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Lady Gaga performing in The Fame Ball Tour.
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
March 28, 1986 (1986-03-28) (age 23)
Yonkers, New York, United States
Singer-songwriter, musician, DJ, Go-Go dancer
Vocals, piano, synthesizer
Def Jam (2007 - 2008)Interscope (2008 - present), Kon Live, Streamline, Cherrytree
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), who performs under the stage name Lady Gaga, is an American singer-songwriter, performance artist, dancer and musician. She began her career as a songwriter for established artists, including Fergie, Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears and New Kids on the Block, as well as American singer and producer Akon. After Akon recognized that Gaga also had vocal talent, he signed her to a joint deal with his own label, Kon Live Distribution, and then she started to work on her own new material for her debut album.
Gaga released her debut album The Fame in 2008, which she explained was "about how anyone can feel famous". To date, the album has spawned the international number one hit singles "Just Dance" (nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 51st Grammy Awards) and "Poker Face". Gaga has been influenced by glam rockers such as David Bowie and Queen as well as pop singers like Michael Jackson and Madonna.
Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in Yonkers, New York, to Joseph Germanotta, an internet entrepreneur and his wife Cynthia, a telecommunications assistant. both of whom are Italian Americans. As a child, she attended the private Catholic school Convent of the Sacred Heart. Having learned piano by ear at the age of four, Gaga went on to write her first piano ballad at 13 and began performing at open mic nights by the age of 14. At the age of seventeen she gained early admission to the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied music. She honed her writing skills by composing essays and analytical papers focusing on topics such as art, religion and socio-political order. However, she withdrew from New York University. At age 20, she began working for Interscope Records as a songwriter, penning songs for pop acts such as the Pussycat Dolls. After she moved out of her parents' house, Gaga started performing downtown, in the Lower East Side club scene with bands Mackin Pulsifer and SGBand. Wanting to differentiate herself from the rock and roll typical of the scene, she chose to focus instead on pop music. Speaking to her father's reaction to her drug use and performance in burlesque shows, "He couldn't look at me for a few months...I was in leather thongs, so it was hard for him—he just didn't understand."
Gaga got her stage name when the music producer Rob Fusari compared her vocal style to that of Freddie Mercury, and took the name Gaga from the 1984 Queen single "Radio Ga-Ga". It was Fusari who helped her to write some of her early hits, including "Disco Heaven", "Dirty Ice Cream", and "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich".
2007: Career beginnings
Gaga was originally signed to Def Jam when she was 19 years old; it happened after the record executive L. A. Reid heard her singing down the hallway from his office. However Gaga states Reid never met with her. "I used to wait outside his office for hours, hoping he'd take meetings with me about my songs, but it never happened." Reid dropped Gaga from the label after three months.
Lady Gaga (left) and Lady Starlight at their weekly party New York Street Revival and Trash Dance.
She was spotted a couple of years later by the music executive Vincent Herbert and signed to Interscope in January 2008. Impressed by her ear for melody and knack for spotting a great hook, various acts (Akon's Konvict label, as well as Fergie, Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears and New Kids on the Block) have hired her as a songwriter. Gaga also sparked the interest of Interscope's Chairman Jimmy Iovine in early 2007. He offered her a label deal via Streamline/Interscope and partnered her with singer-songwriter Akon. It was Akon, who, upon hearing her sing a reference vocal for one of his tracks, recognized that Gaga also had vocal talent. Akon ultimately convinced Jimmy Iovine to sign her to a joint deal with his own label, Kon Live Distribution.
Throughout 2007, Lady Gaga collaborated with the similarly named Lower East Side Rock DJ, go-go dancer and performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped Gaga create her onstage fashions. The pair began playing gigs at downtown club venues like Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and Rockwood Music Hall, with their live performance art piece, "Lady Gaga and The Starlight Revue". Billed as "The Ultimate Pop Burlesque RockShow", their act was a low-fi tribute to 1970's variety acts. In August 2007, Lady Gaga and The Starlight Revue were invited to play at American music festival Lollapalooza, where they shocked audiences with their wild performance. The show was critically acclaimed and their performance received rave reviews.
Having initially focused on avant-garde, electronic dance music, Gaga found her musical niche when she began to incorporate pop melodies and the vintage glam-rock of David Bowie and Queen into the mix. "Queen and David Bowie were the key for me...I didn't know what to do until I discovered Bowie and Queen", Gaga says. "When I was playing the New York rock clubs, a lot of record labels thought I was too theatrical. Then, when I auditioned for stage musicals, the producers said I was too pop."
It was through her affiliation with Akon that Gaga started to work on her own new material for her debut album with producer RedOne. Already having a solid selection of electro-glam, David Bowie-esque, Queen inspired songs, Gaga wanted to mix her retro dance beats with urban melodies, a pop chorus and still retain a rock 'n' roll edge. The first song they produced was a mash-up of Mtley Cre's hit "Girls, Girls, Girls" and AC/DC's "T.N.T.."
2008–present: The Fame
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By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles, working closely with her record label to finalize her debut album The Fame. "The Fame is about how anyone can feel famous," she explains. "Pop culture is art. It doesn't make you cool to hate pop culture, so I embraced it and you hear it all over The Fame. But, it's a sharable fame. I want to invite you all to the party. I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle." For this album, Gaga also stated she "married" a lot of different genres: "from Def Leppard drums and handclaps to metal drums on urban tracks." Gaga started to work with a collective called the "Haus of Gaga," who collaborate with their muse on clothing, stage sets and sounds. "In this industry, you get a lot of stylists and producers thrown at you, but this is my own creative team, modeled on Warhol's Factory. Everyone is under 26 and we do everything together." The Fame received mostly positive reviews from critics, according to the music review aggregation of Metacritic, it has received an average score of seventy-one out of hundred. Times Online described the album as "a fantastic mix of Bowie-esque ballads, dramatic, Queen-inspired midtempo numbers and synth-based dance tracks that poke fun at celebrity-chasing rich kids." The album's lead single, "Just Dance", was released on April 8, 2008 and has reached number one in seven countries. One of those countries was the United States, where "Just Dance" started to receive radio airplay in October, and hit number one in 2009, becoming Gaga's first US number-one single. The second single, "Poker Face", was released on September 29, 2008 and has reached number one in nearly twenty countries, including almost all major music markets in the world. "Poker Face" became Gaga's second consecutive number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2009.