Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta; born March 28, 1986), known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American singer and songwriter. Born and raised in New York City, she primarily studied at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and briefly attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts before withdrawing to focus on her musical career. She began performing in the rock music scene of Manhattan's Lower East Side, and was signed with Streamline Records by the end of 2007. During her employment as a songwriter for the record company, her vocal abilities captured the attention of recording artist Akon, who signed her to his label Kon Live Distribution.
Lady Gaga came to prominence as a recording artist following the release of her debut albumThe Fame (2008), which was a critical and commercial success that topped charts around the world and included the international number-one singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". After embarking on the The Fame Ball Tour, she followed the album with The Fame Monster (2009), which spawned the worldwide hit singles "Bad Romance", "Telephone" and "Alejandro". The album's success allowed her to embark on the eighteen-month long Monster Ball Tour, which later became one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time. Her most recent album Born This Way (2011) topped the charts of most major markets and generated more international chart-topping singles, including "Born This Way", "Judas" and "The Edge of Glory". Besides her musical career, she involves herself with humanitarian causes and LGBT activism.
Influenced by David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Queen, Lady Gaga is recognized for her flamboyant, diverse and outré contributions to the music industry through her fashion, performances and music videos. She has sold an estimated 23 million albums and 64 million singles worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time and her singles are some of the best selling worldwide. Her achievements include five Grammy Awards and 13MTV Video Music Awards. Lady Gaga has consecutively appeared on Billboard magazine's Artists of the Year (scoring the definitive title in 2010), ranked fourth in VH1's list of 100 Greatest Women in Music, is regularly placed on lists composed by Forbes magazine and was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine. In 2012, Gaga was ranked at number four on Billboard's list of top moneymakers of 2011, grossing more than 25 million dollars.
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 2.4 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." She admits that her songwriting has been misinterpreted; her friend and blogger Perez Hilton articulated her message in a clearer way: "you write really deep intelligent lyrics with shallow concepts." Gaga opined, "Perez is very intelligent and clearly listened to my record from beginning to end, and he is correct." "I love songwriting. It's so funny – I will just jam around in my underwear or I could be washing my dishes. I wrote several songs just at the piano," she confesses.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 like love, sex, religion, money, drugs, identity, liberation, sexuality, freedom and individualism.
The structure of her music is said to echo 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."