More than a decade of Lady Gaga — including three recent Grammy victories and a fresh Academy Award win earlier this year — has come and gone in the blink of a glistening disco stick. In celebration of Gaga’s March 28 birthday, 11 years of Little Monster madness, calling the art police, “reverse-Warholian” expeditions, yearning for Artpop: Act II, the impending release of LG6, A Star Is Born‘s atmospheric awards trajectory, and all that money, honey, EW ranks the 23 North American singles released throughout Gaga’s career.
Special mention: “Til It Happens to You” (2015)
The sentiment behind “Til It Happens To You,” Gaga’s Oscar-nominated ballad penned with the legendary Diane Warren, marks perhaps the most emotionally raw offering in her 10-year-old discography. It’s so personal that it doesn’t feel right to pit this song against Gaga’s others. Recorded for the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, which chronicled the rise of rape culture on college campuses, the track draws from Gaga’s real-life experience with sexual assault as it highlights the struggle to endure after the trauma of abuse.
22. “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” [with Tony Bennett] (2014)
They’re not awful, but you…
21. “Anything Goes” [with Tony Bennett] (2014)
20. “The Lady Is a Tramp” [with Tony Bennett] (2011)
…bop to these jazz tunes!
19. “The Cure” (2017)
“The Cure” — a one-off, standalone track Mother Monster debuted during her 2017 Coachella set — feels more like an afterthought disconnected from the bevy of jams she’s released in the past. It’s breezy, light, lyrically sweet, and ticks all the boxes of a radio-friendly pop hit. It just doesn’t boast the same anthemic swagger Gaga’s known for. Produced by “anonymous” duo Detroit City (a duo most sleuthy fans speculatively pegged as DJ White Shadow and Mark Nilan), “The Cure” will go down as a pleasant counter to the country-tinged, Americana spirit of Joanne.
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18. “LoveGame” (2009)
Day-one fans of The Fame knew what a disco stick was before the sexually adventurous lyrics of “LoveGame” introduced the iconic term to the masses via its delightful pre-chorus build-up. It’s a catchy, easily danceable toe-tapper that continued the general public’s enchantment with Gaga’s clever hooks following the one-two punch of “Just Dance” and “Poker Face.” But the song hasn’t aged as well as its preceding singles. It’s not a bad song by any means — and there are no “bad” songs on this list — but of The Fame‘s handful of game-changing singles, “LoveGame” is probably the least momentous.
17. “Yoü and I” (2011)
It wouldn’t be a Gaga album without a show-stopping piano ballad. Though they’re often sonic departures from the rest of the songs on the LPs built around them, they still serve as thematic compliments to their album brethren. “Yoü and I” matched Born This Way‘s arena rock bravura without the electronic bells and whistles of “Judas” or “Marry the Night.” But therein lies the problem: as it stands, the song is a rollicking, drinks-in-the-air anthem that sounds best blaring out of dive bar speakers, but the production on the radio version always seemed a tad too grandiose for the tune’s emotional foundation. It’s a ridiculously fun song, but once you hear it in the style of nothing but Gaga and her piano, you won’t want it any other way. (But we’ll accept Yüyi the Mermaid in any capacity, thank you very much).
16. “Million Reasons” (2016)
On the second official release from Joanne, Gaga was primed to take us on a personal journey inward. “Million Reasons” is arguably the most emotionally vulnerable we’ve ever seen her. Lyrically, it’s, a stripped concoction that has Gaga trusting the power of God as much as she does the will of her shattered human heart. It’s a heavy cut, and for that reason it’s probably hard for most fans to get as excited about it as they would for uptempo bangers like “Poker Face” and “Telephone.” But you can’t deny its endearing charms and its overall vitality to Gaga’s career, as the song helped reposition her in the good graces of the general public with its cross-generational appeal (aided largely by its show-stopping inclusion in her Super Bowl LI halftime show) that made it her first top-five hit in the U.S. since 2013’s “Applause.”
15. “Shallow” (2018)
Gaga’s first No. 1 single in over eight years arrived with a resounding “HAAAAAOOOOOOoaaa HOOHhhhhhAAOOHHAHhhhhh ooooAAAooooAoOOOOAHH HHHHHOOOOOOOAAAAAHHHHH” upon debuting last summer alongside the first trailer for the entertainer’s first film as a lead actress, A Star Is Born. It has since become one of the most successful songs of Gaga’s career, steadily building radio play and notching multiple weeks inside the Billboard Hot 100‘s top 10 well over six months after its proper release. The iconic pre-chorus will forever be burned into our aural souls — and the tune’s emotionally moving placement in the film itself will always hold a dear place in our hearts — but the song’s otherwise simple lyrical back-and-forth (outside the context of the film’s narrative, mind you) between Gaga and costar-director Bradley Cooper keep it from ascending the ranks of Gaga’s best songs despite its overwhelming commercial performance begging us to tick it higher.
14. “Judas” (2011)
A prelude to the insanity the Artpop era would bring, “Judas” and its electro-house-infused, sledgehammering bass counteracted the glacial, crystalline sounds of Born This Way‘s namesake lead. Its lyrics are a little rough around the edges (ear condoms, anyone?), but this religiously inspired banger about loving a back-stabbing betrayer is as blissfully whacky and operatic as Gaga gets. Hell, that eardrum-splitting breakdown could occupy a spot on this list on its own.
13. “G.U.Y.” (2014)
By Artpop single No. 3, it was apparent Gaga intended to put that chapter behind her a little earlier than anticipated. She sent the era out with a signature bang, though, mounting the most ambitious music video of her career, which was filmed almost entirely on Hearst Castle’s lavish grounds . Throw in a bunch of Minecraft references, a revival of the “Greek mythology chic” aesthetic, and the resurrections of Michael Jackson, Ghandi, and Jesus, and you have a deliciously bonkers revenge plot that serves as a definitive example of the unqiue perspective that made Gaga a household name. “G.U.Y.”‘s Zedd-fueled blend of EDM bliss, feminist lyrics about gender roles, and zany visuals gave us perhaps the only tangible glimpse at the sprawling, sci-fi fantasy opus Gaga wanted Artpop to be.
12. “Do What U Want” [feat. Christina Aguilera] (2013)
Largely defined by unfounded accusations of commercial disaster, the Artpop era is one of the more interesting periods of Gaga’s professional life. Lead single “Applause” registered as one of her biggest radio hits to date, but follow-up single “Do What U Want,” never reached the same lofty chart heights — and certainly didn’t get its fair shake despite being one of the most radio-friendly bops in Gaga’s repertoire. Still, the song was certified platinum in the U.S. and remains among the best unsung highlights in Gaga’s collection, pulsing with throbbing electronic riffs, an epic set of funky verses, and a soaring chorus.
11. “Telephone” [feat. Beyoncé] (2010)
There was no better collaborative match for Gaga at her zenith than fellow music royal Beyoncé, so the pair logically teamed up for a double-header of brilliant pop offerings that shook the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell to his core. The first, “Video Phone,” failed to crack the domestic top 40 in 2009, but it appropriately set the stage for the “Telephone” explosion the following year. Originally intended for Britney Spears (you can hear the demo version here), “Telephone” is a simple electronic jam that was never going to win any awards for songwriting genius, but the chemistry Gaga and Beyoncé brought to the song infused it with a wild energy that instantly made it a memorable — and enduring — cut from Gaga’s early reign on the music throne.
10. “Paparazzi” (2009)
Yes, you know the iconic VMAs performance that catapulted Gaga into the realm of superstardom (and blood into her eye). But, when we look back on the whole of Gaga’s creative output, “Paparazzi” is often overshadowed by her flashier releases. Still, the mid-tempo song remains a crowning poetic achievement for Gaga as a songwriter, delicately encapsulating The Fame’s thematic identity as its creator likens her obsessive desires to the flashing bulbs of the song’s titular celebrity stalkers. This was perhaps the first time listeners saw Gaga as a savvy lyricist as opposed to just another label-hawked pop star.
9. “Just Dance” (2008)
While it staked Gaga’s inaugural claim on the mainstream charts, “Just Dance” almost wasn’t a hit, as producers Akon and RedOne previously told EW they had to fight to get the song’s unique (at the time), four-on-the-floor production on popular station airwaves. But it found its footing in gay clubs in New York and San Francisco, and eventually bounded up the charts almost a year after its bow with pockets of support around the country that soon bubbled up into nationwide adoration. It has since been edged out as the single most synonymous with Gaga herself, but those opening chords will always occupy a warm space in every Little Monster’s heart as the progression that gave us our queen.
8. “Applause” (2013)
It’s unfortunate that Artpop’s lead single arrived with a hefty load of baggage. Dogged by comparisons to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” which released two days prior, “Applause” faced an unrealistically challenging uphill battle from the get-go. Though it was eventually certified triple-Platinum, peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and served as a milestone moment for Gaga with a sturdy presence on radio, “Applause” was never able to emerge from “Roar”‘s shadow, but has since positioned itself as a fan-favorite gateway into a new phase of Gaga’s career. After all, it’s a progressively zany rager with an addictive throwback hook that affectionately recalls those found on Gaga’s debut album.
7. “Alejandro” (2010)
Like Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around” by way of the darkest corner of Madonna, “Alejandro”’s violin-backed intro quickly gives way to a lush wall of melancholy electronic waves as Gaga bids her ex-lovers adieu over a stomping beat and a hopeful melody. Clearly, the song owes a debt to ABBA and the Europop craze of the ’90s, but Gaga and producer RedOne found something new amid the track’s sonic foundation, and crafted a song that sounds warm but handles like an ice-cold send off to toxic male dominance.
6. “Perfect Illusion” (2016)
“Perfect Illusion” marks the first time Gaga’s solo pop career radically departed from the comforts of electronic music and into fresh musical territory. The fact that it has spawned the best remixes and mash-ups of any Gaga track ever (the “This Is What You Came For” blend is spine-tingling perfection, as is this ’80s-inspired rework) proves the song is, at its core, a dynamic construction that could have worked just as well as a dance record as it does a glistening, glam-rock gem. Gaga’s decision to lead Joanne with the song shows her commitment to versatility, ultimately willing to drop a bold, daring tune as her “comeback” single knowing full well fans wanted another “Bad Romance”-sized monolith. Whether she’s rocking out or shimmering under a disco ball, Gaga’s a showgirl at heart no matter what she does. And “Perfect Illusion” is a shining example of her abilities, packed with a soaring chorus and wallop of a key change that play out over guitar-and-drum-driven production.
5. “Born This Way” (2011)
Gaga’s first post-Fame Monster single landed at the peak of her popularity, with lyrics that served as a social revolution in their own right, and quickly became a banner track for acceptance as the first song featuring the word “transgender” to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Six years after its release, Gaga again made a powerful statement during her Super Bowl LI halftime show, singing in the name of LGBT equality as over 100 million people watched her take the biggest platform for a performer in the world. That’s not to say “Born This Way” is only worthy as a vital piece of social commentary; it’s a feel-good banger that has the robust bass and towering, anthemic chorus to back up its standing as a commercially accessible — yet nonetheless weighty — slice of activism-pop perfection.
4. “Poker Face” (2008)
When it peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009, “Just Dance” put Gaga on the map. But “Poker Face” jump-started her ascension into an era of pop domination. Its irresistible hook, heavy bassline, and fresh electronic accents helped usher in a new wave of Europop influence on the global scene. Paired with “Just Dance,” the songs together mark the loudest, most irresistible two-handed debut of any singer-songwriter in recent memory. Like Madonna and Whitney Houston did years before her, Gaga and her “Poker Face” brought together gay club culture with mainstream hip-pop and everything in between.
3. “Marry the Night” (2011)
Gaga has long been open about her pop cultural influences, from David Bowie and Madonna to Elton John and Grace Jones. But never has her music so gorgeously reflected her stylistic inspirations as “Marry the Night,” a near perfect mix of contemporary pop production sung with Springsteen-sized chutzpah. Blending hard rock strings with crisp dance-pop trimmings, the song — which should have been Born This Way’s lead single — builds on itself until its knockout conclusion, which brims with haunting bells and towering vocals.
2. “The Edge of Glory” (2011)
No song captures the attitude and spirit of the Born This Way era better than “The Edge of Glory,” a stomping, stadium-sized pop-rock monster that feels both contemporary and forward-thinking with its feet planted firmly in influences of years past. Not to mention Gaga’s vocals, which sound extravagant, energized, and liberated in their element as they jive with E-Street Band sax legend Clarence Clemons’ mid-song solo. Gaga’s a die-hard Springsteen girl, after all, and “The Edge of Glory” doesn’t feel like mimicry as much as it does a sharply crafted, unique translation of The Boss’ style that only a true fan could muster. It’s a high-energy treat that also carries genuine emotional weight in its lyrics about throwing caution to the wind (which she says were inspired by her grandfather’s transition from life to death).
1. “Bad Romance” (2009)
Did you expect anything else to top this list? Sure, the Fame Monster’s lead single never hit No. 1 in the U.S. (it remains one of the most glaring chart injustices in the Billboard Hot 100’s history), but nearly 10 years after its release, it has become Gaga’s signature song — and perhaps the most influential pop tune of the modern era, ushering in a wave of stateside Europop. Hook-and-chorus pairings don’t get better than the gargantuan wallop of “Bad Romance”’s. Gaga’s legacy was cemented the first time she professed her desire to gaze upon a so-bad-he’s-good lover in her rear window, and pop music has never looked back since.
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