Lady Gaga- 30 years, 30 songs

The day I started this post, Lady Gaga turned 30 (a milestone I’ll reach myself in 4 months).

Listening to her debut album today (and remembering how amazing it is and thinking about how far she’s come), I had an idea of maybe putting together a list of my favorite songs of hers and rank them from 30 to 1.
Considering she’s released 4 albums (well, 5 including her Tony Bennett jazz duet album- which I have no immediate plans of getting), I’ll definitely have enough songs to be able to do it.

It’s hard to believe how hard she’s come since this album. As well as how far I’ve come since then. My musical tastes and how much of a fan I’d become since then.
First few times I saw her perform, I don’t think I knew what to think. But I did know when her songs came on the radio that I liked them. They were fun, you could dance to them.
Then I started to find there was more to her story when Barbara Walters interviewed her and they revealed “Poker Face” was about her thinking of a girl while she was with a man.
I liked the songs enough to get her first album. At that point, if I didn’t already know the person, I was leery about investing in new artists until I knew enough of their music to know I’d like full albums.

The tipping point was her HBO special- where I saw more about her and saw we had a lot in common. Namely, we were both losers in high school. And she was acting as a beacon of hope to so many who’ve lived our lives.
Well, between that and her appearance on Ellen where she performed “Judas.”

Overall, her albums are all great.
Each one only has 1-4 skippable tracks that I don’t really like to listen to or care for.

The Fame has 2 (“Brown Eyes” was part of that collection until recently)
The Fame Monster only has one (“Teeth” was ruined for me by the HBO special because it went on FOREVER)
Born This Way… I’m not crazy about “Highway to Love” but I will occasionally listen if I’m too lazy to skip it
ArtPop has 2-3. One features rap artists (some gave good contributions to her first album, not the case here). Then “Dope”- it’s a little too personal and dramatic for me to really enjoy it. (“Mary Jane Holland” I used to skip but after hearing the story behind it, I found something in it that I can relate to. And it doesn’t involve experimenting with drugs). There’s also “Swine”- the message is good, but the chorus is hard to stomach from a vocal standpoint.

Listening to Fame Monster today was a lot of fun. Also kind of interesting. Some of the songs are part of my inspirational playlist for a story I’d been writing, so I was brainstorming while listening to them.
Some I was really getting the feeling behind it.
Overall, it feels like the dark half of The Fame- Bad Romance, Speechless and Dance in the Dark particularly.
Some/most people consider The Fame and The Fame Monster a double-album. I got them separately so I consider them separate albums.

Finally got to this after a long week… figure skating in particular has kept me away from it. But I’ve gone through each album once, ranked the songs and tried my best to put together a list of 30 of my personal favorites.
It wasn’t easy getting 30. Not that they weren’t all good. It’s just hard to find 30 I can be equally passionate about discussing.

Here’s the break-up down per album:
The Fame- 8
The Fame Monster- 5
Born This way- 8
ArtPop- 9

30. Summer Boy
-The Fame

This is a fun addition I like to put on my iPod when it’s summer time. Parts of it remind me of something Gwen Stefani would do. Other parts feel like they could be a throwback to another time and decade.
It’s about a summer fling, nothing super serious.
I still don’t quite know all the words to it.

29. Dontella
-ArtPop

Although this is technically the beginning of the decline of this album (actually for me, it’s solid until “Swine” the previous track), I love the visuals of this track. They’re very striking and memorable- artistically with a tad of irony. Gaga is good friends with Dontella Versace and this is a tribute to her and also the fashion world.

28. Aura
-ArtPop

I love this as a dance track. Lots of great techno vibes in it. Also love how many different textures it has. A good way to kick off this album because it gives a taste of what to expect.
People joke about how bad this album is, but I promise that is meant to be a compliment.
I also like that it addresses the enigmatic nature Gaga has as a performer and she offers the chance to see the girl behind the aura she puts out on stage. Maybe shows a bit of vulnerability, which is always important. Makes an artist seem more human.

27. Americano
-Born This Way

Another fun track. Wasn’t written specifically for the end of “Puss In Boots” but it was a nice touch. And it kind of sums up what comes to mind when I listen to it.
At first it sounds like a nod to gay marriage. Then it goes bilingual and it’s always kind of interesting when Gaga goes bilingual in her music.
Mainly, I see a lot of Paso Dablo and Flamenco choreography.

26. Fashion
-ArtPop

I always get excited for this one- if only to put a paw up and utter “fashion!”
That alone puts it ahead of some of the other tracks on the list. Vocally, there are some things I’m not crazy about. The line “I own the world, we own the world” being at the top of her lungs, as well as the final 30 seconds. It’s grating. But overall, the song feels like a good shot of adrenaline and it has grown on me each time I listen to it.

25. Bloody Mary
-Born This Way

This was one of those controversial tracks that the Catholic church was up in arms about. Not entirely sure why. Weren’t they all about ridiculing and denouncing Mary Magdelene?
I’ve always found it intriguing and I enjoy it. It tells a different point of view from a well-known story. The vocals are also very cool to listen to with the range she has.

24. Bad Kids
-Born This Way

I fell more in love with this track when I added it to my inspirational playlist for a story I’m writing. [For that character, she wants to dance to a song where she embraces the ‘bad girl’ image that she feels others incorrectly perceive her to have. It’s meant to be a significant freeing moment for her… and in the end, it gets overshadowed by someone else’s performance]
She wrote this for her little monsters to show that she can relate with them and that she is one of them.
Great chorus that’s really empowering.

23. Do What You Want
-ArtPop

there’s a little bit of controversy with this track as well. not just R. Kelly being part of it (I didn’t know anything about his reputation and rumors of self-conduct until after this came out) because the whole notion “do what you want with my body”
G.U.Y. also has its detractors because it seems like she’s condoning men overpowering women.
But that isn’t the case. Here, she says that people can talk about how she looks with her fashion choices and how some have criticized her for being overweight (at, what, 130 pounds? I’m between 135-140 myself and I find that insinuation insulting… she doesn’t mind that. Because deep down, she knows that her mind and her heart and soul belong to her and nobody can take that away. From that perspective, this track is very empowering.
Also loved the time she performed it with Christina Aguilera on The Voice- it suited both of their strengths personally and vocally really well.

22. Love Game
-The Fame

Maybe I’m not quite as fond of this one because she’s hiding behind the enigmatic pop star image. But it is fun and super catchy. Great dance track that offers something unique- at least at the time I bought this album, there weren’t many songs like that on the radio.

21. Applause
-ArtPop

Some cool performances with this track. I remember getting up for Good Morning America (it’s rare for me to get up before 9am when I’m not working) to see this and she had a Wizard of Oz theme going on with her costume and the set-up. I knew this song already, but it was a cool reinterpretation of it.
I particularly love the line in the 2nd verse- “I’ve overheard your theory nostalgia’s for geeks. I guess, sir, if you say so. Some of us just like to read”… fits me to a tee. I’m a geek and I love nostalgia and I don’t care what anyone thinks πŸ˜›

20. Bad Romance
-The Fame Monster

This is further down my list mainly because of too much airplay on the radio.
I also have some bad memories of it being covered on “American Idol”- Colton Dixon went home because of his performance of it. In the grand scheme of things, it brought him to the right place in his career (two successful Christian rock albums), but it preceded one of my darkest nights with the show.
On the plus side, though, Johnny Weir had a really cool exhibition to this song. Some people might disagree because of what he was wearing, but for me… so cool to see. Never saw the song the same way after that.

19. You & I
-Born This Way

I covered this on my “VeteranJMacFan” YouTube channel- and that was when I realized I was probably not meant to sing Gaga’s music for other people. [Only got 9 views and I posted it a year ago]. She’s very theatrical. I’m not as strong in my vocal chords and breath control.
But I’d always kinda liked this one. Maybe not when Haley Reinhart debuted it on “American Idol” (after Gaga did it on her HBO special, she clearly did it better than Haley). Was also a great moment for Jessica Meuse on American Idol- the week she went home, but it was thanks to previous ill-fated performances that night. It’s interesting and a little different from her usual songs. Has some country flair to it and tells a cool story.

18. Speechless
-The Fame Monster

Ironic that I should say what I did about the previous song yet I’m considering doing the same thing- covering it for YouTube.
But when I do, I plan to arrange to suit my strengths better.
I didn’t really connect with it until I saw “Less than Zero” and started writing fanfiction to give Julian a lease on life (not knowing then that in the book, he didn’t get killed off). This sounds like the type of song a lover would sing to Julian, hoping to talk him out of his addiction. It’s a very emotional piano ballad I love, but by the end, I’m almost always crying. Not a good cry either- an ugly cry. I try to avoid ugly crying to music if I can avoid it.

17. Just Dance
-The Fame

The first time most of us heard Gaga with this song. For me, it conjures an interesting image that I hadn’t seen in music before that point- just talking about drinking too much at a party and dancing like nobody was watching. It seems a little taboo, but then others did their own versions of it (Kesha did “Tik Tok”- which I hate because I feel like it encourages drinking and letting men take advantage of you. I didn’t exactly see a good role model. But when it came to her court battle, I was with her all the way because nobody deserves that kind of abuse).
It’s a fun dance track overall. Music was starting to change direction at that point and it was very favorable to me (after maybe 5 years of horrible hip-hop and rap dominating the radio).

16. Venus
-ArtPop

Gaga said this album was all about empowerment and feeling adrenaline.
Between this, G.U.Y., SeXXX dreams and Do what you want, I was feeling that high.
The introduction with the first verse feels like a shot and the chorus is pure ecstasy.
I just love singing this at the top of my lungs when I’m listening to it by myself.
Great dance track, again. Great follow-up to Aura.

15. Alejandro
-The Fame Monster

The first time Gaga really tried to do an accent in her music πŸ˜›
Overall, I just enjoy this song. It tells an interesting story about fending off suitors.
It also inspired me to name a character in my story Alejandro- and he’s pursed my protagonist romantically for years and she will forever say no to him.

14. Starstruck
-The Fame

This track is interesting in that I really don’t like hip-hop or rap in music. This slowly grew on me and I came to really enjoy it. Vocally, it’s different in the chorus where she does a small cutesy voice like a little fangirl. Catchy and a great groove I just love.

13. Poker Face
-The Fame

Ah, the intrigue. I didn’t really think too much of the lyrics the first couple times I heard. Then she told Barbara Walters it was about thinking of a girl while she’s with a guy. Never heard a singer be so open about bisexuality or even bi-curiosity.
My mom and I remember it for its inclusion in the first Percy Jackson movie where Percy and his friends get trapped at the Lotus Hotel in Vegas.
To this day, I still love it (and Johnny Weir doing an exhibition to it only added to that fandom).

12. Paparazzi
-The Fame

The first time I heard this, I thought it ripped off “Say it Right” by Nelly Furtado because the groove felt very similar. It had the same kind of rhythm. The two songs have no co-writers in common, but I enjoy them both.
This tells an interesting story about wanting to get close to someone you’re a fan of- I mean, who hasn’t had that dream, right?

11. SeXXX Dreams
-ArtPop

I remember when this premiered on Max1063, my favorite radio station. They were previewing three ArtPop tracks. It was this one, Do What You Want and one other I’m having trouble remembering at the moment. I was distracted by the fact that they kept bleeping the chorus– it’s not like they haven’t uttered the word “sex” on the radio before. It just sounded like “damn you were in my X dreams”… it just didn’t make sense. Either do the whole damn lyric or don’t play the song at all.

From a techno point of view, I loved it. The musical content is very mesmerizing and just drew me in. The pretense is as well. Like with Poker Face, it’s about fantasizing about being with a woman when you’re in a relationship with a man. The only difference is that she adds that when she lies with her, she will be thinking of him.

10. Born This Way
-Born This Way

This was the start of a huge movement that took Gaga to another level. I remember when she performed it on the Grammys, coming out of that giant egg and how iconic that became. Nobody had done anything quite like that before (and I think afterwards maybe she dueted with Elton John on dueling pianos, although I’m not sure if that was the same event).
It’s really empowering to have someone in the limelight saying that it’s okay to be who you are and to embrace that. Granted, I am a straight white girl whose only disability is being painfully introverted at times… but I never felt like I fit in anywhere, so it’s nice having one person saying its okay.
And people who complain that it’s a rip-off from a Madonna song… I don’t care. I love both her and Gaga. There’s enough differences where I refuse to call it plagiarism.

9. Monster
-The Fame Monster

This was another song I fell more in love with after it inspired a scene in a story I’m writing.
But it has some striking vivid images and also a great groove that I find terribly addicting.

8. I like it rough
-The Fame

Easily one of the catchiest songs from this album. I love the melody/chorus so much that I sing it even when there are no lyrics being played. I imagine this being great for a nice all-female Latin dance routine.

7. Gypsy
-ArtPop

This has been growing on me little by little each time I listen to it.
It has a great message I can’t help getting behind and it makes me dream that life could change and get better than it is.
I remember her performing this on her Muppet holiday special… I heard many of her ArtPop songs there first before getting the album. After her Thanksgiving special the year before, I was looking so forward to this and wound up being disappointed. Mainly because it was half an hour too long. Shocking, I know, that I could actually tire of Gaga.
I sometimes get teary-eyed towards the end where she says that “thought that I’d be alone forever but I won’t be tonight”… she lived a life where she was always on the road away from family and friends, but always wound up alone. Now that she has Taylor Kinney in her life, she sees the possibility that things can get better.

6. Heavy Metal Lover
-Born This Way

This one has a funny story. I didn’t get this song for the longest time, wasn’t sure what to think of it. Then one day while listening on my iPod, I put it on repeat because I didn’t really hear it the first time.
It was instant love after that. And since then, I’d been trying to put on paper the visuals I see whenever I listen to it. The auto-tune and vocal production threw me for a bit because it’s not her natural singing voice. But man, there’s so much to love of it. The sense of unity and the reckless abandon of it. One of my favorite dance grooves she ever wrote.

5. Marry the Night
-Born This Way

She has many great opening tracks, but this might be my favorite. It starts this album on a great note. It talks about embracing your insecurities and becoming better for them. Very epic and anthemic. It’s something I can definitely get behind and would like to do so more regularly.

4. G.U.Y.
-Art Pop

I remember when this video premiered. Johnny Weir was interviewing Gaga for, I think, Entertainment Tonight. It was an interesting artistic video. Takes place at this mansion with a lot of marble sculptures, but there’s also a mad scientist label and some Michael Jackson references.
She had to explain that this track wasn’t about what everyone thought it was. It’s not about condoning men overpowering women or okaying rape. It’s about feeling comfortable enough with yourself that you can be the girl under the guy and you are actually the one in control because you’re the one responsible for their happiness. Really sexual when you really think about that, but I love a little innuendo when it’s done cleverly.
The musical content is maybe the greatest adrenaline rush off this particular album.

3. Telephone
-The Fame Monster

The first time I heard this, it was instant love. It’s such a fun dance number- always good for a smile.
Probably one of my favorite Dancing with the Stars routines ever. The only thing that ruined it was Pamela Anderson easily being the weakest dancer on Team Gaga- she did not belong in this grouping.
Also love the harp interlude at the beginning and end- so beautiful

2. Paper Gangsta
-The Fame

This song wins the award for the least likely song that I would like… EVER.
I hated anything remotely resembling rap or hip-hop. Despite that, I loved how Gaga dabbled in this genre and how she spent little of this song even singing. She rapped everything but the chorus.
I know now that it’s her message to DefJam records, calling them out for dropping her from their label before she got famous.
But at the time, I took a different message away from it and I find it very inspiring. I thought she was calling a guy out, saying that she doesn’t want to deal with fakers and wants to be taken seriously.
Also loved that it had a killer piano solo to open it. I didn’t know that she was an accomplished pianist… didn’t find that out for sure until her HBO special premiered.

1. Judas
-Born This Way

This was the song that took me over the top and confirmed me as a Little Monster.
She was on Ellen being interviewed. Outside the Barbara Walters interview, it was the first time I really got to know the person behind the persona and the music. And I saw myself in her- that she was also someone who wasn’t well liked in high school and she wound up in an amazing place despite the adversity.
Everything about this song, I loved. Her performance of it. I learned the choreography (never performed it publicly, although one day I might find the courage to do so). It tells an interesting story- which I know now to be about an ex-boyfriend, but still.
My greatest disappointment was the fact it was never put on the radio. Easily one of the catchiest songs she ever wrote.

Ironically, around the time I heard this song, I was very much infatuated with someone. And I almost thought of him as my Judas because I was a little too in love with him. That I spent too much time thinking about him where my attention should have been on getting my life together.
I don’t really see Robert Downey Jr. as my Judas anymore… because I’d been able to step away from him and he isn’t exactly a terrible influence. He got me writing again (something I hadn’t had the inspiration to do for a long time), through him I was introduced to a lot of cool things in music, movies, TV and so on.
And he’s also inspired me just not to give up- didn’t always work, of course, but he got me through some rough patches in my life put there by depression and lack of confidence.

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2 Responses to Lady Gaga- 30 years, 30 songs

  1. Love love LOVE this article! Really great post, I love ha and it felt really nice revisiting all these songs, made me wanna give them a listen again. Also your You & I video now has 10 views and a like πŸ˜‰

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