a following in Lady Gaga’s spiritual home – in America and Europe’s clubs. The pulsating rhythm of the track, coupled with the well-written melody was an instant hit amongst influential DJs worldwide.
However, despite this success in the summer of 2008, it took time for the record to gather momentum in the radio station’s playlists. It took until January 2009 for the record to hit the number one spot on America’s Billboard Hot 100 singles chart – however the path which the single took whilst making its way to the top surely proved that Lady Gaga was not going to be a ‘one hit wonder’, like many performers who have gained number ones through a performance on a talent show, but quickly disappearing into obscurity. This debut single also hit the top ten (and in many places number one) across Western Europe and other regions of the world. Lady Gaga had finally arrived – and what an arrival!
The genius of Lady Gaga’s writing became apparent with the follow-up singles Poker Face, Love Game and Paparazzi. Each single was unique in its own right, and yet still had an intangible ‘Gaga quality’. The tracks appealed to the entire spectrum of music fans worldwide – from pop lovers to followers of hip-hop (with Akon no doubt lending credibility to her sound), and gaining a huge following from the gay market.
When the album The Fame was released, it reached number one in the United Kingdom, Austria, Canada and Ireland, and hit the top five in Australia and the USA. At the time of writing this book, it has sold over twelve million copies, was nominated for Album Of The Year, and won a Grammy for the Best Electronic / Dance Album.
With the launch of her first few singles, Kon Live decided to send Lady Gaga on tour – but at first only as a support act for New Kids On The Block! However, after it was apparent the public could not get enough Gaga, she headlined her own concert tour, The Fame Ball Tour, which began in March 2009.
Poker Face in particular was critically acclaimed, a track with an almost nursery-rhyme like ease of melody, yet still appealing with a mature production quality and perfectly constructed pop feel. These factors helped the single to number one in almost all major music markets worldwide, including the USA and the United Kingdom. The single won a Grammy for the Best Dance Recording.
More awards were to follow for the album as a whole, being nominated for no less than nine gongs at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Lady Gaga won ‘Best New Artist’, and the video for Paparazzi won ‘Best Art Direction’ and ‘Best Special Effects’.
ABC news featured Gaga as one of the ten most fascinating people of 2009 during an annual special – an all-too-rare example of a pop artist making mainstream news for her music (although it is likely her unique fashion style was a factor in the channel’s decision to include her in the list!).
The Fame Monster
A small number of tracks hadn’t made it onto The Fame, yet after her huge success, these were revisited and it was felt they were of a high enough quality to warrant a release. Although they were originally intended to be released as a bonus CD for The Fame, after additional tracks were written, a entirely new album/EP was released in 2009 – The Fame Monster.
The tracks on the new album generally concentrated on the darker side of fame that Gaga had experienced during the course of the past year or so, and were expressed through the metaphor of fame being a monster. Although presented in an easy-to-appreciate way, it has to be said that the approach was very mature – an example of the intelligence she had displayed at university with her essays and analysis.
The Success of Gaga’s debut album was repeated with the new release – if anything, critics have praised it even more.
Bad Romance was chosen as the first single to be released from the new album, and a good choice it was – topping the charts in 19 countries (but amazingly only number 2 in the USA).
Although many would think of Lady Gaga as someone potentially dangerous in polite company, she was invited to perform Speechless (one of the tracks on The Fame Monster), at the 2009 Royal Variety performance – here she met and sang for the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II.
The second single from The Fame Monster was ‘Telephone’ – a single featuring Beyonce Knowles which caused a fair amount of controversy (something not unfamiliar with Lady Gaga which will be discussed in a future chapter!).
The lyrics to the single weren’t anything particularly out of the ordinary, however the accompanying music video caused a storm – the subject matter included prison, murder and lesbianism… perhaps the public outcry was fuelled especially by the inclusion of Beyonce as Gaga’s accomplice in the video; a singer who had previously been known for her strong Christian values.<
Some critics will find anything to complain about – when many people’s reaction to the video was a resounding ‘meh!’, some columnists rounded on Gaga’s ‘emaciated’ figure, accusing her of being a bad role model and undergoing dangerous dieting.
The video – of course – went on to win plenty of accolades, including Best Collaboration music video at the 2010 MTV Music Video awards ceremony.
In fact, the 2010 MTV awards were practically owned by Lady Gaga – In addition to the Collaboration award, she also won Best Dance Music Video, Best Female Music Video, Best Choreography, Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Pop Video… she picked up 8 awards in total.
Drugs make an appearance
It has been reported that Lady Gaga has – at times – partaken in drug-taking activities. Way back when she was still known as Stefani Germanotta, she apparently began experimenting with drugs while performing at neo-burlesque shows.
In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Gaga caused controversy when she admitted to occasionally taking cocaine. The American public still seem to be shocked when a high-profile music star admits to drug use, and although some would applaud her honesty, there was still a public outcry – many felt younger girls looking up to Gaga as a role model would also be inspired to start a recreational drug habit.