Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American recording artist. She began playing in clubs in the New York City area while also working at Interscope Records as a songwriter for several established acts, including Akon who, after hearing Gaga sing, convinced Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine to sign her to a joint deal with the label and Akon's Kon Live Distribution label.
She began working with a collective called the Haus of Gaga in 2008, and released her debut album The Fame in August of the same year. The album peaked at number one in countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada, and topped the Billboard Top Electronic Albums chart in the United States. To date, the album has spawned the international number one singles "Just Dance" (nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 51st Grammy Awards) and "Poker Face." After opening for New Kids on the Block and the Pussycat Dolls, Gaga headlined her first tour, The Fame Ball Tour.
Musically, she is inspired by glam rockers such as David Bowie and Queen, as well as pop singers such as Michael Jackson and Madonna.
Gaga was born in Yonkers, New York as the eldest child to Italian American parents Joseph, an Internet entrepreneur, and Cynthia Germanotta, a telecommunications assistant. By the time she was eleven, Gaga was set to join Juilliard School in Manhattan, but instead attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school. Having learned piano at the age of four, Gaga went on to write her first piano ballad at thirteen and began performing at open mic nights by the age of fourteen. At the age of seventeen, she gained early admission to the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. There, she studied music and improved her songwriting skills by composing essays and analytical papers focusing on topics such as art, religion, and socio-political order. Gaga later withdrew from the school.
Grayscale image of two young women standing side-by-side. The woman on the right is blond and wears a leotard while tilting her head back. She keeps her body straight and holds her waist with her left hand. The other woman is a brunette. She stands facing the blond woman. Her hands are raised up to her head with her fingers spread. She wears a silk robe that comes up to her knees. Her face has a hint of smile.
Gaga signed with Def Jam Records when she was nineteen years old, after record executive L. A. Reid heard her singing down the hallway from his office. However, she claims Reid never met with her, and after three months, she was dropped from the label. She moved out of her parents' house and started performing downtown in the Lower East Side club scene, with bands Mackin Pulsifer and SGBand. Wanting to differentiate herself from the prevalent rock and roll scene, she chose to focus on pop music. Around the same time, she started taking drugs and performing at burlesque shows; Gaga said her father "just didn't understand" it, and that he could not look at her for several months. One day, music producer Rob Fusari, who helped Gaga write some of her earlier songs, compared her vocal style to that of Freddie Mercury. He nicknamed her Gaga, after the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga." She began to use it as her stage name and was known thereafter as Lady Gaga.
Throughout 2007, Gaga collaborated with performance artist Lady Starlight, who helped her create her onstage fashions. The pair began playing gigs at downtown club venues like the Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and the Rockwood Music Hall, with their live performance art piece known as "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, Gaga and Starlight were invited to play at the American music festival Lollapalooza. The show was critically acclaimed, and their performance received highly positive 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.
During this time, she began writing for artists signed to Akon's Konvict label, as well as Fergie, the Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears, and New Kids on the Block. After hearing her sing a reference vocal for one of his tracks, Akon formed the opinion that she was also a good singer. He ultimately convinced Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine to sign her to a joint deal with his own label, Kon Live Distribution, and would later call Gaga his "franchise player." Through her affiliation with Akon, 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, and Queen-inspired songs, Gaga wanted to mix her retro dance beats with urban melodies, a pop chorus and still retain a rock and roll edge. The first song they produced was a mash-up of Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and AC/DC's "T.N.T.
A distant image of a blond woman performing onstage. She is clad in a white leotard. She is singing onto a microphone in her left hand. Her right hand is held by somebody whose appearance is not clear. On her left, two African dancers imitate a pose where they appear to be looking at the woman throuogh a camera.
By 2008, Gaga had relocated to Los Angeles, working closely with her record label to finalize her debut album The Fame. Gaga said that she combined a lot of different genres on the album, "from Def Leppard drums and handclaps to metal drums on urban tracks." She began to work with a collective called the Haus of Gaga, who collaborate with Gaga on her clothing, stage sets, and sounds. 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 Fame peaked at number one in Austria, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland, and at number four in Australia and the United States; worldwide sales as of May 28, 2009 stand at 2.3 million copies. The album's lead single, "Just Dance," was released on April 8, 2008, and has topped the charts in six countries - Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It received a Grammy nomination for the Best Dance Recording, but lost to Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." The second single, "Poker Face", was released on September 23, 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.
Afterward, the Haus of Gaga turned its focus further upon the American market with Gaga going on her first ever concert tour with fellow Interscope pop group, the reformed New Kids on the Block. Gaga started her stint with them in Los Angeles on October 8, 2008, and continued through the end of November. She appeared as a guest artist on the song "Big Girl Now" from their new album, The Block. Gaga's first headlining North American tour, The Fame Ball Tour, began on March 12, 2009, and has received critical acclaim. In May, Gaga opened for the Pussycat Dolls in Australia. Her performance there was well-received, with a reviewer claiming that she upstaged the Dolls. Around the same time, the music video for her international third single, "LoveGame," was banned by the Australian channel Network Ten, who refused to play the video reasoning that it contained sexually explicit imagery.
Gaga appeared semi-nude, wearing only plastic bubbles, on the cover of the annual 'Hot 100' issue of Rolling Stone in May 2009. In the issue she discussed that while she was making her beginnings in the New York club scene, Gaga was romantically involved with a heavy metal drummer. Gaga described their relationship and break-up, saying of it, "I was his Sandy, and he was my Danny [of Grease], and I just broke." He later became an inspiration behind some of the songs on her debut album The Fame. Gaga also stated that she is bisexual and is inspired by beautiful women, which she says makes her boyfriends "uncomfortable." She later regretted the comments she made of her sexuality, saying, "I don't like to be seen as somebody who is using the gay community to look edgy. I'm a free sexual woman and I like what I like. I don't want people to write that about me because I feel like it looks like I'm saying it because I'm trying to be edgy or underground." She had previously told a crowd at one of her concerts that her song "Poker Face" lyrically discusses fantasizing about a woman while being in bed with a man. She also appeared on rapper Wale's single "Chillin."