Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lady Gaga—she’s not an overrated pop star, I swear.

The entertainment factor—how many talented singers, songwriters, and performers achieve fame and sold out arena tours. Pop stars come and go, but the truly creative ones leave behind work that lasts a lifetime.  With that being said, I can guarantee you’ll never forget the hook of “Bad Romance” as long as you live.

Lady Gaga popped up on our radars back in 2008 with her first single “Just Dance.” It was a catchy tune that the lady herself wrote in about ten minutes. Ten. Minutes. She wrote many of her biggest hits in about that short timespan—Poker Face, Born This Way, etc.  Is that lyrical genius? Writing songs that everyone still sings along to (whether they like it or not) in only ten minutes is quite the feat.

Genius is characterized by “three manifestations of phenomenal achievement: outstanding creativity, exceptional leadership, and prodigious performance,” (Simonton). It’s difficult to argue that a pop song is outstandingly creative just because it’s catchy, or that Gaga has paved the way as a leader in her field more so than any other pop star (i.e. Madonna). But in terms of prodigy, the ten-minute songwriting at age 22 could earn her that title.

I chose to write about Gaga not just because she can write the next earworm in the blink of an eye, but because of her most recent projects. Lady Gaga is known for her pop stardom, but she has also proven her talent in the realms of jazz music and acting. She is truly a jack-of-all-trades. Her latest album, Joanne, takes a whole new turn, drawing inspiration from country and blues music, while unraveling a narrative centered on her aunt, Joanne. It tells the story of a family member she never knew, but whose artistic spirit and familial impact shaped Gaga’s own creative journey. It is by far Gaga’s most raw, real, and personal album to date, and while it isn’t a Grammy nominated work, it is unique and standout in a line of diverse creative projects.

 I see many similarities between Gaga and Igor Stravinsky. Both pull from their roots, drawing inspiration from the old into their contemporary art. While Gaga’s recent work was based on the story of her deceased aunt, Stravinsky used Russian folklore as the basis of many of his compositions (Gardner). Additionally, both Gaga and Stravinsky immersed themselves entirely in the worlds of their creation. Gaga doesn’t just write the songs, she creates the whole concept—from the costuming to the general choreography even to the scenery of the videos and live performances. Stravinsky similarly involved himself in the choreographing and scene making of his operas (Gardner). Both artists are masters of their own art, yet they haven’t boxed themselves into just one aspect of it. They understood that there are many parts of a great performance, and they learned about each part in order to contribute to it.

All in all, I find Gaga to be one of the greatest pop artists of our generation. She is truly unique and talented, and her work becomes more and more intentional and experimental as her career soars on. As evidenced by her own words, Gaga embodies a creative soul, through and through:

“I started to understand how I could make music and perform in that way without being so watered down. I don’t have any interest in performing in [a typical, boring way]. I believe there is something in my performances that is more honest about who I am at heart.”


  1. This is a really interesting take. I think it's easy for us to dismiss pop music and artists as tacky, typical, or struggling for fame, but as you've pointed out, that is definitely not always the case. I especially like your mention of the way that Lady Gaga creates the entire concept of a song. It seems to me that this is one of the things that got her so much attention when she first became famous. I have distinct memories of being in middle school and seeing news stories about her latest crazy outfit or unique performance. These elements of creativity go beyond being a talented singer and song writer and have made Gaga one of the standout artists of our generation, showing that creativity, beyond raw talent, is a key to success.

  2. I remember back in high school my band director absolutely adored Lady Gaga. At the time, I couldn't quite understand why. However, the more I came to know about her, the more I could see what he was so excited about. Unlike the "typical" pop star, she was trained in theater, and she is actively involved in the composition of her music. Also, I love the amount of detail she puts into the whole "production." The song isn't just the catchy lyrics or infectious beat, but it also conveys a specific message from Gaga herself, often a relevant social commentary. She truly uses her fame in the pop world to showcase her many talents, we just have to look beyond the candy-coated exterior.

  3. This post highlights a really important aspect of analyzing creativity: variance. Lady Gaga excelled in pop music, creating hits that were global sensations. But, as we have known this year, she is also capable of musical creation beyond the pop realm. This is different that some geniuses we have read about who are solely capable in one realm. Gaga's performance at the Grammys with Metallica further proved her flexible talents to be creative under any constraint. Joanne is a beautiful showcase for her talents and creative genius that I have enjoyed since its debut.


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