From Pop Princess to Glamour Queen: The Transformation of Lady Gaga

For much of her career, Lady Gaga was known for her extreme costume choices — whether it’s the iconic, yet perishable, meat dress or a head-to-toe red lace gown. Her eccentric pop culture moments have dominated the conversation around her and her music. But, that has not stopped her from breaking free of any diamond-encrusted boxes people have likely put her in. Lady Gaga is the chameleon Hollywood never knew it needed. Let’s look at her transformation over the decade she’s been in the spotlight:

The Fame Era:

Ten years ago, Lady Gaga released her debut album, The Fame. With her first single “Just Dance” exploding all over the radio and iTunes, she was officially rocket-launched into immediate fame. Her iconic sunglasses, lightning bolt face paint and geometric clothing became a staple in 2008 pop music. The public knew to expect the unexpected when it came to Gaga in these years. She notoriously wrote her two biggest singles, “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” both of which were written in ten minutes.

Little Monsters, the nicknames for Gaga’s fans, got hashtag blessed with a second album just a short year after The Fame was released. Although “The Fame Monster” had repeats from her debut album, there were new hits like “Alejandro” and “Telephone” that kept Gaga’s monsters happy. Most of the album was filled with similar hits, characterized by the electronic dance and pop sounds that fans knew and loved. Thus, the image of Gaga as the crowned jewel of pop was born. Her blunt bangs and bleached blonde wig became an iconic staple of the performer. At the 2009 Video Music Awards, she performed the radio hit “Paparazzi” and solidified her dramatic flare for entertaining while performing.

It was no wonder that people were polarized by this phase of Gaga; you either loved everything she did or were horrified by her stunts.

The Born This Way Era:

In 2011, Gaga not only showed up to the VMAS in a human-sized egg, but she also released her third album titled “Born This Way.” Although she kept up with the flashy, surprising performances, people started to realize that she was more than just her oddities. Some of Gaga’s best, and edgiest, songs came from this era of her career. Songs like “Born This Way” and “Judas” showed a religious undertone that seemed previously hidden under the thicker layers of her showmanship. “Born This Way” quickly became the LGBTQ anthem of acceptance, and Gaga became an ally for the community.

Throwing everyone for a loop, Gaga’s next album ARTPOP centered around fashion and fame. In 2013, hits like “Applause” showed another turning point in her pop career. From basic dance hits to duets with Beyoncé, Gaga began to give little monsters a hint at her vocal range. The song “Do What U Want” perfectly showcases that she was more than her costumes. Her appearance moved from extravagant costumes to barely-there shell bras and conveniently placed flower beds. She seemed to be done trying too hard and let her artistic vision flourish.

Check to cheek:

Taking an extreme turn in the next year, Gaga released a jazz album with jazz icon Tony Bennett. The Check to Cheek album confused fans, but Gaga was never one to stay in a box others had created for her.

Acting Joanne:

Even more surprising than jazz was Gaga’s dive into her first acting role in 2015. Portraying the mysterious, blood-sucking Countess in American Horror Story was a perfect way to ease into a new acting career. Although she was only on the show for one season, fans loved to see Gaga on the silver screen. Not only had she proven her vocal and artistic range over the past 7 years, but now Gaga set out prove that she was more than just a musician. She was a born and bred entertainer.

After the finale, it seemed that Gaga was, mostly, over the crazy stunts and over-the-top costumes. With her 2016 Joanne album came a softer, rawer side. The album, named after her father’s sister who passed away when she was only 19, deals with sadness, heartbreak and cheating. This came as no surprise after her recent split from her boyfriend of five years, Taylor Kinney. The album is a long way away from her earlier hits, just by listening to the piano version of “Joanne (Where do you think your goin’),” anyone can tell that with everything stripped away, Gaga is still an ultra-talented force to be reckoned with.

A Star is Born Again:

Gaga most recently returned to acting in the highly anticipated, extremely successful movie, A Star is Born. Playing an incredibly insecure songwriter named Ally who falls head over heels for superstar Jackson Maine and the roller coaster life of fame, she stole the show from costar and director Bradly Cooper. For playing a character so outside of her realm of comfort, Gaga showed that taking risks reaped large rewards. Currently, she is projected to be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. Alongside the movie is the outstanding soundtrack that features a dozen duets, original songs and covers that, once again, show her range in all aspects of making music.

In the last scene of the movie, Ally sings a powerful love ballet to close the movie. “I’ll Never Love Again” was a song 10 years in the making. From the raw meat dress to making music with a jazz legend, Lady Gaga mastered the art of transformation — never staying in one style too long but taking elements that she’s learned along the way to create the most unique and personal music and art she can. Through the decade the world has known Lady Gaga, she never fails to remind us what it’s all about: her voice.