From Love Game to Stupid Love: Gaga’s twelve-year reign as Pop Queen

by Jacqueline Holloway

On 25 February, 2020, Lady Gaga teased her new single, Stupid Love, on Twitter and all the little monsters went crazy - but was it from joy or from outrage? Many believe that the sounds of the new single are uninventive and repetitive, and many stations have neglected to add it to their ‘hot & new’ playlists.

That same day, she announced the release date for her new album, Chromatica: 10 April 2020.

However, as a result of the current crisis surrounding COVID-19, she postponed the release date of the album, saying “This is such a hectic and scary time for all of us, and while I believe art is one the strongest things we have to provide joy and healing to each other during times like this, it just doesn't feel right to me to release this album with all that is going on during this global pandemic,” along with promises of setting a new date soon.

This decision is questionable, considering that other artists have released their albums despite the ongoing pandemic.

There have also been rumors that the postponement is related to the flop of her new single, Stupid Love, and that she wants to change the sound and dynamics of Chromatica. Whatever her motivation may be, there are many dedicated fans still waiting in suspense.

Gaga’s career has been a roller coaster of triumphant highs and shocking lows, and it’s interesting to speculate whether she can re-establish herself as a frontrunner on the pop scene.

In lieu of this, we’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane.

[ABOVE: The Fame era of fashion included Lady Gaga mainly in catsuits and latex.]

It all started when Lady Gaga signed with Interscope Records in 2007. The Fame was released the following year, and she announced her first ever headliner and world tour, The Fame Ball. The singles from the album included Just Dance, Beautiful, Dirty, Rich, Poker Face, Eh, Eh, Nothing Else I Can Say, Love Game, and Paparazzi.

In the music video of Just Dance, Gaga had a lightning bolt on her face, as a tribute to David Bowie. Just Dance spent 49 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, with a peak position of #1 on 17 January 2009. Her second single, Poker Face, put her on the map as a music artist.

Her fashion style in this music video included lots of catsuits and latex, as well as her signature ‘hair bow.’ Poker Face spent 40 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #1 on 11 April 2009. Paparazzi was the last single on The Fame album. It spent 27 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, with a peak position of #6 on 17 October 2009

In November 2009, the first ‘evolution’ of her career took place with the announcement of her second album release, The Fame Monster. During this era, Gaga established herself as an It girl of pop. The album dealt with the darker side of fame experienced by Gaga in 2008/09; the theme was expressed through a monster metaphor.

The Fame Monster’s other singles included Telephone (feat. Beyonce), Alejandro and Dance in the Dark. Gaga’s collaboration with Beyonce, arguably one of the biggest artists in the world, was a clear demonstration of her establishment as a significant artist in the world of pop.

[ABOVE: Cover photo for The Fame Monster, an album which was darker in tone and more gothic.]

Her choice of fashion evolved along with her music - she wore darker outfits that were inspired by different monsters and a variety of yellow wigs.

On 31 January, 2010, Gaga was the opening act for the 52nd Grammy Awards, performing Bad Romance. On 20 August, she became the most followed person on Twitter. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), Gaga won awards for eight categories, seven of which were for Bad Romance, and this is also where she wore her iconic meat dress.

[ABOVE: Lady’s Gaga iconic meat dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.]

She was the most nominated artist in the history of the VMAs within a single year and was also the first female artist to receive two nominations for the ‘Video of the Year’ category when both Bad Romance and Telephone were nominated. In one of these acceptance speeches, she teased Born This Way, the single on her new album.

The third album in Gaga’s career was Born This Way, released on 23 May 2011. At this point, she had established herself as a powerful force in the game, a future queen of pop. She became a household name, with appearance in practically every country, including her first ever appearance in India. Gaga changed her style to reflect the ‘rebirth’ theme with prosthetic horns and ridges on her forehead, cheekbones and shoulders. She won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Pop Vocal Album.’

This era was the peak of her career, with her first single, Born This Way, spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 with a peak position of #1. Although other singles were seen on the Billboard Hot 100, none of them reached the number one position. One exception was The Edge of Glory which had a close #2. Other singles included Judas, You and I, and Marry the Night.

[ABOVE: Album photoshoot for Born This Way, released on 23 May 2011.]

On 25 August 2013, she opened the MTV VMAs with Applause - the first televised performance of the single. Applause was scheduled to release on 19 August, but snippets were leaked online, thus it was released a week earlier, on 12 August. Her fourth album, Artpop, released on 11 November 2013. Just the day before, she held the launch party for her fourth world tour, artRAVE.

Although Applause saw quite a success, spending 23 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 with a peak position of #4, this era saw the gradual decline of her career as a pop icon. Gaga performed Do What U Want at the American Music Awards on 24 November 2013. This single, in collaboration with R.Kelly, was met with a lot of controversy.

This was as a result of the multiple sexual allegations made against R.Kelly, which he denied. Even though Gaga overlooked these allegations at first, she did eventually respond with a statement on social media, saying, “As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and video at a dark time in my life,“ to which she added, ”My intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn’t processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life.”

During this time she co-wrote a song with Diane Warren for the 2015 movie, ‘The Hunting Ground,’ called Til It Happens To You, which makes a commentary on campus rape in the U.S. The soundtrack won many awards, including a Grammy for ‘Best Song Written for Visual Media.’

[ABOVE: Artpop album art, one of Gaga’s personal favourite albums.]

After the final concert for artRAVE, Gaga took one of the biggest breaks of her career. The break concluded with the announcement of the single, Perfect Illusion, on 17 August 2016. A year later, she debuted her Joanne world tour.

[ABOVE: Joanna world tour was cancelled on 2 February 2018, due to Gaga’s severe experiences of muscle pain from her fibromyalgia.]

The album was released two months later on 21 October. The Joanne era of Gaga’s music saw a transformation in her approach to her career; one in which she desired to be taken more seriously as a music artist, and not just to be seen as a ‘pop diva.’

One of her singles, Million Reasons, was a reflection on her emotions after her break up with actor, Taylor Kinney. Coinciding with the release of Joanne was the Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, released on 8 September 2017, as tactical controlled exposure for her and the album. She performed this single at the AMAs and the SuperBowl - it also stayed for 20 weeks with a peak position of #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gaga was also nominated for two Grammys - ‘Best Pop Solo Performance’ and ‘Best Pop Vocal Album.’

In October 2018, she was set to star in the film, A Star Is Born. Her starring role in this movie was another reflection of her desires to be taken seriously. One of the singles on the soundtrack, Shallow, spent 45 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 with a #1 peak.

That brings us to where we are today, impatiently awaiting the release of Chromatica after twelve years of iconic pop music and cutting edge looks. After her absence from the pop scene in the last few years, will Chromatica be a refreshing release or a daunting disappointment that reflects the end of her reign as pop queen? It’s difficult to tell.

After the failure of her new single, Stupid Love, which many fans thought was simply a demo from past recording sessions, and the postponement of Chromatica as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, only time will tell what Gaga’s fortune will be.

[ABOVE: The world waits in suspense for 10 April 2020, the release date for Chromatica.]

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