It’s hard to believe that only two years ago very few people in America knew who Lady Gaga was, because now nobody can shut the fuck up about her. Her first single, “Just Dance,” was released in April 2008, but it took a long time—nine months—to reach #1. The real Lady Gaga phenomenon didn’t start in earnest until 2009, when she seemingly had a new single on the radio every week (and that’s only a slight exaggeration: In 2009, “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame,” “Paparazzi,” and “Bad Romance” all spent time in the Billboard Top 10).
But sheer quantity of radio play doesn’t qualify anyone for “phenomenon” status these days—after all, who still listens to the radio? But Lady Gaga has become culturally significant in a way most pop stars only dream about. People care about her and have an opinion about her in a way they don’t about, say, Beyoncé. Even people who don’t really like pop music find themselves compelled by Lady Gaga. I, for one, feel like I’ve had more conversations about Lady Gaga in the past year than I’ve had about all other musical acts put together. I would even go so far to say that she’s “polarizing,” except that I don’t really feel like there is a sizable anti-Gaga pole. Nevertheless, her fans often have the passion and fervor of zealots needing to defend their messiah from some threatening albeit nonexistent opposition. Continue reading »