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Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ at 10 – how the surreal single shook the pop landscape

Melding Bart Simpson-latex with a skewering of the industry machine’s darkest side, Gaga’s bizarre masterpiece changed music.

Exactly ten years ago, Lady Gaga released ‘Bad Romance’, possibly her best and most bizarre work to date. Fizzling into being with a mantra that has since become permanently embedded in everybody’s brains – Ra-ra-ah-ah-ah, roma-roma-ma, gaga, oo la-la” – it’s a single built on ominously warping melodies, pantomime villain melodrama and harsh German techno. And as for that whopping great chorus… it needs no introduction.

Not only is this one of the most memorable pop singles of the late noughties, ‘Bad Romance’ well and truly established Lady Gaga as an icon to be reckoned with.

She truly mastered ‘Gagaism’

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There’s no denying that many of Lady Gaga’s biggest and best songs share a few key elements. She loves breaking a word down into syllabic elements, does our Gagz – whether she’s putting on her best p-p-p-poker face, evading the papa-paparazzi, or just j-j-just having a dance.

She’s also keen on simple, high-impact lyrics that revolve around a song’s title: on ‘Bad Romance’ she uses the title a whopping 28 times (well, actually 29 times if we’re counting the one line where she swaps to French). 

Some artists just have a magical immediacy that thwacks you around the chops the minute their song comes on the radio – it’s clear it’s by a particular person in the first few seconds. ‘Bad Romance’ is a song that does just that. It has Lady Gaga’s playful pen written all over it, and this is arguably the song that elevated her into the titan she is in 2019.

Nothing was off limits

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The pounding repetition of German techno? Sure, chuck it into the mix. Alfred Hitchcock film titles? Namecheck three of them in a row (Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window) in the space of a single verse! ‘Bad Romance’ is a restless juggernaut of a song that blends together the harshest house with theatrical euro-disco – while skewering the toxic trappings of fame, and strutting down the catwalk with a cry of Walk, walk, fashion, baby”. Gaga’s massive ambition (there’s a film’s worth of plot material in that video alone) was staggering, not to mention the fact that she set up her own creative team – Haus of Gaga – to help execute everything from the meat-dress to ‘Bad Romance’s infamous pyrotechnic bra (more on that very shortly)

And it set a standard for weird pop videos in general

Nowadays a liberal dose of weirdness is almost a prerequisite for a music video. Think of the ink pouring out of Billie Eilish’s eyes in ‘When the Party’s Over’, King Princess duetting with a cartoon sandwich in ‘Cheap Queen’ or The 1975’s unsettling look at fame and perception, and all these videos share certain qualities with what Gaga helped to start. There’s a fascination with the bizarre running through all of them – often, pop also interrogates the darker sides of fame itself.

Welcome to the floor: Lady Gaga’s video for ‘Bad Romance’. A swarm of latexed-up Bart Simpsons crawl ominously out of their sunbed coffins in the video’s opening moments – and possum-eyed Gaga with exaggerated features clacks her hand on the side of the bath. She’s kidnapped, sold off to the highest bidder – and  naturally, the video ends with a very vague nod to Heathers – an ash-strewn Gaga lies in bed next to a skeleton, smoking a cig, as sparks inexplicably fly out of her pyrotechnic bra

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It’d be truly terrifying if the choreography wasn’t so campy: but who can be bothered with running away from a bunch of monsters doing enthusiastic jazz-hands? Lady Gaga walked so that the next gen could run, monsters. 

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