Happy birthday, Lady Gaga!
30 years ago today, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born to parents Cynthia and Joseph Germanotta in in New York City. Eight years ago, a creature by the name of Lady Gaga hatched from Stefani’s egg vessel and began a remarkable climb up, up, up the ladder of success and fame to the reach pinnacle of pop culture. Millions of album and singles sold, an astounding string of live performances, countless awards and broken records, and a legacy of bravery and kindness later, an icon was formed.
“I want to show women they don’t need to try to keep up with the 19-year-olds and the 21-year-olds in order to have a hit. Women in music, they feel like they need to fucking sell everything to be a star. It’s so sad. I want to explode as I go into my 30s.” – Lady Gaga
I have written pretty extensively about Gaga for our humble little website, from a look at her successful year of rebranding to an argument in defense of ARTPOP. (Full disclosure: I’m a fan!) I am only honored to continue writing about her on the occasion of her entering what the basiqués would call her “dirty thirties”. While trying to figure out what I should say to honor this pop queen on her big day, I ultimately decided to write about everything. Everything she’s done, everything she’s capable of doing, everything she’s given me and many other fans throughout her career. So below you will find, in absolutely no order, a curated list of what I feel are Gaga’s 30 (get it?) greatest achievements. They range from album sales to cultural influence factors to philanthropy and advocacy and beyond. So, on her 30th birthday, I hope join me in looking back at the impressive and, in many ways, unparalleled, career of the one and only Lady Gaga.
A No. 1 Hit Wonder (Three Times Over)
When her first single “Just Dance” hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, the general consensus of shook pop fans was that Gaga would fade quickly and be remembered as nothing more than a One Hit Wonder. WRONG! Gaga’s second single “Poker Face” also hit No. 1 and, in fact, surpassed “Just Dance” in sales popularity. Her most recent single to hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 was 2011’s “Born This Way,” which held the spot for six consecutive weeks, a personal best for Gaga.
One Ain’t Nothing But a Number
Though she has three No. 1 singles to her name, many of her most iconic and best-selling singles never reached the chart summit. “Bad Romance,” still considered by many to be her defining song, was famously blocked from reaching No. 1 by Kesha’s “Tik Tok.” “Paparazzi” peaked at No. 3, as did “The Edge of Glory.” “Applause,” “Alejandro,” “LoveGame,” “Telephone (Feat. Beyoncé), all reached the Hot 100 Top 5 and are Multi-Platinum.
“And now, I’m just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time.” – Lady Gaga
59 Million Singles Sold and Counting
And that’s just in the U.S. alone. Two of her singles — “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” — are certified Diamond, meaning each has sold more than 10 million copies (again, in the U.S. alone). In total, she has 13 Platinum or Multi-Platinum singles and another four Gold singles.
More Than a Singles Artist
Gaga doesn’t just move $1.29 singles; she moves whole albums. Her debut album, The Fame, has sold nearly five million copies in the U.S. alone and 15 million copies worldwide. The separately-released EP version of The Fame Monster moved 1.6 million copies in the U.S. and millions more worldwide. Born This Way has sold nearly 2.5 million copies in the U.S., and somewhere in the region of eight million copies worldwide. Her lowest-selling album, ARTPOP, has sold 2.3 million copies worldwide. In total, it is estimated that Gaga has sold north of 27 million albums across the globe in eight years.
How Lady Gaga Monster-Clawed Her Way Back to Cultural DominanceTo Honor Lady Gaga on Her 30th Birthday, a List of Her 30 Greatest Accomplishments
How Lady Gaga Monster-Clawed Her Way Back to Cultural Dominance
Is it 2010 again? Because it feels like 2010 again.
A few years ago, shortly after the release of Lady Gaga’s fourth album, ARTPOP, I was walking down the street, headed to some bar somewhere in Williamsburg with a couple of friends, when the conversation turned, as it often does amongst my pop-loving coterie, to Mother Monster herself. “Do you think she’ll ever be as big as she was a few years ago?” my friend asked, our boots pounding out a deadened beat as we made our way down the cold December pavement. At the time, we were living in the wake of Tsunami ARTPOP : middling reviews, stalled singles,walls crumbling behind the scenes, competition once thought of as cheap imitation rising effortlessly above the wreckage. To continue reading, please click here…
Lady Gaga's 10 Best Music VideosTo Honor Lady Gaga on Her 30th Birthday, a List of Her 30 Greatest Accomplishments
Lady Gaga's 10 Best Music Videos
1) “Bad Romance (2009)
2) “Telephone” (Feat. Beyoncé) (2010)
3) “Paparazzi” (2009)
4) “Born This Way” (2011)
5) “Applause” (2013)
6) “Poker Face” (2008)
7) “Judas” (2011)
8) “Alejandro” (2010)
9) “Marry the Night” (2011)
10) “G.U.Y.” (2014)
In Defense of Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’To Honor Lady Gaga on Her 30th Birthday, a List of Her 30 Greatest Accomplishments
In Defense of Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’
On this day two years ago, Gaga released her fourth album, ARTPOP. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart; spawned a triple-platinum, Top 5 single (and two other minor hits); and became, if perhaps for the wrong reasons, a cultural talking point. And yet, it is considered by many, if not most, to be one of the most notorious flops of the digital era. To continue reading, click here…
One Million in One Week? No Problem
Gaga’s third album, Born This Way, debuted at No. 1 on the Album 200 with sales of 1.1 million. At the time and over the years, many tried to discredit this achievement by referring to the fact that Amazon sold the digital version of the standard album for $0.99 for two days during its first week out. But given that we now live in an era during which artists give their albums away for free and then say they’re platinum — and more importantly, given Billboard’s official ruling — it counts. You will deal. (Even without the Amazon deal, Born This Way sold nearly 700,000 copies that week. Nothing to sneeze at.) Other artists in the Million-Seller Club include Adele, Britney Spears, Eminem, and Taylor Swift.
A Tour De Force
A hit on the singles charts, the album charts, and on the road: The Monster Ball Tour brought in $228 million in its year-and-a-half run, while The Born This Way Ball made $183 million despite being cut short due to Gaga’s hip injury. Despite a less-than-stellar album campaign, ArtRave: The ARTPOP Ball Tour managed to gross $83 million. Chuck in the $15 million made on the Cheek to Cheek Tour with Tony Bennet, and Gaga has earned more than $500 million while touring since 2009. Incredible.
Speaking of Tony Bennett…
Every album Gaga’s released since Born This Way has debuted at No. 1 on the Album 200 chart, and that’s including Cheek to Cheek, her 2014 collection of jazz standards recorded with the legendary Tony Bennett. Cheek to Cheek sold 131,000 copies its first week of release, and that’s pure sales, ya hear? (Streaming was not yet factored into the album chart calculations.) For comparison (and no shade), Rihanna’s ANTI moved 124,000 pure sales units its first full week of release.
Get Those Grammys
Gaga won her first two Grammy awards in 2010 for The Fame (Best Electronic/Dance Album) and “Poker Face” (Best Dance Recording). The following year, she collected three more Grammy statuettes for “Bad Romance” (Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video) and The Fame Monster (Best Pop Vocal Album). Her most recent Grammy win (her sixth overall) came just last year, when she and Tony Bennett scooped the award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Cheek to Cheek.
Modern Queen of the Music Video (Awards)
In just eight years, Lady Gaga has taken home 13 MTV Video Music Awards, putting her in all-time third place behind Madonna (20 Moonmen) and Beyoncé (15 Moonmen). This is not surprising considering how much thought and work Gaga puts into her videos. Videos like “Bad Romance” and “Telephone” became instant phenomenons (and instant classics) upon release. Videos like “Born This Way” and “Judas” continued to push her aesthetic to weird, interesting places while remaining popular with fans. “Applause” gave us many memorable images (like SwanGa, for instance). Even her clip for the Fame fragrance — an advertisement, essentially — raised the bar, tested the boundaries of the medium. The influence of her videos has been felt in a broad sense since “Paparazzi” and can be seen in everything from Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora’s “Black Widow” to Christina Aguilera’s “Not Myself Tonight” to Beyoncé‘s “Run the World (Girls).”
And her VMAs legacy isn’t just tied to her wins. Many of Gaga’s most iconic performances took place on the VMAs stage: a bloody “Paparazzi” in 2009, Gaga-as-male-alter-ego-Jo-Calderone doing “Yoü and I” in 2011, and the self-referencing “Applause” in 2013.
Take a deep breath, because that’s not all. Several of Gaga’s most well-known style moments occurred during a VMA telecast. The meat dress. The red lace crown. The bird’s nest headpiece. Slay, slay, slay, all day, all day, all day.
And the List (of Awards) Goes On (and On)
In total, Gaga has won nearly 200 awards and been nominated for nearly 450. A nowhere-near-comprehensive list of her wins include a Golden Globe, two GLAAD Media Awards, a Glamour Award, a CDFA Fashion Award, three Brit Awards, 13 BMI Awards, two Billboard Women in Music Awards, Billboard Touring Awards, Billboard Music Awards, an American Music Award, 12 Guinness World Records, eight MTV Europe Music Awards, six NME Awards, three People’s Choice Awards, a Songwriters Hall of Fame Award, a Trevor Project Award, 12 Virgin Media Music Awards, a Webby, and nine World Music Awards.
She has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, Kid’s Choice Awards, a Stonewall Award, and many, many, many others.
Queen of Performing for Queens and Presidents
Gaga has performed for a range of important world leaders. In 2009, she performed a beautiful version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” for Barack Obama. She also performed for President Bill Clinton in 2011 during a benefit event celebrating 10 years of the Clinton Foundation. (She famously dropped the “F-Bomb” during her set.) In one of her most infamous performances, Gaga donned a red latex dress and sang “Speechless” atop a 20-foot-tall piano for Queen Elizabeth.
The Love of Legends
Over the course of her career, Gaga has earned praise from countless legends, many of whom were personal influences on the Lady herself. The list includes (but is not limited to): Barbara Streisand, Oprah, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Janet Jackson, Cher, Shirley Manson, Björk, PJ Harvey, Brian May (of Queen), Julie Andrews, Alexander McQueen, Snoop Dogg, Debbie Harry, Paul McCartney, Donatella Versace, Steven Tyler, Elton John, Toni Braxton, Nicki Minaj, Marina Abromovic, Giorgio Moroder, Yoko Ono, Courtney Love, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Eminem, Grace Slick, John Mayer, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Sting, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeff Koons, Justin Timberlake, the Kardashians, and many, many more. Even Grace Jones and Madonna have had nice things to say when they aren’t too busy trying to score easy headlines.
“She’s a good friend and I respect that she’s so creative, that every day she changes, she has so many ideas and carries them out. She just never stops with it. I call her the musical Picasso. Her energy is just phenomenal.” – Tony Bennett
And Not Just a Few Legendary Collaborations
Praise is all well and good, but what’s even better? A co-sign in the form of a collaboration. Already in her short career, Gaga has worked with a staggering number of icons in music, fashion, acting, and art. These include collaborations with Elton John, Cher, Yoko Ono, Sting, Debbie Harry, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Alexander McQueen, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Murphy, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Steven Klein, Francis Lawrence, Robert Rodriguez, Hedi Slimane, Ruth Hogben, Thierry Mugler, Tony Bennett, Nile Rodgers, Diane Warren, Mark Ronson, and many more.
Her Legendary Influence
Gaga wears her influences on her sleeve — and in the case of David Bowie, she wears his influence on her body as a tattoo — but she is herself an influence to many. Beginning in 2008, her constantly evolving and unique style inspired contemporaries like Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and many others to begin experimenting with more avant-garde fashion and surreal imagery, both on the red carpet and in their art. Her music, popular as it was, inspired other artists to push their sound closer to four-on-the-floor dance music, a trend which became inescapable for several years after “Just Dance.”
The Next Generation
And then there are the more recent breakout stars and up-and-comers whose music, style, and work ethic Gaga has influenced. To name but a few: Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Nick Jonas, Willow Smith, Steve Grande, Semi Precious Weapons (a band fronted by Justin Tranter who is now a highly sought-after songwriter), and others have all explicitly cited Gaga as an influence on their craft.
A Legacy Beyond Humanity
Gaga’s influence is not just limited to people like you and me. A new genus of ferns (Gaga) and two species (G. germanotta and G. monstraparva) were named after the legendary artist in question. Gagadon, an extinct mammal, also takes its name, obviously, from Gaga, as does the Aleiodes gaga, a parasitic wasp. Queen of parasitic wasps and ferns!
Creator of Lasting Images
Hair bows. Disco sticks. Dresses made of meat. Monster claws. Egg-shaped alien vessels. Flying dresses. Telephone hats and lobster headpieces. Giant red gloves paired with a custom couture structured white gown. For eight years, one of Gaga’s great gifts to pop culture has been her ability to constantly create fantastic, indelible images that challenge the banality of everyday life.
Speaking of the countless memorable looks Gaga has given fans over the years, many were spawned from the glossy covers of your favorite high-fashion magazines. Gaga has covered Vogue Magazine several times, including a stint on the notorious “September Issue” in 2012. She has also been featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Out, The Advocate, Glamour, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and and just about a million others. Most recently, she featured on several covers for the 99th issue of V Magazine, an issue that she edited herself. #V99 was published with a record-breaking 16 covers, and that feat earned Gaga the Editor of the Year award at the 2016 Daily’s Fashion Los Angeles Awards.
And Queen of Memes
She’s Italian, guys! From the start, Gaga has been an inspiration to creative fans and internet remixers. Her early outrageous styles became memetic to the point that she began selling officially-licensed versions of her most iconic outfits as Halloween costumes. (She was one of the most popular Halloween costumes in 2009 and 2010.) Videos like “Bad Romance” and “Telephone” spawned more memes, covers, and fan remixes than you could shake a disco stick at. Have you ever screamed, “Yaaaasssss! You look so good!“? You have Gaga(‘s fans) to thank for that. Also, did you know that she’s Italian?
Hall of Fame-Level Songwriter
Gaga writes or co-writes all of her own music, which is not something all popular acts can claim. And you can tell: all of Gaga’s music has a voice, and it’s her voice, not the voice of 11 songwriters working together in a room to bang out the perfect radio-ready chorus. Her songwriting has been praised by peers, critics, fans, and many professionals within the music industry. In fact, just last year she collected the Songwriters Hall of Fame Contemporary Icon Award. And not only does Gaga write for herself, but she has contributed songs to artists like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Adam Lambert, Pussycat Dolls, and New Kids on the Block.
The Endless List of Iconic Performances…
More than any of her contemporaries — referring specifically to artists who broke around the same time she did, in the mid-to-late 2000s — Gaga has made a name for herself as a show-stopping performer. From the spectacle of her world tours to her sometimes-shocking, usually-innovative, and always-entertaining performances for award shows, Gaga has worked consistently to prove she is one of the best performers of her generation. (Or, I’ll just say it: the best!) “Paparazzi” at the VMAs, Gaga bleeding out on stage? You remember it. An ash-and-soot-covered Mother Monster hammering away at the piano across from Elton John at the 2010 Grammys? Iconic. AlienGa emerging from a vessel in skin-colored latex for a choreographically-perfect “Born This Way” at the 2011 Grammys? Yeah, that happened. Gaga dressed as her male alter-ego Jo Calderone at the 2011 VMAs? You know the one. Gaga getting puked on by performance artist Millie Brown at SXSW in 2014? You might not have liked it, but you remember it. Gaga singing a pitch-perfect medley of songs from The Sound of Music at the Oscars? You recall your jaw hitting the floor. Gaga’s eardrum-shattering covers of “Bang Bang” and “La Vie En Rose” during the Cheek to Cheek Tour? They went viral, so don’t act like you weren’t refreshing the YouTube page 10 times an hour. Nailing the national anthem at the 2016 Super Bowl? Don’t pretend like you weren’t screaming “YAAAASSS!” at your TV. Should I keep going?
… Culminating in an Historic Run of Slays at the Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Oscars
Gaga is the only artist in history to perform at the Super Bowl, the Grammys, and the Oscars all within a single month. That’s right: in just 28 days, Gaga performed on the three biggest international stages on which an artist can perform, and each performance was a mini-reinvention. Guess what? She nailed it not once, not twice, but all three times. Relive Gaga’s historic February ’16 below.
Lady Gaga Sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50To Honor Lady Gaga on Her 30th Birthday, a List of Her 30 Greatest Accomplishments
Lady Gaga Sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50
Lady Gaga nails “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick of Super Bowl 50. Watch below. (And watch out for the high notes!)
Lady Gaga's David Bowie TributeTo Honor Lady Gaga on Her 30th Birthday, a List of Her 30 Greatest Accomplishments
Lady Gaga's David Bowie Tribute
Lady Gaga performs a seven-minute medley of David Bowie songs during the 58th GRAMMYs.
Lady Gaga's Emotional 'Til It Happens to You' Oscars PerformanceTo Honor Lady Gaga on Her 30th Birthday, a List of Her 30 Greatest Accomplishments
Lady Gaga's Emotional 'Til It Happens to You' Oscars Performance
Lady Gaga brought the house down with this emotional rendition of the Oscar-nominated “Til It Happens to You.” At the end of her performance, victims of sexual assault joined her on stage.
Born to Make a Difference
Gaga’s political and personal beliefs have been integral to her art since the beginning. She has long advocated for LGBT rights, women’s rights, artists’ rights, promoting healthy body image, and other important issues. A lot of her music — especially on Born This Way and ARTPOP — features an overt political or social message. She works to stop online bullying and harassment. She has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations like The Elton John AIDS Foundation, Red Cross, MAC AIDS Fund, the Lupus Foundation of America, The Trevor Project, and others. In 2012, she launched the Born This Way Foundation, the mission statement of which is as follows:
Born This Way Foundation is committed to supporting the wellness of young people, and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world. We achieve this by shining a light on real people, quality research and authentic partnerships.
An Advocate for Kesha and Survivors Everywhere
Of the many stars who have come forward in support of Kesha, who is currently embroiled in a nightmarish legal battle against producer Dr. Luke and Sony Music over the future of her career, Gaga has been the most vocal. Gaga has tweeted, Instagrammed, and Facebooked messages of support and shared articles about the complexities of Kesha’s dire reality (and the dire reality of female musicians in general). She has given press interviews and radio interviews. She has met with Kesha personally to discuss the situation. She has done all of it with the goal of shedding light on an all-too-common problems women in the music industry face and with the hope that if enough people shout loudly enough, Kesha and other survivors will at last see justice.
Her support for survivors of sexual assault and abuse doesn’t end with Kesha, either. For her performance of “Til It Happens to You” — the song itself a statement about the emotional and physical damage caused by assault — at the 2016 Academy Awards, Gaga brought 52 survivors of sexual assault onto the stage with her. She later got a “survivor” tattoo to match with and honor some of her brave collaborators.
A Fierce Fighter for Gay Rights
Of course, you can’t mention Gaga’s advocacy and not mention her nearly decade-long fight for gay rights. Gaga has been the single most outspoken pop star of her generation on issues relating to the LGBT community. She rallied against Proposition 8 in 2009. At the National Equality March in 2009, she delivered an urgent, passionate speech asking politicians to listen and to make changes. She brought as her dates to the 2010 VMAs soldiers who had been discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a law which she urged politicians to repeal. She asked fans and followers to call their congressman and act to make change. She called on the Supreme Court to end the Defense of Marriage Act. She kicked off New York City’s Pride weekend in 2013. She rejoiced when gay marriage was made legal nationwide in 2015. She wrote songs about equality, brought the words “gay,” “transgender,” “bi,” and “lesbian” to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. In short, she’s been a focused and tireless warrior, and that’s on her days off.
Promoting Online (and Real-Life) Kindness
It is worth noting that everything Gaga has accomplished — and if you’re still reading this, you know she’s accomplished a f***ing lot — she has accomplished by behaving kindly towards others: peers, fans, critics, and detractors. While your other favs keep busy by starting Twitter wars with one another and slagging off the competition in magazines, Gaga has remained steadfastly positive, generally sticking to the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” mantra. (With, of course, a few minor exceptions.) She has always asked her fans to follow her example and treat others with kindness and understanding. (That we sometimes don’t is obviously not on her.)
Every bit of me is devoted to love and art. And I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just like I felt when I was younger. I just felt like a freak. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m trying to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world. – Lady Gaga
Manifesto of Little Monsters
And speaking of Gaga’s fans, her Little Monsters: we are a separate legacy in and of ourselves. Near the beginning of her pop career, Gaga said she wanted to bring the “super-fan” back, and she’s more than succeeded in accomplishing just that. In many ways, Little Monsters set the template — for better and for worse — for many of today’s superstar fan bases: passionate, fiercely loyal, highly creative, and powerful beyond belief. For Gaga and her fans, it’s a symbiotic relationship: she fuels our passions and creativity, and we return that to her, or so she claims, anyway. For eight years, as much as she could manage, she has responded to fans, invited us backstage, played us unreleased tracks, written songs about us, shared our art, provided us with words of encouragement and advice, and generally tried her best to reciprocate our support.
Personal Life On Fleek
With all of her world-conquering and non-stop slayage, it would be easy to assume that Gaga has not made time to create a life for herself in which she is a happy, fully-realized human being. (An act not to be underrated.) But in fact the opposite is true. In 2015, she said yes to hunky actor Taylor Kinney when he asked her to marry him. The two have been dating since 2011, when they met on the set of her “Yoü and I” video. Gaga and Kinney are proud dog parents to two obscenely adorable French bulldogs, Asia and Koji. And mommy’s fame appears to have rubbed off on Asia, who is a magazine cover and brand model several times over. (Asia also has more social media followers than you and your friends combined. Her #imPAWct.)
28 Down, and We Still Haven’t Covered It All
But Gaga is even more than all of those things I’ve touched on above. She is a businesswoman, a social media maven — the Original Twitter Queen! — a motivational speaker, a provocateur, a director, a producer, a writer, a muse, and, oh yes, an actress.
The Most Impressive Accomplishment of All
Over the course of eight years, Gaga has been many things. A pop star. A rock star. A jazz star. An actress. A businesswoman. A philanthropist. A fashion icon. She has done all of these things and more; she has lived all of her many lives with passion. And she has done so convincingly and to the benefit of her fans and the world at large. Given her history of reinvention and revolution, it seems likely that her greatest accomplishment is the hope — the promise, in fact — that her real greatest achievements are yet to come.