Lady Gaga: her top 10 songs, ranked

With 2018 marking Lady Gaga’s tenth year in the business, it’s become impossible to deny her colossal presence. Hers is a catalogue that boasts multi-platinum singles, six Grammys, 13 Guinness World Records and the most-watched Superbowl performance of all time. We’ve seen her as an avant-garde electropop superstar, Tony Bennett’s partner in jazz, and one of the most prominent figures in pop culture ever. She’s combined the theatrics of David Bowie, the provocative pop of Madonna and the punk spirit of Debbie Harry to create something truly extraordinary.

With A Star is Born, we see Lady Gaga star as the leading lady, alongside first-time director Bradley Cooper, in the fourth adaption of the Hollywood classic. The film currently holds an astonishing 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and is generating some serious Oscars buzz. The accompanying soundtrack also features new, original songs written by Cooper and Gaga herself, making now the perfect time to revisit Gaga’s genre-bending discography. Below, we’ve picked out ten of the very best Gaga bangers.

Words: Kyle Campbell

10. ‘Til It Happens to You’ (2015)

Why we love it

This haunting orchestral rock ballad was written for the Netflix documentary, The Hunting Ground. The film covers the abundance of sexual assault on college campuses and ‘Til It Happens to You’ forces the listener to stand in the victim’s position and recognise the trauma of sexual violence. The song won an Emmy, as well as being nominated for both a Grammy and an Oscar.

The song’s journey begins with soaring strings and a sombre piano, accompanied by a vulnerable sounding Gaga – “You say, I’ll pull myself together / pull it together / you’ll be fine.” It then increasingly gets more chaotic, loud, and filled with fury, as a defiant Gaga cries out, “Tell me, how the hell could you talk? / How could you talk? / ‘Cause until you walk where I walk / It’s just all talk.” Her operatic and emotional vocal delivery commands the song and makes it all the more heart-wrenching.

Behind the bop

Gaga reportedly struggled to record this song, as she had to recall her own past with sexual abuse. As co-writer Diane Warren explained: “It was very emotional for her. She couldn’t even talk through it at times.” Lady Gaga told Variety: “I feel like what this song accomplishes is women – or men- rising to say, ‘You think you can hurt me? You don’t know about power. Because after what you did to me, you don’t even know how much stronger I am.”

Most Gaga moment

The powerful 2016 Oscars performance, where she was joined on stage by over 50 survivors of sexual violence with the words “survivor” and “it’s not your fault” written on their bodies.

9. ‘Diamond Heart’ (2016)

Why we love it

Lady Gaga’s last record, ‘Joanne’, was created in tribute of her poet aunt, whose death at just 19 haunted Gaga’s childhood. The album sees her forge an unforeseen fusion of blues, indie-rock, pop and country with ‘Diamond Heart’ as the perfect opener. The track evolves from a sweet ’70s electric piano intro to a fierce indie-rock stomper, featuring roaring drums and chunky, bluesy guitars. The song feels contained underground, until it erupts at the chorus with a gutsy-sounding Gaga unleashing, “I’m not flawless but I got a diamond heart.” Her compelling, rockabilly vocals are a driving force here.

‘Diamond Heart’ impeccably introduces Joanne – Lady Gaga as you had never heard her before; unpolished, gritty and exposed. Although Gaga has used her skillset to create weird and wonderful realities in the past, here she simply welcomes you in to her own.

Behind the bop

‘Diamond Heart’ was penned by Gaga and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and it also features Father John Misty, and Arctic Monkey’s Matt Helders on the drums. The lyrics cover remaining defiant and self-assured when the world feels like a constant battle. The singer told NME“I might not be flawless – Dad! World! – but I have a diamond heart. I have a good and strong spirit within me. Life is a dog fight for a lot of people and when you find the pitbull within yourself, that’s Joanne.”

Most Gaga moment

“Young, wild, American” – homage to David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’, a major influence on Gaga.

8. ‘Paparazzi’ (2008)

Why we love it

The fifth and final single from Gaga’s colossal debut album, ‘Paparazzi’ uses a techno beat, UFO-like synthesisers and a killer hook to dissect the often venomous relationship an artist has with the press that gave them their success. Over the top of an electro-synth groove, Gaga alluringly invites the listener into the mind of a fame-obsessed stalker – is it the predatory paparazzi, or is it really the artist?

‘Paparazzi’ was a huge summer hit, landing Gaga her third top five hit in the UK (after two Number Ones), top 10 spots across the globe and is certified 3x platinum in the US. With its contagious chorus and sultry synth arrangement, ‘Paparazzi’ still feels innovative and fresh 10 years later.

Behind the bop

Lady Gaga explained the song has multiple meanings to About.com: “It’s also about wooing the paparazzi to fall in love with me, the media whoring,” she said. “Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Ritchie are shock artists in their own way. They’re not necessarily doing fine arts – something they put in a museums – but it’s an art form.”

Another explanation is the deadly impact of celebrity culture, Gaga explained in her Netflix documentary Five Foot Two: “If I’m gonna be sexy on the VMAs and sing about the paparazzi, I’m gonna do it while I’m bleeding to death and reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe.”

Most Gaga moment

During the 2009 VMA Awards, Gaga bled to death on stage and was hung from a chandelier, amongst other madness. This was when the world realised the Lady was in fact, Gaga.

7. ‘Alejandro’ (2009)

Why we love it

‘Alejandro’ sees Gaga bid farewell to past lovers over a stomping synth-pop beat, perfectly balanced with classical production. It draws from europop and disco, and critics have even likened it to ABBA. ‘Alejandro’ exists in a dimension between banger and ballad, creating a melodramatic masterpiece.

The track opens with a bewitching violin piece from Italian composer Vittoro Monti, as a distressed Gaga states: “I know that we are young, and I know that you may love me / but I just can’t be with you like this anymore, Alejandro.” There is a sense of longing as Gaga slurs out her words, giving an almost melancholic edge to the song. Yet ‘Alejandro’ is executed as a seductive and uplifting dance number, which went on to be a double-platinum top 10 hit.

Behind the bop

‘The Fame Monster’ was a concept album covering the various ‘monsters’ that plagued Gaga’s life.  Alejandro tackles her “fear of men” monster. The three protagonists of the song – Alejandro, Fernando and Roberto – are rejected by Gaga: “I’m not your babe Fernando” and “Stop please / just let me go, Alejandro.” Gaga is bittersweet in her independence – she yearns for ex-lovers, but gives them the cold shoulder, in fear of commitment amongst a life of celebrity and scrutiny, or perhaps that one day they will reject her too.

The director of the highly-controversial music video, Steven Klein, told MTV: “It is about a woman’s desire to resurrect a dead love and who cannot face the brutality of her current situation. The pain of living without your true love.”

Most Gaga moment

In the music video Gaga swallows rosary beads in latex nun attire, gets kinky with gender bending German soldiers and wears the iconic machine gun bra.

6. ‘Applause’ (2013)

Why we love it

2013’s ‘ARTPOP’ sees Gaga at peak avant-garde weirdness, and its lead single, ‘Applause’ sounds like glam-rock-goes-EDM with a dash of 80’s nostalgia. It opens with aggressive pulsating synths, and the techno-inspired chaos only develops from there. ‘Applause’ reached the Top 10 in over 17 countries, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US.

Lady Gaga’s vocal presence could send chills to the spine – she speaks every word with absolute authority while maintaining a disturbing tone. Critics compared the delivery to that of Talking Heads and David Bowie.

Behind the bop

The lyrics are a ‘kiss my ass’ to critics who debate her artistry – “I stand here waiting for you to bang the gong / To crash the critics saying, ‘is it right or is it wrong?’”– though Gaga also analyses the dependant nature an artist has with their admirers.

During the ‘Born This Way Ball’ tour, she powered through extreme physical pain amnd exhaustion in fear of disappointed fans, resulting in major hip surgery and permanent chronic pain. Gaga told Sirius XM, “I just couldn’t cancel because the thought of leaving 50,000 kids in the arena broke my heart. So I went out every night and I played and I played and I played until I couldn’t walk one night.”

Most Gaga Moment

“I’ve overheard your theory / ‘Nostalgia’s for geeks’ / I guess sir, if you say so / some of us just like to read” – a response to Maroon 5’s Adam Levine calling Gaga an art teacher rather than an artist.

5. ‘Bad Romance’ (2009)

Why we love it

Released at peak Gaga-mania, this classic wraps up what Lady Gaga is all about in a single song – awe-inspiring aesthetics, risqué performance art, and daring songwriting.  ‘Bad Romance’ mixes Gaga’s signature electro-pop with a thumping beat reminiscent of Depeche Mode, while executing a sinister atmosphere. From the ghoulish baroque opening to the legendary “Ra Ra-ah-ah-ah/ Rom roma ma/ Gaga oh la la”, this UK Number One received widespread critical acclaim, multiple Grammys, and is one of the best-selling singles of all time, with 12 million copies sold worldwide.

You cannot talk ‘Bad Romance’ without its unforgettable video, which sees Gaga taken  prisoner in a Russian bathhouse and sold as a sex-slave, only for her then to take revenge on her buyer with a blowtorch – all while providing striking visuals, flawless choreography and bizarrely-chic high fashion. The video became the most-viewed video on YouTube, was voted number one by critics on Billboard’s ‘greatest music videos of the 21st century’ list, and broke the record for most VMA nominations in history.

Behind the bop

The lyrics set the grim tone of 2009’s ‘The Fame Monster’ and cover aspects of a toxic relationship and harmful choices in partners.  She uses various references to Alfred Hitchcock movies – “I want your psycho, your Vertigo shtick / Want you in my Rear Window, Baby you’re sick.” Gaga explained to Alexa Chung: “What I’m really trying to say is, ‘I want the deepest, darkest, sickest parts of you that you are afraid to share with anyone, because I love you that much’.”

Most Gaga moment

“I’m a free bitch baby!”

4. ‘ScheiBe’ (2011)

Why we love it

This intense euro-dance anthem took Lady Gaga’s fanbase by storm; going on to become one of the most treasured songs of her whole discography. The title, SchieBe, translates from German as ‘Shit’ and Gaga speaks with a mix of faux-German and English over fizzing synths and a pounding bass. The track was a highlight from ‘Born this way’ and received remarkable praise from contemporary critics. This song is absurd, artistic and perfect for a rave.

The track begins with Lady Gaga bizarrely growling, “I don’t speak German, but I can if you like” – she then lets out a howl, which is followed by duelling, screechy synths. These remain throughout the song in a trance-like loop.

Behind the bop

The lyrical content covers female empowerment and talks about having to deal with life’s shit, and how the shit makes you stronger. Lady Gaga hypes up her fellow feminists and encourages bravery and independence in the face of adversity. Notable lines include, “When I’m on a mission / I rebuke my condition / If you’re a strong female you don’t need permission” and “Blonde, high-heeled feminists, enlisting for this / Express your womankind, fight for your right.”

Most Gaga moment

The previously-mentioned major hip injury happened mid-‘SchieBe,’ but Gaga continued the complex choreography, despite some thinking her screams were a repeat of the opening howl.

3. ‘Perfect Illusion’ (2016)

Why we love it

This is the lead single from Gaga’s last record, ‘Joanne’, which sees the pop icon take a more down-to-earth vibe. ‘Perfect Illusion’, however, is a pounding synth-rock number and puts Lady Gaga’s uncooked vocal ability on full display. There is a sense of urgency and disorientation to the song, with a building march-like chord progression. Just before the two-minute mark the world’s most exhilarating key change is brought on by bashing drums – hungry to scream the truth, Gaga wails out that “it wasn’t love” and you’re left with goosebumps.

Behind the bop

Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker co-wrote and co-produced the track with Gaga, and Josh Homme appears on guitar.  The lyrics were brainstormed on Gaga’s typewriter and focus on trying to decode what is reality and what is fiction in the modern world. “How do we look through these images that we know are filtered and altered, and decipher what is reality and what is a perfect illusion?” she told the Elvis Duran Show.

Most Gaga moment

This breathtaking acoustic performance.

2. ‘Judas’ (2011)

Why we love it

It’s hard to make a top ten Lady Gaga songs list without feeling the lawless craving to throw in the entirety of ‘Born This Way’. Although the heavy metal riffs of ‘Electric Chapel’ and the eerie elegance of ‘Bloody Mary’ are monumental moments, ‘Judas’ was a top 10 hit in over 15 countries and is the true lead single of ‘Born This Way’. Judas is by far one of Gaga’s most provocative and unparalleled pop numbers, showcasing her one-of-a-kind knack for packaging the gothic avant-garde in to a bankable radio hit.

It features a satanic sledgehammer beat, electro-house of the highest order and a symbolically Gaga “Judas, Juda-ah-ah.” The glittery ’80s pop melody of the chorus is a surprisingly successful variation from the otherwise demonically dark and dramatic sound of ‘Judas’. However, the song reaches its climax with the turbo-charged techno breakdown, which sees Gaga hurl herself into decadent spoken word – the best dance breakdown of Gaga’s career, or perhaps of all time.

Behind the bop

Judas is an analogy for how Lady Gaga tries to walk towards the light in her future while peering towards the devil in her past – whether that be choices in men, drug abuse or struggles with mental health. Judas represents the self-destructive vices that Gaga battles to leave behind – “Judas is the demon I cling to.”

When talking to MTV, she explained, “the song is about washing the feet of both good and evil and understanding and forgiving the demons from your past in order to move into the greatness of your future.”

Most Gaga moment

Much like ‘Alejandro’, ‘Judas’ was met with vicious criticism from the Catholic church, who cried blasphemy due to the use of religious wordplay and metaphors. In very Gaga fashion the song was released just before Easter, and the music video only exacerbated controversy.

1. ‘Poker Face’ (2008)

Why we love it

From the instantly recognisable “Mum-mum-mum-mah”, the world was introduced to the glam-futurism dimension that Gaga revitalised the music scene with. This unstoppable mega-hit was the best-selling single of 2009, was loved by critics, earned aGrammy, went Number One internationally and is one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling over 14 million.

Gaga uses autotune as an artistic styling that goes well with the electro-pop aesthetic, rather than to disguise weak vocals. ‘Poker Face’ combines a robotic, dark sound with synth-pop to create an addictive anthem that became one of the most iconic songs of the 2000s.

Behind the bop

The lyrical content features various references to Texas Hold ‘Em and is about Lady Gaga’s bisexuality.  She told Barbara Walters, “That’s really what the song was all about – why when I was with my boyfriend was I fantasising about women?!” The chorus repeats two alternating lyrics with “He’s got me like nobody”, followed by “She’s got me like nobody”, an often unnoticed ode to Gaga’s confusion over her sexual desires.

Biggest Gaga moment

“’Cause I’m bluffing with my muffin.”