Before you get stuck into what will be an extremely illuminating read, take a few seconds to draw up a mental list of every massive popstar of the last 50 years.
Now start crossing names off. Start with everyone who couldn’t actually sing live, everyone who doesn’t write their own music. Keep on crossing the names off when the popstar isn’t funny or self-aware, doesn’t care about their fans, has never sported a costume made entirely of dead Kermits, isn’t open about their sexuality, has no political viewpoints and – this is the tricky bit – is simultaneously selling tens of millions of songs.
Chances are you’re probably already down to two or three names by now, and the only one whose music you’ll hear on the radio today is 24-year-old, Lady Gaga.
Of course, it doesn’t take a list of crossed-out names to tell you that Gaga defines this era of popular music, and the public debut of her phenomenal new single Born This Way ahead of May’s album of the same name, will propel Gaga’s fearless, inventive, sex-charged pop juggernaut through at least another 18 months.
Born This Way already sounded like a hit when Stylist first heard it in demo form last spring. Now it’s ready to face daylight – the song is a confident, stylish equality anthem likely to raise a few eyebrows and, most importantly, it’s got a cracking tune.
Most popstars succeed because they make what they do look easy but Lady Gaga makes her job look impossible, and she’s set some impressive targets for anyone looking to take her throne.
Kylie Minogue’s take on it is that Gaga “dropped a meteor in the middle of the pop landscape”. In 2010 alone – when she didn’t even have a new album out – Lady Gaga became the first artist in Billboard history to send her first five singles to number one. Gaga became the first living person to reach 10 million fans on Facebook, The Fame became the top-selling album in digital history, and Gaga was nominated a record-breaking 13 times at the VMAs. She became the first person to reach six million followers on Twitter, and the first artist in history to reach 1 billion views of her videos on YouTube. Her Monster Ball tour played to over 150 sold out nights and grossed £83m, while Forbes calculated that Gaga herself earned £39m.
Read part 2 of Gaga here
Words: Peter Robinson
Picture credit: Josh Olins