Her achievements include 13 Guinness World Records, 6 Grammy Awards, and a Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Icon Award—first artist ever to win—for “attaining an iconic status in pop culture”. She regularly appears on Billboard’s Artists of the Year lists and Forbes’s power and earnings rankings.
In 2013, Time listed Gaga as one of the Most Influential People of the Decade. Outside of her music, she is noted for her philanthropic endeavors and social activism, including LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS prevention. In 2012, Gaga established the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), a non-profit organization that focuses on youth empowerment.
Continually experimenting with new musical ideas and images, Gaga’s musical and performance style is the subject of much analysis and scrutiny from critics. She professes that she is “liberating” herself by constantly reinventing her sound and image, insisting that she has been drawn to such a practice since her childhood.
Vocally, Gaga possesses the range of a contralto and exhibits “overwhelming expression, instinctive vocal phrasing, ’80s rock reminiscent chest belts and animalistic vocal ticks” while being able to move through 2.7 octaves.
Refusing to lip sync, Gaga – whose range is frequently compared to those of Madonna and Gwen Stefani – has manipulated her vocal style over the course of her career yet considers Born This Way (2011) “much more vocally up to par with what I’ve always been capable of.”
In summation of her voice, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “There’s an immense emotional intelligence behind the way she uses her voice. Almost never does she overwhelm a song with her vocal ability, recognizing instead that artistry is to be found in nuance rather than lung power.”
Although her early lyrics have been criticized for lacking intellectual stimulation, “[Gaga] does manage to get you moving and grooving at an almost effortless pace.” Gaga believes that “all good music can be played at a piano and still sound like a hit.”
She has covered a wide variety of topics in her songs: while The Fame (2008) meditates on the lust for stardom, The Fame Monster (2009) expresses fame’s dark side through monster metaphors.
Born This Way (2011) is sung in English, French, German, and Spanish and includes common themes in Gaga’s controversial songwriting such as sex, love, religion, money, drugs, identity, liberation, sexuality, freedom, and individualism.
Her music style has been described as electropop and as dance-pop and the structure of her music is said to be influenced by classic 1980s pop and 1990s Europop.
Her debut album The Fame (2008) provoked The Sunday Times to assert “in combining music, fashion, art and technology, [Gaga] evokes Madonna, Gwen Stefani circa ‘Hollaback Girl’, Kylie Minogue 2001 or Grace Jones right now” and a critic from The Boston Globe to comment that she draws “obvious inspirations from Madonna to Gwen Stefani… in [her] girlish but sturdy pipes and bubbly beats.
Music critic Simon Reynolds wrote that “Everything about Gaga came from electroclash, except the music, which wasn’t particularly 1980s, just ruthlessly catchy naughties pop glazed with Auto-Tune and undergirded with R&B-ish beats.
The follow-up The Fame Monster (2009), saw Gaga’s taste for pastiche, drawing on “Seventies arena glam, perky ABBA disco and sugary throwbacks like Stacey Q” while Born This Way (2011) also draws on the records of her childhood and still has the “electro-sleaze beats and Eurodisco chorus chants” of its predecessor but includes genres as diverse as opera, heavy metal, disco, and rock and roll.
“There isn’t a subtle moment on the album, but even at its nuttiest, the music is full of wide-awake emotional details,” wrote Rolling Stone, who concluded: “The more excessive Gaga gets, the more honest she sounds.” With 2014’s Cheek to Cheek, Gaga dabbled in the jazz genre.
Although critically appreciated for her love of the music and the songs she recorded on the album, Gaga was noted for trying to switch genres and “her rhythmically square, shouty delivery” vocals sounding more like a broadway singer than a real jazz musician.
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