Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (born March 28, 1986), better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American recording artist. After being signed to and quickly dropped from Def Jam Records at age 19, she began performing in the rock music scene of New York City's Lower East Side. During this time, she was also working at Interscope Records as a songwriter for several established acts, including Akon, who, after hearing Gaga sing, convinced Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine to sign her to a joint deal with the label and Akon's Kon Live Distribution label.
Her debut album The Fame was released in August 2008 to critical and commercial success. In addition to receiving generally positive reviews, it has gone to number one in four countries, also topping the Billboard Top Electronic Albums chart in the United States. The album's first two singles, "Just Dance" and "Poker Face," have become international number one hits, and the former was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 51st Grammy Awards. In 2009, after having opened for New Kids on the Block and the Pussycat Dolls, Gaga embarked on her first headlining tour, The Fame Ball Tour. To date she has sold over 20 million digital singles and 3 million albums worldwide, which makes her one of the biggest-selling artists of 2009.
Musically, Gaga is inspired by glam rockers such as David Bowie and Queen, as well as pop singers such as Michael Jackson, Kylie Minogue and Madonna. She is also inspired by fashion, which she claims is an essential component to her songwriting and performances. She is supportive of the gay community, crediting them for her early mainstream success.
Gaga was born on March 28, 1986 in Yonkers, New York as the eldest child to Italian American parents Joseph and Cynthia Germanotta. At age 11, Gaga was set to join Juilliard School in Manhattan, but instead attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school. Playing piano by ear from the age of 4, Gaga went on to write her first piano ballad at 13 and began performing at open mike nights by age 14. At age 17, 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 to focus on her musical career.
Gaga performing at a restaurant, during the early days of her career.
Gaga signed with Def Jam Records when she was 19, 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. 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. 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, and 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 together was "Boys Boys Boys", a mash-up of Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" and AC/DC's "T.N.T."
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 71/100. 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 July 2009 stand at 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 disclosing her orientation, 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. Gaga appeared on rapper Wale's single "Chillin."
Gaga was nominated for a total of nine awards at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Female Video and Best Pop Video for "Poker Face" and Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Special Effects, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction for "Paparazzi. Gaga managed to win the award for "Best New Artist" while her single "Paparazzi" won two awards for "Best Art Direction" and "Best Special Effects." In October, Gaga received Billboard magazine's Rising Star of 2009 award. Later she appeared on Saturday Night Live, in a comic stint with Madonna and performing a part of her upcoming single "Bad Romance", from the re-release of The Fame