The pop world is going gaga.
Lady Gaga, to be exact.
Whether it’s her racy stage performances, arresting fashion sense or chart-topping hits, Gaga gets heads turning and sets tongues wagging.
The New York City-born blond performer even piqued the curiosity of the curmudgeonly Barbara Walters, who dubbed her one of her “10 most fascinating people” in December.
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Gaga also kept court with a queen, bowing to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in a red dress made of latex. She recently was named “woman of the year,” by MTV who said “there’s not much question that 2009 was Lady Gaga’s year.”
But it isn’t all rosy for the woman who “rah rah rahs” her way through hit “Bad Romance.”
Gaga’s performance style put fear in one of her own family members.
“It wasn’t really so easy for my dad, especially in the beginning,” Gaga told Walters during the interview that aired Dec. 9. “We didn’t talk for months after the first time he saw me play, and my mother told me he was afraid I was, like, mentally unstable.”
Wow, scaring your own dad onstage.
For those, and so many other reasons, the artist known as Gaga clinched our Pop Person of the Year title.
She follows in the footsteps of past winners: The Obamas (2008), Paparazzi aka “Pop Vultures” (2007), and Sacha Baron Cohen (2006).
So what put Gaga on the tippy top o’ pop?
Our crack team of kinda-sorta social scientists dissected the diva’s fashion choices, chart success and cultural impact with the help of some pop culture and music industry insiders. Check out our analysis.
Her clubby dance hits – evocative of Gwen Stefani or Madonna – may be the least unique thing about her, but they cannot be overlooked because her debut studio album, “The Fame,” got Gaga the green light, according to music experts we talked to.
In fact, her formidable musical talent as a singer and pianist may even be obscured by her offerings to date, said Jessica Robertson, editor of the music site Spinner. “Her music is simply catchy, which is always a winning formula,” Robertson said. “But when I hear her play the piano, I can’t help but think Tori Amos. She deconstructs her radio performance when she plays the same song on the piano.”
Gaga, despite her pop reign, also appeals to the hip-hop community. She was signed by rapper Akon, who loved her sound and has called her the “franchise player” on his Kon Live Distribution, according to MTV.
Dee Perkins, editor of a hip-hop-culture magazine, credits catchiness for Gaga’s crossover appeal. “In Lady Gaga, pop has a star that embodies exactly what a pop star is to be,” Perkins, editor of H.A.S. magazine, said. “It seems that hip-hop’s current overall state and pop music are finding the area where they overlap and capitalizing on it. Put a catchy phrase over a catchy beat and there you have the recipe for a pop-hop hit.”
Still, Spinner’s Robertson expects different things from Gaga down the road.
“If she keeps with this formula too long, people will grow bored and she herself will grow bored of it,” Robertson predicted. “She is a very talented musician. ‘The Fame’ gave her the power to do what she really wants to do … possibly a musical avant-garde album, a weird album, to match the rest of her image.”
WHAT NOT TO WEAR?
Though she often appears scantily clad, Lady Gaga’s image is not necessarily sexy, said pop experts. Gaga – known for her “pant-less” leotard-favoring fashion – wore a lace veil dripping with blood at the MTV Video Music Awards, pretty much came as a condom to the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, England, and rocked a crumpling hat designed by star architect Frank Gehry, the man behind the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.
And did we mention the barely-there bubble get-up and frizzy blond ’fro she copped for the cover of Rolling Stone’s annual Hot List issue?
In the eyes of PopEater editor Brooke Tarnoff, Gaga is more Marilyn Manson than Madonna, though she’s drawn more comparisons to the latter.
“She isn’t afraid to look ugly in pursuit of her performance art lifestyle,” Tarnoff said of Gaga’s go-there attitude toward attire, including a cloak made of Kermit the Frog heads she donned in July. “When she’s not pretending to bleed from the eyes, I actually think she’s very beautiful, but she doesn’t play off of that. For a woman trying to be famous and have an entertainment career, this might be an absolute first.”
“Lady Gaga” was among the top searched terms in 2009, especially images of her, according to a Google Zeitgeist analysis announced in early December.
Fans also search for information of the intimate kind when it comes to Gaga. Much has been speculated about the singer, including the rumor she is a hermaphrodite and bisexual. Gaga confirmed the latter during the “10 Most Fascinating People” interview, though she appeared visibly flustered when Walters asked her if she had engaged in lesbian sex. She answered that she had.
Gaga is more upfront when it comes to her support for gay rights, though Tarnoff suspects it doesn’t stem from a desire to be political. “She is essentially singing to the choir,” Tarnoff said. “The people who would listen to her politics are already on her side.”