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Pop - Released October 13, 2008 | Streamline - Interscope

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The times were crying out for a pop star like Lady GaGa -- a self-styled, self-made shooting star, one who mocked the tabloid digital age while still wanting to wallow in it -- and one who's smart enough to pull it all off, too. That self-awareness and satire were absent in the pop of the new millennium, where even the best of the lot operated only on one level, which may be why Lady GaGa turned into such a sensation in 2009: everybody was thirsty for music like this, music for and about their lives, both real and virtual. To a certain extent, the reaction to The Fame may have been a little too enthusiastic, with GaGa turning inescapable sometime in the summer of 2009, when she appeared on countless magazine covers while both Weezer and DAUGHTRY covered “Pokerface,” the rush to attention suggesting that she was the second coming of Madonna, a comparison GaGa cheerfully courts and one that’s accurate if perhaps overextended. Like the marvelous Madge, Lady GaGa ushers the underground into the mainstream -- chiefly, a dose of diluted Peaches delivered via a burbling cauldron of electro-disco -- by taming it just enough so it’s given the form of pop yet remains titillating. Sure, GaGa sings of disco sticks, bluffin’ with her muffin, and rough sex, but her provocation doesn’t derive solely from her words: this is music that sounds thickly sexy with its stainless steel synths and dark disco rhythms. Where GaGa excels, and why she crossed over, is how she doesn’t leave all this as a collection of hooks and rhythms, she shapes them into full-blown pop songs, taking the time to let the album breathe with chillout ballads and percolating new wave, like the title track that echoes Gwen Stefani in dance diva mode. But where Gwen simply celebrates celeb consumer culture, GaGa bites, her litany of runway models, pornographic girls, and body plastic delivered with an undercurrent of disdain, even as she loves all the glitz. This dichotomy propels much of The Fame, particularly on the clever “Paparazzi,” where she casts herself as the photographic parasite chasing after her crush, but none of this meta text would work if the songs didn’t click, functioning simultaneously as glorious pop trash and a wicked parody of it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 23, 2011 | Interscope

Distinctions Stereophile: Record To Die For
Not long into the ceaseless promotional parade for Born This Way, Lady Gaga’s second full-length record and easily the most anticipated record of the 2010s, a certain sense of inevitability crept into play. It was inevitable that Born This Way would be an escalation of The Fame, it was inevitable that Gaga would go where others feared to tread, it was inevitable that it would be bigger than any other record thrown down in 2011, both in its scale and success. This drumbeat, pulsating as insistently as Eurodisco, is so persistent that there is an inevitable feeling of anticlimax upon hearing Born This Way for the first time and realizing that Lady Gaga has channeled her grand ambitions into her message, and not her music. Gaga has taken it upon herself to filter out whatever personal details remain in her songs so she can write anthems for her Little Monsters, that ragtag group of queers, misfits, outcasts, and rough kids who she calls her own. Gaga is hardly insincere -- this isn’t an act, she’s been instrumental as a gay rights activist -- but her conquistador stance ironically reduces Born This Way to a collection of songs about fashion, freaks, and religion, with the occasional respite arriving via German unicorns. Unfortunately, this doesn’t play quite as weird as it reads. Whatever performance art shock Gaga had on The Fame/The Fame Monster has turned into pure theater. Her drama club ambition to marry rock & roll rebellion with her disco beats turns Born This Way into Like a Prayer by way of Bat Out of Hell. Gaga has chosen not to dig under the skin. She’s quite content to state her themes then let them be, using them as the connecting thread on an ‘80s pastiche set to a relentless Eurotrash throb. Echoes of Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, and Bruce Springsteen -- whose longtime running partner Clarence Clemons blows sax on two songs --- can be heard throughout, but it is naturally Madonna who is the cornerstone, giving Gaga the “Express Yourself” melody -- which is reworked on no less than three songs on the Deluxe Edition (and really, with an album this over the top, why skimp with the standard edition?) -- and a pop precedent for Catholic guilt. Lady Gaga doesn’t so much rip off Madonna as knowingly recontextualize the Material Girl for a post-modern collage, the sly similarities offering tangible reminders that Gaga is the heir to the diva throne. And Born This Way does solidify her standing as something of a pop visionary, although Gaga is a little bit too eager to embrace her role as messiah, letting her skills as a songwriter slide ever so slightly. Gaga’s true gift is her considerable dexterity at delivering the basics. Unlike so many of her peers, she does not cut and paste her tracks digitally, she constructs from the chords up, then accessorizes at will. She doesn’t abandon this sensibility on Born This Way, but she does take it for granted, never pushing her compositions or productions into unpredictable territory. She serves up the expected, which can be quite satisfying: “Marry the Night” glistens with a neon pulse, “Born This Way” has a giddiness to its self-importance, “Judas” turns “Alejandro” into towering gothic disco, she achieves her metal-disco fusion on “Bad Kids,” and she even shows vulnerability on “Yoü and I.” All well and good, and all very entertaining, but this is an album that’s meant to be more: it’s intended to be a soundtrack to a way of life, but it winds up playing as a collection of songs. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released October 5, 2018 | A Star is Born OST

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There's a narrative to the soundtrack for Bradley Cooper's 2018 remake of A Star Is Born, one that mirrors the one told in the movie. Often, the album features dialogue ripped from the screen -- a full 15 tracks, actually, amounting to seven minutes of this 74-minute album -- which means A Star Is Born almost plays like a Disney record from the '60s or '70s: it's designed to tide listeners over until they get a chance to see the movie again. Of course, A Star Is Born is a musical, so its soundtrack is filled with full-fledged songs, all of which serve the story that the dialogue gooses along. Strip out the distracting dialogue tracks and the plot of A Star Is Born is still evident, as the music moves from the grungy Americana of Cooper's character, through his affecting duets with Lady Gaga, toward her flashy pop, and then culminating with "I'll Never Love Again," the song where the two estranged lovers reunite. Each of these phases is expertly executed. Lukas Nelson assists Cooper in the rangy grunge of "Black Eyes," while Jason Isbell's spare "Maybe It's Time" is an affecting slice of Americana. The second stage, where Gaga is duetting with Cooper, fuses their sensibilities seamlessly, particularly on the aching ballad "Shallow" and loping country-rock of "Music to My Eyes," which was co-written by Nelson and Gaga. Her pop section plays like its own EP, and it's snappy, stylish, and savvy, particularly on the retro-disco of "Why Did You Do That?" and soulful "Heal Me." All the songs make sense narratively and on their own, so they hold together well and amount to a first-rate soundtrack. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 22, 2020 | Interscope

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According to Lady Gaga, Chromatica is an imaginary planet, a utopia that concretises her search for happiness. "I live on Chromatica, that is where I live. I went into my frame - I found Earth, I deleted it. Earth is cancelled", she said during the promotion for this sixth album, released less than two years after the global success of the soundtrack for A Star Is Born. Chromatica's sci-fi concept naturally steered the singer towards electronic music, tinged with concise and melodic pop. She not only surrounded herself with experienced producers (BloodPop, Burns, Madeon, Axwell...), but also with "extra-terrestrial" guest stars: Ariana Grande (Rain on Me), the K-pop band Blackpink (Sour Candy), and - with a large generational gap - Elton John (Sine From Above).On this flamboyant pink outfit-filled planet, Lady Gaga displays herself as a warrior fighting her own demons, as well as external threats, especially those that overwhelm her fellow-women (Plastic Doll, Free Woman). Her weapon of choice? The most "stupid" love there is, which she clamours for in a cathartic and liberating way (Stupid Love). As the queen of binary bass drums and boundless joy (Fun Tonight), she also has a calm side, especially in three lyrical and majestic instrumentals (Chromatica I, II and III). As the title suggests, Lady Gaga's planet presents an entire spectrum of colours, just like the singer's resolutely colourful soul. © Nicolas Magenham/Qobuz
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Pop - Released November 18, 2009 | Interscope

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Pop - Released October 13, 2008 | Interscope

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The times were crying out for a pop star like Lady GaGa -- a self-styled, self-made shooting star, one who mocked the tabloid digital age while still wanting to wallow in it -- and one who's smart enough to pull it all off, too. That self-awareness and satire were absent in the pop of the new millennium, where even the best of the lot operated only on one level, which may be why Lady GaGa turned into such a sensation in 2009: everybody was thirsty for music like this, music for and about their lives, both real and virtual. To a certain extent, the reaction to The Fame may have been a little too enthusiastic, with GaGa turning inescapable sometime in the summer of 2009, when she appeared on countless magazine covers while both Weezer and DAUGHTRY covered “Pokerface,” the rush to attention suggesting that she was the second coming of Madonna, a comparison GaGa cheerfully courts and one that’s accurate if perhaps overextended. Like the marvelous Madge, Lady GaGa ushers the underground into the mainstream -- chiefly, a dose of diluted Peaches delivered via a burbling cauldron of electro-disco -- by taming it just enough so it’s given the form of pop yet remains titillating. Sure, GaGa sings of disco sticks, bluffin’ with her muffin, and rough sex, but her provocation doesn’t derive solely from her words: this is music that sounds thickly sexy with its stainless steel synths and dark disco rhythms. Where GaGa excels, and why she crossed over, is how she doesn’t leave all this as a collection of hooks and rhythms, she shapes them into full-blown pop songs, taking the time to let the album breathe with chillout ballads and percolating new wave, like the title track that echoes Gwen Stefani in dance diva mode. But where Gwen simply celebrates celeb consumer culture, GaGa bites, her litany of runway models, pornographic girls, and body plastic delivered with an undercurrent of disdain, even as she loves all the glitz. This dichotomy propels much of The Fame, particularly on the clever “Paparazzi,” where she casts herself as the photographic parasite chasing after her crush, but none of this meta text would work if the songs didn’t click, functioning simultaneously as glorious pop trash and a wicked parody of it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 21, 2016 | Interscope

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It's difficult not to view Joanne through the prism of Artpop, the 2013 album where Lady Gaga's expanding fame balloon finally popped. Ambitious but muddled, Artpop debuted high but came crashing down to the ground, stalling out after the second single, the R. Kelly duet "Do What U Want." Gaga quickly retreated to the confines of cabaret, cutting a nicely accomplished standards album with Tony Bennett, a move that not only gave her the opportunity to work with a legend, but signaled that she considered Artpop a step too far: The camp of Cheek to Cheek was elegant, not garish, an acknowledgment that she was once again back in control of her joke. It set the stage for Joanne, a clever streamlining of the Lady Gaga persona that functions as the opposite of Artpop. All the excesses are excised while the eccentricities are used as accents on songs that are usually well-rendered pop. A few numbers take a passing glance at country music -- the title "Joanne" winks at Dolly Parton's "Jolene"; in a different arrangement, the ballad "Million Reasons" could be an adult contemporary crossover from Faith Hill or Shania Twain -- but Gaga's feet remain firmly planted in dance-pop even when she brings in Father John Misty, Beck, Florence Welch, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age for collaborations. Homme co-wrote "Diamond Heart" and "John Wayne," two of the harder disco songs here, while Misty assists on the steady rolling "Sinner's Prayer" -- perhaps the best fusion of country and pop here -- and "Come to Mama," a buoyant throwback to Motown that finds a companion on the Welch duet "Hey Girl," an analog slow jam that floats in the shimmer light. These, plus the riotous "A-Yo" and the masturbation ode "Dancin' in Circles," don't necessarily find comfortable companions in the ballads peppered throughout the album, but executive producer Mark Ronson helps polish Joanne so it flows easily, which is its appeal. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 21, 2011 | Interscope

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Not long into the ceaseless promotional parade for Born This Way, Lady Gaga’s second full-length record and easily the most anticipated record of the 2010s, a certain sense of inevitability crept into play. It was inevitable that Born This Way would be an escalation of The Fame, it was inevitable that Gaga would go where others feared to tread, it was inevitable that it would be bigger than any other record thrown down in 2011, both in its scale and success. This drumbeat, pulsating as insistently as Eurodisco, is so persistent that there is an inevitable feeling of anticlimax upon hearing Born This Way for the first time and realizing that Lady Gaga has channeled her grand ambitions into her message, and not her music. Gaga has taken it upon herself to filter out whatever personal details remain in her songs so she can write anthems for her Little Monsters, that ragtag group of queers, misfits, outcasts, and rough kids who she calls her own. Gaga is hardly insincere -- this isn’t an act, she’s been instrumental as a gay rights activist -- but her conquistador stance ironically reduces Born This Way to a collection of songs about fashion, freaks, and religion, with the occasional respite arriving via German unicorns. Unfortunately, this doesn’t play quite as weird as it reads. Whatever performance art shock Gaga had on The Fame/The Fame Monster has turned into pure theater. Her drama club ambition to marry rock & roll rebellion with her disco beats turns Born This Way into Like a Prayer by way of Bat Out of Hell. Gaga has chosen not to dig under the skin. She’s quite content to state her themes then let them be, using them as the connecting thread on an ‘80s pastiche set to a relentless Eurotrash throb. Echoes of Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, and Bruce Springsteen -- whose longtime running partner Clarence Clemons blows sax on two songs --- can be heard throughout, but it is naturally Madonna who is the cornerstone, giving Gaga the “Express Yourself” melody -- which is reworked on no less than three songs on the Deluxe Edition (and really, with an album this over the top, why skimp with the standard edition?) -- and a pop precedent for Catholic guilt. Lady Gaga doesn’t so much rip off Madonna as knowingly recontextualize the Material Girl for a post-modern collage, the sly similarities offering tangible reminders that Gaga is the heir to the diva throne. And Born This Way does solidify her standing as something of a pop visionary, although Gaga is a little bit too eager to embrace her role as messiah, letting her skills as a songwriter slide ever so slightly. Gaga’s true gift is her considerable dexterity at delivering the basics. Unlike so many of her peers, she does not cut and paste her tracks digitally, she constructs from the chords up, then accessorizes at will. She doesn’t abandon this sensibility on Born This Way, but she does take it for granted, never pushing her compositions or productions into unpredictable territory. She serves up the expected, which can be quite satisfying: “Marry the Night” glistens with a neon pulse, “Born This Way” has a giddiness to its self-importance, “Judas” turns “Alejandro” into towering gothic disco, she achieves her metal-disco fusion on “Bad Kids,” and she even shows vulnerability on “Yoü and I.” All well and good, and all very entertaining, but this is an album that’s meant to be more: it’s intended to be a soundtrack to a way of life, but it winds up playing as a collection of songs. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 25, 2021 | Interscope Records

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Not long into the ceaseless promotional parade for Born This Way, Lady Gaga’s second full-length record and easily the most anticipated record of the 2010s, a certain sense of inevitability crept into play. It was inevitable that Born This Way would be an escalation of The Fame, it was inevitable that Gaga would go where others feared to tread, it was inevitable that it would be bigger than any other record thrown down in 2011, both in its scale and success. This drumbeat, pulsating as insistently as Eurodisco, is so persistent that there is an inevitable feeling of anticlimax upon hearing Born This Way for the first time and realizing that Lady Gaga has channeled her grand ambitions into her message, and not her music. Gaga has taken it upon herself to filter out whatever personal details remain in her songs so she can write anthems for her Little Monsters, that ragtag group of queers, misfits, outcasts, and rough kids who she calls her own. Gaga is hardly insincere -- this isn’t an act, she’s been instrumental as a gay rights activist -- but her conquistador stance ironically reduces Born This Way to a collection of songs about fashion, freaks, and religion, with the occasional respite arriving via German unicorns. Unfortunately, this doesn’t play quite as weird as it reads. Whatever performance art shock Gaga had on The Fame/The Fame Monster has turned into pure theater. Her drama club ambition to marry rock & roll rebellion with her disco beats turns Born This Way into Like a Prayer by way of Bat Out of Hell. Gaga has chosen not to dig under the skin. She’s quite content to state her themes then let them be, using them as the connecting thread on an ‘80s pastiche set to a relentless Eurotrash throb. Echoes of Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, and Bruce Springsteen -- whose longtime running partner Clarence Clemons blows sax on two songs --- can be heard throughout, but it is naturally Madonna who is the cornerstone, giving Gaga the “Express Yourself” melody -- which is reworked on no less than three songs on the Deluxe Edition (and really, with an album this over the top, why skimp with the standard edition?) -- and a pop precedent for Catholic guilt. Lady Gaga doesn’t so much rip off Madonna as knowingly recontextualize the Material Girl for a post-modern collage, the sly similarities offering tangible reminders that Gaga is the heir to the diva throne. And Born This Way does solidify her standing as something of a pop visionary, although Gaga is a little bit too eager to embrace her role as messiah, letting her skills as a songwriter slide ever so slightly. Gaga’s true gift is her considerable dexterity at delivering the basics. Unlike so many of her peers, she does not cut and paste her tracks digitally, she constructs from the chords up, then accessorizes at will. She doesn’t abandon this sensibility on Born This Way, but she does take it for granted, never pushing her compositions or productions into unpredictable territory. She serves up the expected, which can be quite satisfying: “Marry the Night” glistens with a neon pulse, “Born This Way” has a giddiness to its self-importance, “Judas” turns “Alejandro” into towering gothic disco, she achieves her metal-disco fusion on “Bad Kids,” and she even shows vulnerability on “Yoü and I.” All well and good, and all very entertaining, but this is an album that’s meant to be more: it’s intended to be a soundtrack to a way of life, but it winds up playing as a collection of songs. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 21, 2016 | Interscope

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It's difficult not to view Joanne through the prism of Artpop, the 2013 album where Lady Gaga's expanding fame balloon finally popped. Ambitious but muddled, Artpop debuted high but came crashing down to the ground, stalling out after the second single, the R. Kelly duet "Do What U Want." Gaga quickly retreated to the confines of cabaret, cutting a nicely accomplished standards album with Tony Bennett, a move that not only gave her the opportunity to work with a legend, but signaled that she considered Artpop a step too far: The camp of Cheek to Cheek was elegant, not garish, an acknowledgment that she was once again back in control of her joke. It set the stage for Joanne, a clever streamlining of the Lady Gaga persona that functions as the opposite of Artpop. All the excesses are excised while the eccentricities are used as accents on songs that are usually well-rendered pop. A few numbers take a passing glance at country music -- the title "Joanne" winks at Dolly Parton's "Jolene"; in a different arrangement, the ballad "Million Reasons" could be an adult contemporary crossover from Faith Hill or Shania Twain -- but Gaga's feet remain firmly planted in dance-pop even when she brings in Father John Misty, Beck, Florence Welch, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age for collaborations. Homme co-wrote "Diamond Heart" and "John Wayne," two of the harder disco songs here, while Misty assists on the steady rolling "Sinner's Prayer" -- perhaps the best fusion of country and pop here -- and "Come to Mama," a buoyant throwback to Motown that finds a companion on the Welch duet "Hey Girl," an analog slow jam that floats in the shimmer light. These, plus the riotous "A-Yo" and the masturbation ode "Dancin' in Circles," don't necessarily find comfortable companions in the ballads peppered throughout the album, but executive producer Mark Ronson helps polish Joanne so it flows easily, which is its appeal. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released October 5, 2018 | A Star is Born OST

Booklet
There's a narrative to the soundtrack for Bradley Cooper's 2018 remake of A Star Is Born, one that mirrors the one told in the movie. Often, the album features dialogue ripped from the screen -- a full 15 tracks, actually, amounting to seven minutes of this 74-minute album -- which means A Star Is Born almost plays like a Disney record from the '60s or '70s: it's designed to tide listeners over until they get a chance to see the movie again. Of course, A Star Is Born is a musical, so its soundtrack is filled with full-fledged songs, all of which serve the story that the dialogue gooses along. Strip out the distracting dialogue tracks and the plot of A Star Is Born is still evident, as the music moves from the grungy Americana of Cooper's character, through his affecting duets with Lady Gaga, toward her flashy pop, and then culminating with "I'll Never Love Again," the song where the two estranged lovers reunite. Each of these phases is expertly executed. Lukas Nelson assists Cooper in the rangy grunge of "Black Eyes," while Jason Isbell's spare "Maybe It's Time" is an affecting slice of Americana. The second stage, where Gaga is duetting with Cooper, fuses their sensibilities seamlessly, particularly on the aching ballad "Shallow" and loping country-rock of "Music to My Eyes," which was co-written by Nelson and Gaga. Her pop section plays like its own EP, and it's snappy, stylish, and savvy, particularly on the retro-disco of "Why Did You Do That?" and soulful "Heal Me." All the songs make sense narratively and on their own, so they hold together well and amount to a first-rate soundtrack. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released October 5, 2018 | A Star is Born OST

There's a narrative to the soundtrack for Bradley Cooper's 2018 remake of A Star Is Born, one that mirrors the one told in the movie. Often, the album features dialogue ripped from the screen -- a full 15 tracks, actually, amounting to seven minutes of this 74-minute album -- which means A Star Is Born almost plays like a Disney record from the '60s or '70s: it's designed to tide listeners over until they get a chance to see the movie again. Of course, A Star Is Born is a musical, so its soundtrack is filled with full-fledged songs, all of which serve the story that the dialogue gooses along. Strip out the distracting dialogue tracks and the plot of A Star Is Born is still evident, as the music moves from the grungy Americana of Cooper's character, through his affecting duets with Lady Gaga, toward her flashy pop, and then culminating with "I'll Never Love Again," the song where the two estranged lovers reunite. Each of these phases is expertly executed. Lukas Nelson assists Cooper in the rangy grunge of "Black Eyes," while Jason Isbell's spare "Maybe It's Time" is an affecting slice of Americana. The second stage, where Gaga is duetting with Cooper, fuses their sensibilities seamlessly, particularly on the aching ballad "Shallow" and loping country-rock of "Music to My Eyes," which was co-written by Nelson and Gaga. Her pop section plays like its own EP, and it's snappy, stylish, and savvy, particularly on the retro-disco of "Why Did You Do That?" and soulful "Heal Me." All the songs make sense narratively and on their own, so they hold together well and amount to a first-rate soundtrack. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 11, 2013 | Interscope

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If Born This Way was made for the Little Monsters, its 2013 sequel ARTPOP was made for the world. Lady Gaga has grand designs for her third album, to pull a "reverse Warhol," which presumably means she wants to channel high art into pop instead of pop into high art, but it's a little difficult to discern Gaga's intent, either in this statement or ARTPOP as a whole. Willfully existing simply on the surface, a surface that perhaps (or perhaps not) signifies a greater depth, ARTPOP is teasingly garish, its bright colors and brittle beats attacking with glee, the emphasis always on big, pulsating beats, shattered reflections, sound cascading over song in every instance. Inevitably, this emphasis on production means the pop in ARTPOP winds up diminished; perhaps it's "pop" in the pop-art sense, as it's shamelessly, intentionally populist, but as pop music it relies not on hooks in either its melody or rhythm, but rather a full-on glitz blitz that can dazzle as often as it tires. Lost in her self-generated mythos, Gaga doesn't much care whether her music sticks as long as she's not ignored -- even such seemingly soul-baring moments as the single-spotlight showcase "Dope" isn't confessional so much as a gearshift designed to capture attention -- and ARTPOP continually demands attention as it eschews the notion of love, right down to how all the sex songs deliberately separate the body from the soul. This isn't limited to Gaga's exhortation to R. Kelly to "do what you want with my body" on "Do What U Want," either. At times -- particularly throughout the album's first half -- ARTPOP is a non-stop erotic cabaret, Gaga contorting herself to fulfill any desire, switching roles between a guy and a girl and a bottom and a top, her ambidexterous sexuality signaling power, not sensuality. This same arrogance glides her through songs about style -- the ludicrous "Donatella," a tribute to Versace that borders on character assassination; "Fashion!," which isn't a David Bowie cover, no matter how much it longs to be -- and songs about drugs, a cycle that takes her toward a concluding coda where Gaga stands resplendent in the applause. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Interscope

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Pop - Released July 17, 2020 | Interscope Records

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Pop - Released September 3, 2021 | Interscope

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Enlisting a dream team of queer (and queer-adjacent) future-pop and electronic artists, Lady Gaga mutates her critically acclaimed, return-to-the-dancefloor album Chromatica, revealing that 2020 record's elemental origins with the fascinating Dawn of Chromatica. Fostering the talents of some famous Little Monsters who came in her wake, Mother Monster is freed of mainstream pressure by these wild, sometimes noisy, and always thrilling reimaginings. While not as easily accessible to a casual listener, the rewards are plenty for both fans of Gaga and the impressive guest roster. From Venezuelan avant-electro wiz Arca's exploratory deconstruction of "Rain on Me" -- which twists her own "Time" and "Mequetrefe" into the mix -- to the synth pop bliss of Planningtorock's take on the ballad "1000 Doves," there's a surprise around every turn (and often within a single track). Pabllo Vittar plants a sunny island kiss onto "Fun Tonight," somehow making the sad lyrics even more tragic, as rapper Ashnikko injects some bubble-pop, hip-hop edge into the defiant "Plastic Doll." Meanwhile, Mura Masa and Shygirl bring a throbbing "Sour Candy" to the club and Dorian Electra slashes "Replay" with metallic riffs and menacing growls that would make Poppy proud. Of the many highlights, British pop star Rina Sawayama liberates "Free Woman" with buoyant and inspirational flair; Charli XCX and A.G. Cook revive "911" as a pulsing digital epic; and the trio of Chester Lockhart, Mood Killer, and Lil Texas offer Dawn's most chaotic remix with "Sine from Above," a near-IBM monster complete with cartoonish sound samples, a sax solo, and a crushing breakdown that finally delivers on the surprise drum'n'bass outro of the original. In moments such as these, the genius of this project is revealed through Gaga's trust in the remixers and their own respect for her source material. If Gaga had released this LP as the official version of Chromatica, it might have been one of the boldest artistic moves in her already dizzying career. Instead, presented as the daring and liberated sibling to a more traditional predecessor, Dawn of Chromatica unlocks an expanded world of potential and reminds her legion of Little Monsters that she still has a finger on the pulse and isn't afraid to take risks once in a while. © Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Interscope

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Pop - Released March 21, 2011 | Interscope

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Not long into the ceaseless promotional parade for Born This Way, Lady Gaga’s second full-length record and easily the most anticipated record of the 2010s, a certain sense of inevitability crept into play. It was inevitable that Born This Way would be an escalation of The Fame, it was inevitable that Gaga would go where others feared to tread, it was inevitable that it would be bigger than any other record thrown down in 2011, both in its scale and success. This drumbeat, pulsating as insistently as Eurodisco, is so persistent that there is an inevitable feeling of anticlimax upon hearing Born This Way for the first time and realizing that Lady Gaga has channeled her grand ambitions into her message, and not her music. Gaga has taken it upon herself to filter out whatever personal details remain in her songs so she can write anthems for her Little Monsters, that ragtag group of queers, misfits, outcasts, and rough kids who she calls her own. Gaga is hardly insincere -- this isn’t an act, she’s been instrumental as a gay rights activist -- but her conquistador stance ironically reduces Born This Way to a collection of songs about fashion, freaks, and religion, with the occasional respite arriving via German unicorns. Unfortunately, this doesn’t play quite as weird as it reads. Whatever performance art shock Gaga had on The Fame/The Fame Monster has turned into pure theater. Her drama club ambition to marry rock & roll rebellion with her disco beats turns Born This Way into Like a Prayer by way of Bat Out of Hell. Gaga has chosen not to dig under the skin. She’s quite content to state her themes then let them be, using them as the connecting thread on an ‘80s pastiche set to a relentless Eurotrash throb. Echoes of Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, and Bruce Springsteen -- whose longtime running partner Clarence Clemons blows sax on two songs --- can be heard throughout, but it is naturally Madonna who is the cornerstone, giving Gaga the “Express Yourself” melody -- which is reworked on no less than three songs on the Deluxe Edition (and really, with an album this over the top, why skimp with the standard edition?) -- and a pop precedent for Catholic guilt. Lady Gaga doesn’t so much rip off Madonna as knowingly recontextualize the Material Girl for a post-modern collage, the sly similarities offering tangible reminders that Gaga is the heir to the diva throne. And Born This Way does solidify her standing as something of a pop visionary, although Gaga is a little bit too eager to embrace her role as messiah, letting her skills as a songwriter slide ever so slightly. Gaga’s true gift is her considerable dexterity at delivering the basics. Unlike so many of her peers, she does not cut and paste her tracks digitally, she constructs from the chords up, then accessorizes at will. She doesn’t abandon this sensibility on Born This Way, but she does take it for granted, never pushing her compositions or productions into unpredictable territory. She serves up the expected, which can be quite satisfying: “Marry the Night” glistens with a neon pulse, “Born This Way” has a giddiness to its self-importance, “Judas” turns “Alejandro” into towering gothic disco, she achieves her metal-disco fusion on “Bad Kids,” and she even shows vulnerability on “Yoü and I.” All well and good, and all very entertaining, but this is an album that’s meant to be more: it’s intended to be a soundtrack to a way of life, but it winds up playing as a collection of songs. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 21, 2016 | Interscope

Booklet
It's difficult not to view Joanne through the prism of Artpop, the 2013 album where Lady Gaga's expanding fame balloon finally popped. Ambitious but muddled, Artpop debuted high but came crashing down to the ground, stalling out after the second single, the R. Kelly duet "Do What U Want." Gaga quickly retreated to the confines of cabaret, cutting a nicely accomplished standards album with Tony Bennett, a move that not only gave her the opportunity to work with a legend, but signaled that she considered Artpop a step too far: The camp of Cheek to Cheek was elegant, not garish, an acknowledgment that she was once again back in control of her joke. It set the stage for Joanne, a clever streamlining of the Lady Gaga persona that functions as the opposite of Artpop. All the excesses are excised while the eccentricities are used as accents on songs that are usually well-rendered pop. A few numbers take a passing glance at country music -- the title "Joanne" winks at Dolly Parton's "Jolene"; in a different arrangement, the ballad "Million Reasons" could be an adult contemporary crossover from Faith Hill or Shania Twain -- but Gaga's feet remain firmly planted in dance-pop even when she brings in Father John Misty, Beck, Florence Welch, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age for collaborations. Homme co-wrote "Diamond Heart" and "John Wayne," two of the harder disco songs here, while Misty assists on the steady rolling "Sinner's Prayer" -- perhaps the best fusion of country and pop here -- and "Come to Mama," a buoyant throwback to Motown that finds a companion on the Welch duet "Hey Girl," an analog slow jam that floats in the shimmer light. These, plus the riotous "A-Yo" and the masturbation ode "Dancin' in Circles," don't necessarily find comfortable companions in the ballads peppered throughout the album, but executive producer Mark Ronson helps polish Joanne so it flows easily, which is its appeal. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Interscope