Everyone has their idols growing up. From classic rock, hip-hop, country, and pop, people latch on to celebrities for a variety of reasons. For almost ten years now, I have been a major fan of Lady Gaga. Watching her go from relative obscurity to pop-culture phenomenon throughout the years has been nothing short of fascinating. Gaga has achieved several awards, acclaim and pop-culture mishaps over her years. Here are 10 instances (good and bad) of major pop-culture moments she's curated:
1. Just Dance hitting #1 on Billboard Hot 100
To the general public, this was her beginning. For fans, this was a long-awaited triumph. Just Dance spent five cumulative months on the Billboard Hot 100 before reaching the top spot. It was well-earned and fans couldn't help but contain that their queen was getting the attention she deserved. Just Dance ended up selling over 10 million copies worldwide, and fans clamored for her to be more than a one-hit wonder.
2. Poker Face hitting #1 on Billboard Hot 100
Fans had their prayers answered just a mere three months later. Poker Face rocketed to the top of Billboard Hot 100 after the success of Just Dance.
Poker Face went on to become a pop-culture phenomenon (and to this day, a song that is the most synonymous with her career). It was the best-selling single of 2009 and sold 14 million worldwide. It also pushed her to be the first artist to have their first two singles become diamond certified.To her fans, however, this song has always carried a deeper meaning.
It lamented her into modern pop-culture, pushing her past the one-hit-wonder curse due to her explosive internet presence. More importantly, however, it laid the groundwork for Gaga's platform. Poker Face is her subtle anthem for bisexuality. Gaga's openness to the subject was rarely seen back in 2009, and it garnered her LGBTQIA+ across the globe and led to many fans being inspired by her work to promote the "outsiders" in the world.
3. Her 2009 VMA Performance
In August 2009, Gaga's career was still getting started. With two smash singles and a growing taste in bizarre fashion, Gaga emboldened herself as an artist to keep a look-out for. While she performed several times before the 2009 VMA show, this was arguably her first major TV show performance, with millions of eyes at home glued to the screen.
Not much was known about her performance art or vocal ability before this to the general public, but she delivered. The theatrical performance showcased her dancing and vocal abilities, as well as one of the most shocking climaxes: Gaga "bleeding" and "killing herself" on stage. Critics lauded the performance for its originality and in 2017, Billboard ranked it as the fifth best award show performance of all time. This moment was especially special for her fans.
It continued her strong momentum in the public eye, she kept growing, not looking behind. She could've gone a safer route and performed her singles, but she dared to experiment and it paid off. Gaga now was becoming a household name and people around the world began recognizing her talent. Although it was eclipsed by the famous Kanye West and Taylor Swift incident, the simple fact Gaga stunned millions really proved that talent won.
4. Bad Romance hitting 100 million views on YouTube
Gaga ushered in the era of celebrities earning huge followings on social media.
She was the most "liked" on Facebook, most followed on Twitter and quickly became the most viewed on YouTube. Bad Romance was the crowning achievement when it hit 100 million views, and pushed her to be the first artist to have a billion combined views. While those numbers may seem puny today, it was nothing short of miraculous back in 2010.
Fans alike were stunned at how much Gaga has grown in just a years time -- no one could have predicted her "takeover" of culture. Subsequent videos, performances, fashion, and statements were all media-driven events and she commanded attention like no other celebrity had in years.
Fans ultimately wondered if/when she could be overexposed, and when her first major controversy (rumors of her being male put aside) would come.
5. The Meat Dress
Arguably her most famous and jaw-dropping moment, the meat dress was instantly solidified in history the night it was worn. In several ways, it was her first major controversy.
Gaga states that it was against Don't Ask, Don't tell -- but a majority of the public took it as a PR stunt.
Animal rights groups, such as PETA, were quick to slander the dress and remove any such sentimental meaning. In a lot of ways, the meaning of the dress ultimately doesn't matter. Gaga accepted the award for Video of the Year (for Bad Romance, nonetheless) and sang the chorus to her upcoming lead single, Born This Way. This was foreshadowing into the boldest single, and album era of the 21st century.
6. Born This Way (song) Release
A full five months after the VMAs, her heavily-hyped single Born This Way came out. The song was unprecedented for the time for its explicit support for LGBTQIA+ rights. It sold a million copies worldwide (on iTunes) in its first week, and led to the song being number one on Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks.
The song became a catalyst for many bold stunts for Gaga including risking arrest in Russia for "homosexual propaganda," her foray into American politics and a controversial lyric change to the national anthem, but all for support of LGBTQIA+ rights. This single-handedly brought in a lot of criticism and began a slow descent from her "Queen of Pop" status.
7. The Hip Injury
Flash-forward two years and Gaga was still on tour promoting her album Born This Way. The tour was extensive, huge and heavily praised. Gaga was overworked and exhausted. She didn't take time away from the tour and barely took care of her own health, which caused a labral tear of her right hip.
After a full year with no single, with her last two singles underperforming on the charts and no upcoming projects plus the cancellation of a handful of shows of The Born This Way Ball because of the hip, this was a devastating blow to her career and one she arguably never came back from.
8. Glorifying bulimia?
ARTPOP was an interesting era. The album left critics and fans divided about the EDM direction Gaga decided to take. After scrapping a controversial video for Do What U Want, the underperforming single G.U.Y, a failed app and a "feud" with Katy Perry over her lead single, the public wasn't paying attention to her much anymore. Gaga was branded a flop, over and redundant (although her sales said otherwise).
For the 2014 SXSW festival in Texas, she performed multiple songs for her album when she had a model intentionally consume a green substance, place their fingers in their mouth and vomit on Gaga herself. The performance was scrutinized on social media (and rightfully so) as many claimed it glorified bulimia and eating disorders in general.
It left a bad aftertaste with the public and furthered her even more from the spotlight. It's hard to defend her choices for the performance, and it just goes to show that every celebrity has moments where they cannot be defended.
9. American Horror Story Announcement
After quietly finishing her artRAVE tour, Gaga quietly slipped away from the public's eye and focused on a duet album with Tony Bennett. While she remained busy with an album cycle and an additional tour, she was largely hidden from pop culture.
This time was taken for her to figure out the direction she wanted to head with her career and get back some of the spirit she lost from the past couple years. In February 2015, instead of announcing a new pop album, she instead shocked longtime fans by announcing her role in the popular anthology, American Horror Story. This was a sharp turn on her career route and one that stuck. Gaga stayed in the franchise for two seasons, won a golden globe and landed the role for the upcoming movie, A Star is Born.
10. The 2017 Superbowl Halftime Show
Gaga returned to the pop-culture scene late in 2016 with the release of her fifth studio album, Joanne. Although her lead single, Perfect Illusion, underperformed, Gaga proved her comeback was not to be taken lightly.
The album debuted #1 on Billboard 200 and amassed critical acclaim and high sales. Shortly after its release, Gaga was announced to be the headliner of the 2017 Superbowl Halftime Show. The performance had 117.5 million viewers and received massive praise for her vocals, dancing, stunts (the memes too), and the message she portrayed. It was a good return to the mainstream.
Her album sales jumped over 1000% and her single, Million Reasons, climbed to the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
While all this proves she is not the pop culture tour-de-force she used to be, and her evolution from larger-than-life persona to a tamer pop-star was not always the best, the Superbowl was a reminder of why everyone fell in love with her in 2009: her talent.
Gaga's songs are uniquely catchy, her vocal versatility is unseen in the industry and her humbleness and acceptance for all are what made her famous in the first place. It was a reminder of what we had, but more importantly, it was a stepping stone to where she is going.