Of all the major female artists to have emerged in the twenty-first century Lady Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) is perhaps the most intriguing. Playing the piano at four years old she attended an all-girls Roman Catholic School in Manhattan and continued her love of music by performing in school musical and theatre productions as well as singing at open mic nights. Her first professional engagement was an uncredited role in the US TV show The Sopranos, and after graduation she gained early entry to the musical theatre-training conservatory, the Collaborative Arts Project 21. Aged nineteen she quit CAP21 to pursue a music career and after collaborating with Grandmaster Melle Mel she formed the Stefani Germanotta Band to play gigs around New York. The band cut a couple of EP's but when she started a relationship with songwriter/producer Rob Fusari (who had written and produced for Destiny's Child, Whitney Houston and Will Smith) she folded the band and started co-writing songs with him. A huge fan of Freddie Mercury she chose the name Lady Gaga after the Queen song 'Radio Ga Ga' and soon after signed to Def Jam Records although she was dropped within three months.
With no deal and her relationship with Fusari also at an end she met New York performance artist Lady Starlight (Colleen Martin) who helped her craft her costumes and stage persona and with a mixture of pop, rock and burlesque the duo made an appearance as Lady Gaga & The Starlight Revue at the Lollapalooza music festival in August 2007. She secured a position as a songwriter at Interscope Records but when R&B artist Akon heard her singing, he convinced legendary producer and head of the company Jimmy Iovine to co-sign her to both Interscope and his own Kon Live label. Lady Gaga also started writing with songwriter and producer RedOne and the resulting debut single 'Just Dance' (featuring Colby O'Donis), released in April 2008 was an international multi-platinum smash, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and with sales in excess of ten million copies became one of the best selling singles of all time. A few months later her debut album The Fame hit the shops and peaked in the number one spot around the World although it stalled at No 2 in the USA despite selling more than four and a half million copies. Total worldwide sales for the record were in excess of a staggering fifteen million copies while the subsequent single 'Poker Face' topped the charts in eighteen countries including the USA and the UK and with more than fourteen million copies sold worldwide became the second of her singles to feature in the all time best selling list. Lady Gaga kept her presence on the charts with the singles 'Paparazzi', 'LoveGame' and her featured appearance on Wale's 'Chillin'' before releasing the eight track The Fame Monster EP in 2009 which yielded more UK chart toppers with 'Bad Romance' and 'Telephone' (featuring Beyoncé). After performing 'Poker Face' and duetting with Elton John on a mash-up of 'Speechless' and 'Your Song' at the Grammy Awards ceremony in January 2010 The Fame received a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronica Album while 'Poker Face' won Best Dance Recording.
Two headlining world treks; The Fame Ball Tour and The Monster Ball Tour kept her busy for more than two years with a gap of almost three years between her debut album and the follow-up Born This Way which made its debut in May 2011. Another massive seller the record topped the charts in no fewer than two dozen countries, sold in excess of six million copies worldwide and yielded more platinum selling hits with 'Born This Way', 'Judas', 'The Edge Of Glory' and 'You And I'. Broadening her appeal and unashamedly showing her influences the album featured performances from Queen's Brian May on guitar, a saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E Street band and one track produced by Robert John 'Mutt' Lange (Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, AC/DC etc.) She recorded 'The Lady Is A Tramp' with the legendary Tony Bennett and having already performed live with Elton John at the Grammy Awards she teamed-up with him to duet on 'Hello Hello' for the 2011 animated movie Gnomeo & Juliet. Her third album Artpop was released late in 2013 and although it failed to emulate the sales of previous records it still topped the US and UK charts and provided the hits 'Applause' and 'Do What U Want' (featuring R. Kelly). In less than six years Lady Gaga established herself as one of the most popular and commercially successful performers in the world with more than twenty-seven million albums and one hundred and twenty-five million singles sold. She has received dozens of awards including five Grammy's, three BRIT's, twelve BMI's, thirteen MTV Video Music Awards, eight MTV Europe Music Awards, five MTV Japan Music Awards, five World Music Awards, one Emmy and an American Music Award.
Much has been made of her appropriating the look and musical styling from a number of artists but particularly Madonna and David Bowie both of whom are known for their own magpie tendencies. Exceptionally innovative there are few areas of music that she hasn't taken inspiration from; glam rock, rock, pop, synth-pop, euro-pop, dance, R&B and even country influences feature throughout her songs and she effortlessly blends them to create something unique and wholly her own. Similarly her look and breathtaking stage shows draw on everything and everyone from Madonna and Michael Jackson to burlesque and the golden age of Hollywood. Everything about her career from her outrageous persona and controversial fashions and videos are calculated to provoke attention but behind the image is a real singer and songwriter of immense talent. While the new millennium has created many phenomenally successful pop stars there are few who have had the profound effect on the music business that Lady Gaga has achieved.
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