Art’s in pop culture, in me: The best of Lady Gaga

Remember those turn-of-the decade articles about Lady Gaga as an artist of singular recombinant power? She was supposed to be that generation’s Madonna. I didn’t hear it — not in her uneven albums or increasingly blah singles, which sported hooks and a sense of themselves as events without establishing themselves as usurpers. Nevertheless, she owned 2009-2011, and I had to hear past the well-intentioned but leaden “Born This Way” to accept her relative pop smarts.

Better as a would-be diva claiming dance floor anonymity than playing at polymorphous iconicity, Gaga has found it harder to score hits in the zipped-up electronic pop marketplace she helped create, though there she was in mid 2020, a couple years after A Star is Born, with the #1 “Rain on Me.” It’s not that she isn’t as good as Madonna was in 1989; it’s that she’s not as good as Britney Spears was in 2011 or 2016. Part of my aversion lies in my response to her voice: stentorian, therefore ideal for projection in arenas; inflexible, brassy with ballads.

Nevertheless, the moment was hers. She has settled into a comfortable iconicity, apparently able to flit from film to recording studio. Last year’s Chromatica demonstrated she could still score with ’90s-indebted house pop and I say she should stick to it.

1. Dance in the Dark
2. Alejandro
3. Just Dance
4. Monster
5. Hair
6. Marry the Night
7. You and I
8. Speechless
9. Bad Romance
10. Scheiße
11. A-Yo
12. G.U.Y.
13. Pokerface
14. 911
15. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
16. Stupid Love
17. Joanne
18. Applause
19. John Wayne
20. Dancin’ in Circles
21. Government Hooker
22. Babylon

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