As the pop star jets off to the fictional paradise of Chromatica for her new album, Adam White ranks her top 20 songs.
20. Poker Face (The Fame)
It's easy to forget how creepy Gaga was when she first broke out — she was responsible for tracks that glistened with menace. On Poker Face, she sings casually about violence and subterfuge. It remains marvellous.
19. Fashion of His Love (Born This Way)
In hindsight, it’s baffling that Madonna kicked up such a fuss about Born This Way sounding a bit like Express Yourself when Fashion of His Love was right there. There’s the same melody, that Shep Pettibone drumbeat — it’s also a stonking wind machine of a track.
18. Alejandro (The Fame Monster)
From the inexplicably European lilt Gaga lends to the spoken-word lines, to the femme-fatale chilliness of its chorus, this song bangs.
17. I’ll Never Love Again (A Star Is Born)
This is such a Whitney Houston song, with Gaga imitating her whoops and hums with uncanny aplomb. A classic, made-in-Tinseltown ballad powered by stardust and glitter.
16. The Fame (The Fame)
A mission statement and declaration of self for early Gaga, The Fame remains one of her catchiest tracks. There’s the knowing celebration of vapidity and moneyed glam, and the shimmering cool of those Bowie-esque guitar licks.
15. Marry the Night (Born This Way)
A celebration of Gaga as a one-off, retelling how she fled cookie-cutter conformity in the Los Angeles pop industry and returned to New York to carve out her own destiny. There’s a starving-artist “idea” at work that’s at odds with Gaga’s very moneyed upbringing (she went to the same school as Paris Hilton’s sister Nicky). Still, there is a universal truth regarding Gaga’s refusal to be what the industry wanted her to be.
14. Judas (Born This Way)
Judas sounds like a duet between two Gagas — the electropop cyborg and the angelic Whitney fangirl. It’s ultimately about the allure of darkness, while the track’s production is a wall of bangs, shouts and gurgles.
13. Scheiße (Born This Way)
Okay, this is naked pandering to the Berghain crowd, with its gibberish German lyrics and aggressive absurdity. But it’s also a racket that it transcends any and all cliche.
12. The Edge of Glory (Born This Way)
The best kind of love song, this is big, teen-movie emotions in pop form. It’s basically Gaga’s Firework — overplayed as all hell, but never once losing its euphoric power no matter how often you’ve heard it.
11. Joanne (Joanne)
Named after the aunt she never knew, an artist and poet who died at 19, Gaga’s fourth album is so divergent to everything else she’s done. This track is its heart and soul, a rich, beautifully low-key torch song that dispenses with the jazzier theatrics of her other ballads.
10. Government Hooker (Born This Way)
Pure chaos. Over the course of three minutes of industrial techno, it grinds and squirts its way into resembling something sub-human, with a chorus that sounds like a duet between Edith Piaf and a sex robot.
9. The Cure (non-album single)
As cool as a dip in the ocean, The Cure arrived and vanished in a puff of mystery. Released randomly in early 2017, this is one of Gaga’s loveliest numbers. It feels like romantic contentment, Gaga insisting she’s the cure to her lover’s woes. No one really talks about this track, but maybe they should.
8. Sexxx Dreams (Artpop)
This is full of theatrical flourishes as Gaga recalls an erotic fantasy the night before. Half wailing and half speaking, she is giggling her way through a couple glasses of wine. There are strumming guitars, stop-and-start synths and a breathless funk bassline that never lets up. It’s baffling that this wasn’t a single.
7. Telephone (The Fame Monster)
It’s arguable that Telephone is Gaga, and duet partner Beyonce, at their most basic, but purely because this is a track aspiring for nothing but nightclub frivolity. The pinnacle of trash-pop, a noisy and glitchy slab of energy and dial tones resting entirely on their shared charisma.
6. GUY (Artpop)
Gaga has such strong vocal prowess that even when surrounded by production chaos, as in GUY, she still sounds totally in charge. Which is appropriate here, as it’s a track driven by themes of sexual domination and shifting gender roles.
5. Shallow (A Star Is Born)
The standout track from A Star Is Born, which won Gaga and its co-writers an Oscar, this is dramatic, immaculately produced and heartbreaking — a rock power-ballad that sticks its hands into your soul and refuses to let go.
4. You and I (Born This Way)
One of Gaga’s greatest strengths is her ability to fuse disparate genres. This track sounds like the baby Freddie Mercury and Shania Twain never had, a thunderous rock ballad.
3. Paparazzi (The Fame)
Paparazzi highlights Gaga’s romanticism, her vulnerability and, even more than Poker Face, her genius when it comes to killer hooks. That it explores narcissism, celebrity and how we’re all guilty participants in pop culture, only adds to its power.
2. Born This Way (Born This Way)
Initially, this track was criticised for potentially exploiting Gaga’s gay fanbase, bizarre criticism that she was forced to condemn. In hindsight, it’s still a landmark in the kind of entirely unsubtle LGBT+ activism it represents. A stomping, on-the-nose battle cry and marvellous sign of the times.
1. Bad Romance (The Fame Monster)
A track only Gaga could have made. Not only because so much of its hook involves the word ‘Gaga’ being twisted into something monstrous, but because no one else would be daring enough to blend all of these sounds, images and reference points together. It sounds like someone taking a chainsaw to a synthesiser, or a woman at the very peak of her powers. Bad Romance marked the moment we all knew Lady Gaga would be around forever.