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Queens of Pop: Lady Gaga

Ben Fong-Torres

Ben Fong-Torres

Posted to Artist Spotlight on February 20, 2014

As I noted in my blog about Diana Ross, she is one of eight Queens of Pop, as voted by viewers of ARTE, a television network based in the south of France. The top eight each got a half-hour documentary produced about her.

Besides Ross, the “queens” are Donna Summer, Deborah Harry (Blondie), Madonna, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

Sorry, Adele. (The poll was conducted in 2011, when she was still breaking out.)

It’s a debatable list. That’s what they’re for, of course, to get people arguing and complaining. But, at least in the case of Lady Gaga, the result is a pretty entertaining primer, a Gaga for Dummies, on one of the most surprising and sensational pop phenomena of recent times.

She exploded onto the scene in 2008, with an album, The Fame, that generated four hit singles, from “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” to “Love Game” and “Papparazzi.”

It was easy to call her a Madonna wannabe, but she wouldn’t allow it. She proved herself an excellent singer and musician; a dazzling writer and producer of dance-pop songs, a brazen visual artist, a daring dancer and performer, and a young woman driven to stardom, as evidenced by her titling her first album “The Fame.”

Madonna? Try Bowie, Zappa, Warhol, Queen. Or, as Afrika Islam described her: “Madonna, Grace Jones and burlesque thrown over hip-hop and dance music.”

There are a number of talking heads here, ranging from musicians (including Boy George and the Pet Shop Boys) to sociologists, but the most mesmerizing is Stefani Geremanotta: Gaga herself. Young, blonde (it’s said she didn’t want to look like Amy Winehouse) and wearing big, black shades, she’s straightforward about her goal of superstardom and how she attained it, reaching out to fans who weren’t fans yet; allowing herself to look cartoonish, to be a product, all while maintaining her self-pride. “I’m definitely not a run of the mill pop princess,” she says, “plucked from casting call and made into a star. I’m an artist.”

You look at those videos again; you listen to the music again. And sure, she was a phenomenon, the ruler of the “House of Gaga,” a star and, yes, a queen of pop. But she also was—and is—an artist.

Even if you weren’t reading Rolling Stone magazine in the late '60s /early '70s, you might still know who Ben Fong-Torres is from the movie “Almost Famous.” Ben Fong-Torres is the legendary Rolling Stone Senior Editor who was characterized in the Cameron Crowe movie and now,… More

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