Playlist: An hour with Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is a curious case. She catapulted to the stratosphere with her breakthrough debut album, The Fame, in 2008 and quickly became one of the world’s biggest stars. However, by the end of the run of her (technically) third album in 2011, her star seemed to be dimming a bit. The lack of success for 2013’s ARTPOP hasn’t helped, either. Still, she remains a respected and hotly anticipated name in the world of pop music. However, one thing the general public was seemingly ignorant of… was her talent. That is, until her performance last Sunday’s Academy Awards. People were so surprised that she can sing, yet I am sure that anyone who has listened to her discography in full has always known that. I wonder, then, what else don’t they know? How about the fact that Gaga writes and produces most of her stuff, too? Probably not. Below is a guided playlist through the best of Gaga’s discography; coming in at just under one hour. Take a listen!

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With her debut set, Lady Gaga introduced herself to the world via her dance-pop lead single, “Just Dance,” which went on to be a #1 smash hit. Commercially impressive indeed, but the quality of The Fame lied in its other tracks. Of the uptempos, “Poker Face” combined the best of Gaga’s, well, uniqueness, with the dance-pop sensibilities of “Just Dance.” On the more mellow “Paparazzi,” she showed off a more thoughtful and nuanced side of her sound. With “Paper Gangsta,” she served a bit of attitude with a more hip-hop edge. Meanwhile, on “Brown Eyes,” we met a Lady Gaga of the rock ballad variety.

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Following the massive success of The Fame, Gaga dropped the 8 song Fame Monster as a companion to her debut. With this release, the now-it girl had a bit more creative freedom and her music became more sonically daring, with a bit more lyrical depth. “Bad Romance” is still perhaps her biggest hit and signature song. “Monster” showcases her weirder side and created the namesake for her fans, the “Little Monsters.” On the piano-driven “Speechless,” however, she treaded into the rock ballad territory once again. On “Speechless,” she showcased her vocals like never before. To top it all off, she collaborated with Beyoncé for “Telephone” to cement her status as a fierce lady not to be underestimated.

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Every pop star has a misstep – as talented as she may be, Gaga’s Born This Way album was just that. Despite it’s commercial success, the 2011 album was lackluster, falling far below the standards set by The Fame and The Fame Monster. However, there was one shining gem: “Marry The Night.” Here, Gaga rolled her favorite divas, Whitney, Mariah and Madonna into one over the top throwback dance pop number in a way that only she could. Born This Way, however, was nowhere near as successful as her previous releases.

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Two years later, Gaga returned with ARTPOP, and she continued further in the “artsy-I-don’t-give-a-fuck-this-is-my-art” direction. While it did not yield a commercial smash, ARTPOP was an improvement from Born This Way. Still, it is no Fame Monster. Regardless, it has several stand out tracks. “Sexxx Dreams” is by far the best on the album, and one of the best in her entire discography. The sensual track is quintessential Gaga. Following the godly “Sexxx Dreams” is “Jewels N’ Drugs,” featuring T.I. and Twista. Here, Gaga shines on her most authentic and well done experimentation with hip-hop. On the moody and atmospheric title track, “ARTPOP,” she outlines the album’s philosophy, laid smoothly over an entrancing dance pop track. On the album’s most emotional moment, “Dope,” Gaga bares her soul. “Dope” is another piano-driven ballad on which she confesses about her struggles with substance abuse.

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In perhaps one of the oddest moves in pop music history, Lady Gaga responded to the lackluster success of ARTPOP … by releasing Cheek to Cheek, an album of jazz standard remakes, all duets with Tony Bennett. “Lush Life” is the album’s one exception, and its shining moment. Gaga’s vocal is flawless; she delivers a worthy rendition of this classic jazz standard. For what it is, Cheek to Cheek has sold decently well since it’s release last fall. And, it seems Gaga may be on to something if the positive press for her Sound of Music tribute performance from last week’s Oscar’s is anything to go by.  If you haven’t watched it, consider it the final selection on our playlist.

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