Lady Gaga’s journey to worldwide ubiquity has continued with nary a speedbump through 2010 — indeed, enumerating her achievements over the past year can feel beside the point. Simply put, it’s impossible to recall a contemporary artist who made the jump from simple pop star to omnipresent global figure at such an accelerated clip.
Gaga’s debut record, “The Fame,” was the fourth bestselling release in 2009 and is currently the fourth highest-selling record of this year as well, with late-2009 spinoff release “The Fame Monster” quickly going platinum, a remix album charting in the top 10 in August and a new full-length “Born Like This” on the horizon. She recently broke the 1 billion mark in terms of YouTube and Vevo views for her characteristically twisted musicvideos, which also garnered her a record-setting 13 MTV VMA nominations in a single year.
Partnerships with Polaroid and fragrance company Coty round out her canny business moves, and the U. of Virginia is even offering an undergraduate course this fall titled “GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender and Identity.” (Even Madonna needed a decade at the top and a co-sign from Camille Paglia before she merited such scholarly attention.)
Yet perhaps what Gaga has demonstrated most over the past year is an increasing ability to fuse the unknowable mystique of the classic cabaret starlet with the variety of shameless oversharing and personal branding that has become the default mode of celebrity in the modern Snookified epoch. Eternally tweeting to her “little monsters,”and contributing such quotable bon mots as “pop stars shouldn’t eat” and “they’re going to take my creativity from me through my vagina,” she nonetheless remains an enigma — an inextricable enmeshing of closely guarded identity and outlandish constructed persona of the kind that Joaquin Phoenix could only dream about.
The past year has seen her don a special Frank Gehry-designed hat to a benefit recital at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art and make waves with an oddly well-draped raw meat dress to the VMAs; it has also seen her crowdsurf topless at Lollapalooza, where she later wielded a hairspray-can torch while gyrating to Metallica’s “Metal Militia.” Such bold blurring of high and low culture may be old hat to the art community (into whose ranks Gaga still clearly wants to climb), yet no one has done so to so large an audience.And perhaps most notably, Gaga seems constitutionally incapable of taking a break. Were she a normal pop star, this degree of relentless overexposure would almost certainly prove fatal. But Gaga is not a normal pop star.