Lady Gaga: The Unlikely Queen of 2009
By Tracey Harrington McCoy Posted Dec 21st 2009 12:00PM
Five Grammy nominations. Four consecutive top 10 singles. Three consecutive #1 songs. A well-received headlining world tour. A meet-and-greet with Queen Elizabeth. A show-stopping appearance on Saturday Night Live. It can't be denied -- Lady Gaga had one incredible year. Usually, stats like these are reserved for the huge one-name acts: Madonna, Britney, Beyonce. But it appears it's time to add one more name to that list: Gaga.
The fact is not many thought she'd be around this long. She had one-hit wonder tattooed all over her. Sporting an insane wardrobe of in-your-face leather and plastic, elaborate masks, and dresses made of bubbles and Kermit the Frog heads, Gaga bounced onto the pop music scene late last year. And most people were counting on her bouncing right back out once her debut 'Just Dance' enjoyed a nice run on the charts. But Lady Gaga surprised everyone and released another chart-topping song. And then another. And then one more.
The surprising part is that her success is so counter-intuitive. She follows no rules. She repels the norm. If you've seen it before, Lady Gaga's not wearing or doing it. So, how did this boundary-pushing little blonde take over mainstream America?
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Pacific Coast News
Pacific Coast News
Music journalist Faith-Ann Young offers her opinion, "Her success isn't about her stockings or wigs or bodices. It's a medley of time, place, occasion, talent, money, and shock value. She's coming at a time when a lot of the music scene is rather banal and staid and people are quite desperate to feel something. There hasn't been a Madonna, Prince, or David Bowie to rejuvenate pop in a while." Maybe it was just time for someone to shake pop music's foundation a little bit. Enter Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga's unpredictable sense of style hasn't hurt her -- in fact, it could be argued it put her on the map. While her music is catchy and she clearly has true talent, her eccentric fashions are what most people first call to mind. You just don't forget someone walking the red carpet in a dress made solely of clear plastic bubbles. Case in point, Lady Gaga met the Queen of England in an Elizabethan-inspired, full-length, red latex dress and red glitter eye mask.
"It's interesting to have a style personality who goes beyond just being a risk-taker. She's pushing boundaries and is developing a signature style that isn't comparable to very many people on the pop culture and/or sartorial time line -- and that is quite an accomplishment!" says Susan Cernek, Glamour Magazine's online Senior Fashion and Beauty Editor.
Cernek continues, "The interesting thing about Lady Gaga is that she's a very '00s style icon. Where as the '90s were about flashy labels, bling, and demonstrations of sexual and financial excess, this decade is much more about personalization and individuality -- and say what you will about her, you've got to admit that Lady Gaga and her style is unique."
A winning combination of a stellar voice and attention-grabbing costumes was always the plan. Lady Gaga began as a performance artist in burlesque shows on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and those roots still heavily influence her every performance and appearance. Young remembers seeing her for the first time; "At Lollapalooza in 2007, Lady Gaga was a skinny brunette girl in a sequined silver bra, dancing with bravado under a disco ball. While she clearly had that burning desire for performance and fame at the time - the glamour and the mystique for which Gaga is known was not yet clear."
And just two years later, Lady Gaga is taking the world by glittery storm. Unabashedly performing every show and walking every red carpet as though she's performing back in the Lower East Side burlesque club. And it's working. Best of all, she's not hiding her intentions to shock and entertain. Cernek concurs, "She is a performer who is clearly performing for an audience -- and makes it transparent in her press statements that's what she's going for. While her costumes may be wildly outrageous, her motives for wearing them are fairly clear and straightforward -- which is refreshing."
But ornate sets and crazy costumes aside, Lady Gaga's voice is her ace in the hole. While many of her songs feature heavy electronics that alter her voice, her immense innate talent is instantly apparent when she sings live. Earlier this season, she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and performed two musical numbers. Gaga's second set featured her playing the piano and singing without backup vocals or additional instruments. It was a jaw-dropping moment -- and it solidified her place as pop music's new queen.
Young sums it up Gaga's success well. "The musicians who survive this industry have to have talent AND the business acumen to surround themselves with the right people to develop themselves. Gaga is talented; she can play the piano and sings and dances. But many people can do that. The girl has got fire within her as well. She got to Lollapalooza on sheer guts. Also, she's had a big label Interscope promoting her for two years. And lastly she's got great artistic friends. Madonna had Maripol as a stylist in the '80s to pave her distinctive look. Gaga has Nicola Formichetti and Matt Williams and others. And as for publicists, it pays to have Perez Hilton as a BFF."
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