Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This List is RANK: The Top 30 Lady Gaga Songs of All Time

She's Mother Monster; the female pop act who is chided for being "too much like Madonna" (Even though every female pop act is directly of her cloth in some respect...) and the reason weirdos have a good name again. Six years in the music business has spawned wonderful things from Lady Gaga and these are her 30 best songs as I see fit...

***For reference, her efforts The Fame, The Fame Monster, Born This Way and ARTPOP will be the source of most of the picks. In any scope, any Lady Gaga song released or performed is eligible. Yes, Cheek to Cheek is not totally up for consideration (though a cut from that album might appear on the list) but is still an album worth your time.***

30. "MANiCURE" [from ARTPOP]- A track that while indicative of glam rock influence on Gaga, it's the track here with the least personality. It isn't a slant against her singing; it's just saying that arena rock realness isn't exactly a stretch of Gaga's creative side. Still, it's worth time as the production does an even job carrying the song with her vocals.

29. "Jewels N' Drugs" ft. T.I., Too $hort and Twista [from ARTPOP]- Ever wonder what a Lady Gaga cut can sound like when she outright says, "Fuck it; let's do this!"? This is the track from ARTPOP that does that and then some. Despite instances of vibe and soundclash, the rap sections just add an unexpected plus to the track. Gaga's vocals while not the focus still convey the deliciously tacky vibe of "Jewels N' Drugs".

28. "Sexxx Dreams" [from ARTPOP]- While it doesn't "scream" Gaga at first, its trippy confessional production is oddly hypnotizing. In terms of instant re-playable qualities along with the rest of 30-26 aren't exactly begging to be replayed; even if you're a Little Monster. Still, nobody that listened to this song is exactly complaining of the song being passe or uneventful.

27. "Fashion!" [as performed on the Lady Gaga and the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular with RuPaul]- What's better than a fabulous redux of most of "Hair" from Born This Way? Performing it with RuPaul, goddamnit. Performed on national television, this is when Gaga was giving brown lamp shade meets I Dream of Jeannie realness.

26. "Bad Kids" [from Born This Way]- BTW was self-confidence anthem central and while this cut appeals to the most fervent of Little Monsters, it being the top of the 30-26 list isn't exactly much to write home about. What it lacks in Top 25 material, it saves itself by being one of the least cryptic yet still enjoyable songs Mother Monster has ever spawned.

25. "Black Jesus + Amen Fashion" [from the special edition of Born This Way]- Any song that has the lyric "Jesus is the new black" is by default the most decadent and most goddamn fabulously blasphemous Gaga song ever crafted. While it's clear it would've never lasted one second on the radio, it's the best album specific cut of BTW. The "Candy Shop" from Hard Candy principle works its magic for "Black Jesus + Amen Fashion".

24. "Aura" [from ARTPOP]- While more famous for its lyric video in conjunction with Gaga's role in Machete Kills, its weird and trippy as fuck production services Gaga well. As an ARTPOP album cut, should this have led as the first single once play is pressed? No. While weird as hell, it's an entree compared to the amuse-bouche weirdness of say..."Gypsy". Still, "Aura" makes this list for being unapologetic weird-Gaga.

23. "Summerboy" [from The Fame]- Here's a fun fact about Gaga's music...ARTPOP was the only "weird" album she's made to date. Yes, up until it made a name for itself, every Gaga album was pure but bearable dance/pop. Case in point, the closing track for her debut. Light but adorably tacky pop fare is all "Summerboy" exudes and compared to the other songs, it's OK. Her singing while not strong here, is coy and playful which plays to her naturally corny persona.

22. "The Fame" [title track from her debut LP]- An underrated gem from her debut effort, "The Fame" did have a level of air impact [any ANTM buff like me remembers this song as the promo music for Cycle 12 {Allison's season}]. As an album cut, it's the most dance/pop friendly and it's been aging gracefully in secret.

21. "Dope" [from ARTPOP]- The promo single from ARTPOP that charted higher than the original cut of "Do What U Want" and "G.U.Y."...O_o It's a subtle [for Gaga] track that services her balladeer facet well despite its creeping theatrical overload. Still, despite the melodramatic caveats "Dope" is one of the more sonically daring moments of her career.


20. "Do What U Want" ft. Christina Aguilera [the digital download redux]- While the original cut of DWUW is a good track that was released on my birthday in 2013, confession: I've discovered my birthday and music don't mix well...at all. O_o The original, despite making it to #13 on the Hot 100 vanished without a trace once the video was deemed "Too Rape-y for VEVO".
However, face value of the song was saved thanks to a S5 of The Voice performance with Christina Aguilera. The performance was so popular that a remix ft. Aguilera was made available for digital download. Good move; the track's face value was salvaged and I didn't feel as shitty for my birthday "cursing" the song.

19. "Bloody Mary" [from Born This Way]- A trippier cut that shows that despite its heretic realness, Gaga's music was still dance/pop...even if the religious/spiritual trope was less poetic than past acts have done. Theatrics have been the ambrosia and Achilles heel of Gaga; any Little Monster will admit that. In this case, "Bloody Mary" fearlessly presents itself as an ambrosia album cut.

18. "The Edge of Glory" [from Born This Way]- Another case of being deceived into thinking Gaga is too weird for pop. TEoG was originally featured in a commercial for Google Chrome and let's face facts; If it wasn't for "Marry the Night", TEoG would easily be considered Gaga's worst video. The Google Chrome commercial epitomized the Hi-NRG [pronounced "high energy"] nature of the song.
Bonus praise; can we simply appreciate the performance of it on the Howard Stern radio show? Seriously, that was fucking beautiful.

17. "Venus" [from ARTPOP]- One of the less weird cuts from an otherwise divisive album. "Venus" served out of this world realness that barely cracked the Top 40 of the Hot 100...as a promo single. Still, this is a song that helped Gaga warn people that ARTPOP was going to be weird as fuck regardless of how many songs were released. Also, this marked when her wigs became hippie length but blonde as fuck much like the muse for the next song on the list.

16. "Donatella" [from ARTPOP]- Versace changed motherfuckers' lives; from Nomi Malone to Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, this is the song to play at one's most fierce bitch moment of living. Used as the promo music for the E! series #RichKids of Beverly Hills, "Donatella" is the most extravagant Gaga song to date...even if Zedd is to take a righteous hit for recycling "It's Karma Bitch" ft. Anjulie for the instrumental.

15. "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" [As performed for the PBS series, GREAT PERFORMANCES “Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE!”]- If not for another live performance on this list, this would easily cinch the crown as the best live singing she's ever done. Dressed in red leather, Gaga bitchslapped that song into submission. Theatrics once again serviced her musically [which can be said for any of the songs on the list.]

14. "Judas" [from Born This Way]- As with "Bloody Mary", "Judas" is inherently laced with pop content that stirred shit up with its dabbling into the religious holy waters. Essentially, the line "Jesus is my virtue/but Judas is the demon I cling to" is just a really pearl clutching way of saying "My ex/former lover has that bomb dick, tho." As Madonna had with "Like a Prayer", Gaga played into religion for not only "Alejandro" from TFM but for this BTW track which is leagues better than "Alejandro".
That's right; I'm letting you know now that "Alejandro" isn't on the list. It sucks out loud and is an instance of theatrics overshadowing Gaga. There, I said it.

13. "Bad Romance" [from The Fame Monster]- Before you brandish your nearest pitchfork, yes I recognize this song being considered her signature song in "bigger pictures". Frankly, while I can understand why [YouTube], I call bullshit on this. As with "Ray of Light", "Bad Romance" is overshadowed by music video ubiquity.
As a song itself, there's a reason it went to #2 on the Hot 100 (Damn you "Empire State of Mind"; you're not even Jay-Z's best song of the 00s yet people wanted you more on the radio.) It's the song that a lot of people outside of Gaga's intended audience heard of. This song was inescapable and as a song for radio, it earns every accolade it ever got. However, the video is still often thought of before the single and that's a personal peeve of mine.

12. "Brown Eyes" [from The Fame]- A subtle mid-tempo pop ballad from her debut which is more or less her most underrated album cut to date. Subtlety normally doesn't work for artists known more for being batshit insane like Gaga; but thanks to her glorious ability to sing leagues better than most, it works. The vibes might seem "sad bastard" but in actuality, it's simply Gaga being introspective without visuals to accompany the cut. 

11. "Government Hooker" [from Born This Way]- The best track from BTW that never got released as a single. First off, "Government Hooker" is the best song title she or the Haus of Gaga has ever come up with. Bar none, no other comes close. As a song, it's batshit Gaga in conflict pop Gaga as the song strides the balance of disconcerting lyrics left and right and album cut confection. Rhythmically, this is Gaga's most adventurous [and believe me; that's saying a lot.]


10. "Just Dance" ft. Colby O'Donis [from The Fame]- The debut single from Mother Monster. It shot to #1 with good reason. Dance/pop was due for another wave and thanks to Akon of all people, this track introduced the U.S. into a pop singer who can actually sing but not be above such lyrics as "Wish I could shut my playboy mouth/How'd I turn my shirt inside out?"

9. "LoveGame" [from The Fame]- Another case in point of Mother Monster being pop in music and weird on stage/in public. Let's face facts; the chorus of "Let's play a LoveGame, play a LoveGame/Do you want love or do you want fame?/Are you in the game? Doin' the LoveGame" is the most pop thing a batshit artist like Gaga can make. It's a damn good song that deserves numerous replays.

8. "G.U.Y." [from ARTPOP]- Gaga's most opulent track to date. No track comes close to the sheer explicitly braggadocious nature of this sorely under-appreciated single. The fact it only peaked at a paltry #76 on the Hot 100 is mind-boggling. Hell, Zedd was coming off of "Clarity" and "Stay the Night" being successes. How this song wasn't blessed enough to do such a thing is again mind-boggling.
Yes, the 11 minute (!) long form video needs to take righteous hits [especially considering the last 4 minutes were for credits to a skipped version of "MANiCURE"...], but the sheer vainglorious microcosm of the video adds to the already weird and opulent nature of "G.U.Y." Also, I know how dopey "Touch me, touch me, don't be sweet/love me, love me, please retweet" is lyrically, but name a female pop act who's never uttered a dopey lyric here and there...exactly.

7. "Born This Way" [title track of 2nd LP]- The song that ushered in the recent wave of self-confidence anthems. What could easily be considered her "edgiest" song in terms of giving love to her numerous LGBT fans, lyrics like "No matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian, transgender life" and the title of this song showed Gaga succeeded because she knew exactly who the fuck her fanbase was mostly made up of.
In terms of hits it took for existing [apart from countries with appalling LGBT rights records banning the song or censoring the song's LGBT positive message], the worst of it was when the song was accused of ripping off Madonna's "Express Yourself". Really? Taking away from a moment from "Born This Way" saying she ripped off a bad Madonna song? Why not egg her car while you're at it? (Though at the time she was in the vessel, so egging it might tear a hole in the space time continuum.)

6. "Telephone" ft. Beyoncé [from The Fame Monster]- One of the best collaborations of the past 10 years. This was Gaga returning the favor to Beyoncé for featuring her on a special version of "Video Phone". In this song, Gaga gives some of her best Hi-NRG vocalizations. Bey adds a special flair to the song that was highlighted in the video.
Props to Gaga and co. for wanting to continue the story of "Paparazzi" while paying tribute to Kill Bill Vol. I and Thelma and Louise (Seriously, Beyoncé driving the Pussy Wagon with Lady Gaga saying the corniest line in music video dialogue history gives me so much life...)

"Once you kill a cow, you gotta make a burger."
-Lady Gaga


5. "Speechless" [The VEVO launch live rendition]- This is simply put, her best live singing. While the version on The Fame Monster showcases her singing so well, her live performance at the VEVO launch party was so gorgeously minimalist (Yes, I know she's wearing a goddamn bow for a wig.) and it showcased the fact she can play part of the piano with her foot. As an album cut, this is Gaga at her most lyrically poignant and most introspective.

4. "You and I" [from Born This Way]- Yes, the title track is considered a bigger triumph than this song, but "You and I" is Gaga's best love song. It's exuberant yet rock without its pretension; it had Gaga in a Field of Dreams realness...Jesus, it gave Jo Calderone who might be the greatest video alter-ego created by a female pop act. It's another pop song masterfully bitchslapped by Gaga; remember...she only got "weird" on ARTPOP.
Bonus points for the end of the song ending in some of Gaga's most earnest moments vocally.

3. "Poker Face" [from The Fame]- The second best song from Mother Monster's debut. Yes I said it. This doubles as the best of Gaga's #1 singles. The song is simply put, pop music at its finest in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, etc. For those that might argue, "P-p-p-poker face; p-p-poker face" is more pop than "LoveGame", I call bullshit. "Poker Face" while it had more disconcerting lyrics ["bluffin' with my muffin"], "LoveGame" was an easier code to crack.
As for the song itself, Gaga's vocals are at some of its perfect mix of theatrical and playful; something a lot of female pop acts struggle with.

2. "Applause" [from ARTPOP]- The weirdest single Gaga released that I was surprised got any radio play in the U.S.. The ARTPOP era was ushered by the early leak heard 'round the world. This is the weirdest Gaga had offered thus far; although it caught on like wildfire, the leak and the fact that lyrics like "One second I'm a Koons then/suddenly the Koons is me!" were ever present, I admit; I thought this would be the song to pull a "G.U.Y." and bust on the Hot 100.
Yet due to Gaga's pop nature, the "A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E" section and the music video being her most batshit to date, the song did a lot better than I certainly expected. A #4 peak on the Hot 100 despite the fact it was not only released a full week early and the fact music critics were dumb enough to compare it to "Roar" by Katy Perry? That's impressive (And further proof music critics have no idea what they're talking about. "Applause" is a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren; "Roar" is a bus pass next to cigarette butts.)

Before we get to #1, here are three songs that missed the Top 30: "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich" from The Fame, "Swine"from ARTPOP & "Fashion" from the Confessions of a Shopaholic soundtrack.


1. "Paparazzi" [from The Fame]- This is her best song. Bar none. The best mix of singing ability and disconcerting lyrics, "Paparazzi" is the song in which Mother Monster revealed her deepest thoughts regarding fame and celebrity culture (I know; I thought it was a love song in which she called her paramour her "paparazzi".)
This is the video that has her display her most fabulous/"iconic" looks and beat the shit out of Alexander Skarsgard with a champagne bottle. It's still my favorite video of hers to this day. Plus, this is the song in which I sensed she was someone to be reckoned with in music.

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