Pop's glam chameleon keeps up with 'Fame'

Singer, songwriter and walking modern-art project, Lady Gaga is not only 2009′s biggest breakout star, she may well be the future of Twitter-era pop stardom as well.

For starters, her career trajectory has been a remarkable example of accidental long-tail record promotion. After a stint as an apprentice songwriter and burlesque performer, Gaga released her debut single, “Just Dance,” to little fanfare in April of 2008. It didn’t enter the charts until that August, when it debuted inauspiciously at No. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty-two weeks (and innumerable club plays) later, it reached the No. 1 spot, after one of the longest gestation periods for a single in modern chart history.

By that time, she had become a household name, and subsequent singles “Poker Face” and “LoveGame” ascended to the top of the charts as well, making her only the third artist ever to score a Billboard hat trick on a debut album.

But perhaps more importantly, she displays a new-media cunning that hinges on a seeming contradiction — attaining an aura of mystery through relentless overexposure.

Never one to be accused of subtlety, Gaga’s music is composed of equal amounts of ’80s Italo disco, ’70s glam and scuzzy early-’00s electroclash. Her live show is garish, her fashion style outlandish (she often seems to go out of her way to wear revealing yet unflattering costumes, and she recently appeared on German TV wearing a dress made entirely out of Muppets), and her lyrics laden with enough double entendres to make Bon Scott blush.

Such outspokenness extends to her carefully crafted public persona — Gaga speaks openly of her own bisexuality and drug use, and refuses to break character even when ostensibly out of the public eye. Her debut single, released at the height of celebrity-stalking as spectator sport, details a night of overindulgence at a nightclub, as if to preemptively quash potential tabloid hunger for her own drug-fueled public breakdown.

Whether Gaga’s peculiar brand of knowing provocation will keep her in the recordbuying public’s good graces remains to be seen, but with a fall tour with Kanye West and a stint songwriting for Michael Bolton on the horizon, she’s ensured a place on its collective browser history for some time to come.

IN A NUTSHELL

Job title: Singer/ songwriter

Role models: In the linear notes to debut record “The Fame,” Gaga singles out David Bowie and Madonna for “inspiration.”

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