Francis Rubio

The Sine

All you need is a disco stick, iPod glasses, and a sine from above

I have been a long time Little Monster, which is what Lady Gaga’s fans call themselves. Little Monsters have had a really strong connection to Lady Gaga. And while you might think that we all look the same, wearing the same crazy costumes like Gaga, it is quite to the contrary. Lady Gaga’s career is dedicated not to create fans that look like clones of her, but rather people who are unapologetically themselves, ones who will fight to the death for their freedom to be themselves.

Lady Gaga’s rise to fame started in 2008 with the release of her debut single Just Dance. The lyrics of that song would be what people call basic. However, the sound was so fresh at the time that it topped the chart, albeit it took several months. That time, people looked at her like she was just another pop star with a gimmick to catch everyone’s attention. But soon enough, the world realized how big of an impact she would make.

A cultural reset

Upon Gaga’s arrival, pop culture was reset. Because of her crazy looks and the new sound she has reintroduced into the pop music scene, her contemporaries were forced to up their game. As a result, pop music in general was changed.

If any person from the general public were to be asked what makes Lady Gaga an iconic artist, they would most probably say that it’s her clothes and costumes. Gaga has been really successful in incorporating glamorous regalia into her music. Most people might have felt she was overdoing things, or that she was a fashion disaster, but like she said, They don’t know anything about fashion. Whether she was a fashion icon or a gimmicky disaster is a subjective discussion. But there’s no denying the fact that her tactics impacted artists like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Jessie J.

Lady Gaga’s iconic looks have been cemented in pop culture history. Her first iconic look is the hooded leotard that she wore in her performances, along with the iPod glasses and the now iconic disco stick[1]. During the transition from her debut album The Fame to her follow-up EP The Fame Monster, her looks where characteristically darker in theme, alluding to the monsters she wrote about in the EP. One particular look that stands out is Gaga’s outrageously high heels.

Lady Gaga wearing the iPod glasses in her music video for Poker Face
Lady Gaga's iconic iPod glasses. Source.
Lady Gaga holding the disco stick in one of her performances
Lady Gaga with the disco stick. Source.

And no one was prepared for her most iconic look: the meat dress as it is now called. For the 2010 VMAs, she wore a few different looks as she accepted several wins for her single Bad Romance. But one that stood out is the dress she wore that is made of raw meat as she accepted her win for Video of the Year for Bad Romance. This iconic pop history event has spawned several documentaries and countless essays and fan video analysis online.

Lady Gaga wearing the controversial meat dress
Lady Gaga's meat dress look at the MTV Video Music Awards. Source.

Lady Gaga has an outstanding vocal talent and mindblowing writing skills. But music is a multi-million-dollar business, and to stay on top, talent is not enough. It could be argued that Lady Gaga is just a brilliant marketing strategist. Only she can look schizophrenic and at the same time make it look cool and smart. And she singlehandedly reset pop culture—she made fashion and art accessible to the general public that they ate it up so much other pop artists were forced to be just like her and change and transform from one album cycle to another. Art is enough as it is, but in a business, art is worthless regardless of its impact if it cannot generate revenue. And that is what Gaga did very well.

When the applause were silent

Historically speaking, Lady Gaga’s cultural impact is really saturated. She did all of these in just a span of ten years. And throughout her career, she was only on the very forefront of pop music revolution for three or four years before she was relatively pushed aside. Her fourth studio album ARTPOP, although still successful in its own regard, was underwhelming compared to her previous three albums The Fame, The Fame Monster, and Born This Way. These led to her fading from the limelight and pursuing jazz music to find her passion once more.

And even in the years when she was away, Lady Gaga’s intelligent storytelling and mind-boggling discernment for the sociology of fame is still evident. Going back to her final single from The Fame, Paparazzi, she has talked about a pop star’s rise to fame and her downfall. This has also been portrayed in the music video. Her chilling performance at the 2009 VMAs, although overshadowed by Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, was without a doubt another remarkable event in pop culture history. In that performance, she has portrayed what she calls the decay of the blonde pop star, a chilling yet dramatic downfall of a pop superstar. This is a perfect way to end the album cycle for The Fame, which tackled the glamour of being famous, and to transition into her EP, The Fame Monster, which is a commentary on the negative effects of fame.

Isn’t that what people want, to see how people who have it all lose it all? Lady Gaga in her interview with 60 Minutes

This almost feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy, but Lady Gaga’s career has followed the same trajectory as the careers of the stars she commented on like Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Jon Benet Ramsey, Liberace, and Jesus Christ himself—all of which suffered untimely deaths at the height of their superstardom. Although Gaga didn’t die, she almost did. In a recent interview for her sixth studio album Chromatica, Lady Gaga admitted to having suicidal tendencies. Needless to say, Lady Gaga is smart enough to have a deep understanding of how fame works, but even her didn’t escape the claws of the fame monster itself.

Lady Gaga suffered severe body pains during her Born This Way Ball tour. It was prematurely ended after she suffered from a labral tear that required her to undergo surgery. Her success was abruptly paused, and for a moment, she disappeared from the spotlight. During her recovery, she prepared for the release of her fourth studio album ARTPOP, which she sarcastically said would be the album of the millenium. It has morphed in terms of its concept throughout the time she was writing it, but ultimately it became an album that experiments about the dream of high-brow art and pop culture coming together, something that she has done right from the start of her career.

ARTPOP had such high hopes. It spawned numerous attempts to bring high-brow art like the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli into the mainstream pop culture. It attempted to make Lady Gaga the first ever pop star to perform in space with its partnership with NASA. It attempted to put out an app that would have enabled her to release new tracks from the record’s infamous yet non-existent second act. However, all of these failed to come into fruition.

Arguably, ARTPOP's underwhelming chart performance and its unaccomplished goals are not Lady Gaga’s fault. It just came during a time in her life when people she trusted the most betrayed her.[2] But regardless of who’s fault it was, Lady Gaga’s demise is exactly just as expected of superstars: it was a dramatic downfall.

Yet another reinvention

Lady Gaga’s rise from the ashes of what became of her in ARTPOP is one of the most interesting reinventions in modern pop music history. She took the route of the acoustic guitar-centered personal musician (as if she didn’t write her previous records referencing her personal struggles). After the album cycle for Cheek to Cheek, her jazz collaboration with Tony Bennett, she released her fifth studio album Joanne.

At the time, this was dubbed as her most personal album yet. Joanne Germanotta was her father’s sister who died from lupus. Gaga says that Joanne’s untimely death at 19 years old scarred her father so much that she wonders if she ever got to know her real father. She said that she wrote Joanne in an effort to fix her dad, something which she now says failed.

As much as that album failed to fix her dad, it was by no means a failure of an album. Sure, it didn’t garner as much sales as her previous albums did: the lead single off of the album, Perfect Illusion, peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But it got her a spot to headline the Superbowl LI Halftime Show, which has become the most viewed second most viewed[3] Superbowl Halftime Show of all time. She has also scored the lead role for the movie A Star is Born, co-starring its director, Bradley Cooper, and spawning the most awarded song in history, Shallow. Joanne, although a very polarizing album amongst the Little Monsters, is truly a successful reinvention from a modern pop star like Lady Gaga.

I heard one sine

Lady Gaga hasn’t stopped creating music for her fans and the general public alike. Her latest album, Chromatica, she says, was written because she wants to make the world dance again. However, this couldn’t have been more wrongly timed.

Chromatica's lead single, Stupid Love, leaked in low quality and started circulating online as early as November of 2019. A nearly-completed demo leaked in full in January 2020, less than a month before it was officially released. Leaks are a traditional part of Lady Gaga’s album cycles though[4], and besides, there’s a bigger issue she has to address first: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lady Gaga laying on her back on metal grills that cover a rectangle opening lit up pink, imposed on her is her interpretation of a sine wave made of metal
The album art for Lady Gaga's 6th studio album, Chromatica.

Lady Gaga is first a human before she is a pop star. As the pandemic broke out, she decided to postpone the album release. Chromatica was set to be released on , but was rescheduled to . This gave her management time to rethink promotional strategies, and, for Gaga, to formulate ideas to help with the pandemic response.

For her lead single music video, Lady Gaga partnered up with Apple Inc. for promo and joined the #ShotOniPhone campaign. Stupid Love's music video was shot using an iPhone, which made a huge chunk of Little Monsters disappointed thinking that it was subpar. This partnership led Gaga to be really close to Apple Inc.'s CEO, Tim Cook. In a live interview with Jimmy Fallon, she FaceTimed Tim Cook to ask him to donate to the COVID-19 response, to which Tim Cook promised to donate $10 million.

Apart from this, Lady Gaga had been in contact with several other organizations and companies, asking them to donate and help in the pandemic response. This effort led to the One World: Together at Home virtual concert, which was, by the way, not a fundraiser but rather an entertainment show for everyone to watch free. By this time, Lady Gaga has raised $128 million in total.

Lady Gaga has always said music healed her. In Sine From Above, a track off of Chromatica, she says she heard one sine, or a sound wave, that is, music, and that it healed her heart. Lady Gaga, as much of a great musician she is, has also done everything in her power to help the world heal, and has not only used her music to do that, but also practical efforts like the Born This Way Foundation and her role in the pandemic response. Early in her career, she used to introduce herself like this:

My name is Lady Gaga, and I am changing the world one sequin at a time.

No one knew, probably not even Lady Gaga, how true that statement would be. Lady Gaga changed the pop music scene, and the world for the better, and all it took was a disco stick, her iPod glasses, and a sine that healed her heart.

  1. Lady Gaga always lugged her disco stick around during the album cycle for her debut album The Fame. She also referenced this in her single Lovegame. When asked in an interview what the disco stick represented, she responded it’s a penis. ↩︎

  2. Lady Gaga severed ties with her former manager, Troy Carter, after he reportedly neglected her when he couldn’t profit off of her any longer after her hip injury and the failure of Applause to reach the top of the charts. ↩︎

  3. Katy Perry’s 2015 performance remains the most watched Superbowl Halftime Show, with 118.5 million live viewers. Gaga’s 2017 performance got 117.5 million live viewers. ↩︎

  4. Ever since her EP, The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga has experienced several leaks for her lead singles. Among these are Bad Romance, and Applause, the latter spawning the now-iconic phrase Pop Music Emergency 911. She has also allegedly leaked a demo of her ARTPOP track Aura (which during the time was still called Burqa) on the fan forum site GagaDaily under the username BorisIsHere. ↩︎

Back to top