Lady Gaga has had so many individual pop culture "moments," you could almost start to imagine she's older than Madonna. But in fact, the lady turns a mere 25 on March 28. Has any artist in pop history provided such an extreme ratio of provocative moments per career-month?
You can go back almost two years and find commentators assuring everyone that Lady Gaga's shock tactics would soon tire the public, but there's no sign of that yet, as her "little monsters" and little haters alike can't stop relishing every new surprise. In honor of her quarter-century on earth—and her mere two and a half years in the public spotlight—we provide you with this handy guide to Lady Gaga's 25 most gonzo moments.
1. The meat dress. With apologies to Morrissey: Meat is couture. At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Gaga had what appeared to be raw meat fashioned into a dress, boots, hat, and even accessories ("I never thought I'd be asking Cher to hold my meat purse"). The outfit was a devastatingly topical statement about... what, again? Oh, gays in the military. Of course! "It is a devastation to me that I know my fans who are gay... feel like they have governmental oppression on them," she said. "That's actually why I wrote the meat tonight." For once, PETA and John McCain were on the same side.
2. The meat bikini. The VMAs weren't the first instance of Gaga dressing up in meat. Earlier, she'd put on a meat bikini for the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan magazine. For Lady Gaga fans, there could be no greater shock than seeing her wear the same outfit twice.
3. The egg. The yolk was on us when Gaga arrived at this year's Grammys being carried aloft in a transparent egg, suggesting some sort of unholy cross between David Blaine and Spinal Tap. The idea was that she would be "Born This Way" later in the evening (rendering the entire two previous years of her career prenatal, apparently).>
4. The shoulder horns. When she sang "Born This Way" after emerging from said egg, it was with flesh-colored, bony-looking appendages on her shoulders—just the kind of evolutionary mutation that the long-dormant shoulder pad industry has been waiting for.
5. The blood spurting. At the 2009 VMAs, her performance of "Paparazzi" concluded with blood dripping from her abdomen, which she then proceeded to rub on her face before collapsing in a heap and then rising—lifelessly dripping—above the stage. This was her social commentary on gays in the mili—... oh, sorry, the predatory media. (The climax of Black Swan could only aspire to this level of guignol.)
6. The machine gun bra. Make love and war? Those of a certain age remember the "bullet bra," but Gaga brought out the heavy artillery when she posed for the cover of Rolling Stone last June—popularizing the "I dreamt I liberated Poland in my Maidenform bra" look.
7. The rosary beads. Okay, there are other examples of Gaga adopting the same look more than once, since she wears a machine gun bra in the video for "Alejandro." But that was the least of that video's provocations. The foremost: Catholic-baiting scenes in which, adorned in nunnish garb, she got mouthy with a set of rosary beads and sported a red cross on her bikini bottom. It was like "Like a Prayer"... squared. Among the offended: Katy Perry!
8. Simulated dog poisoning. There is an old show-business saying that goes, "The public will forgive you for anything except killing a puppy." (Or maybe there isn't, but it's, you know, understood.) But Gaga proved the fallacy of this non-existent maxim by offing a dog with rat poison in her "Telephone" video. Let's hope that wasn't the corpse she was wearing at last year's VMAs.
9. The get-up at her sister's graduation. When her li'l sis graduated from high school last June, Gaga came out to support the cause in a bodysuit that was part lacy, part flesh-colored... topped by a black veil and hat that looked like a cross between a beekeeper's protective headgear and funeral garb.
10. Dressing as a dude. In another photo shoot for Vogue Hommes Japan, Gaga transformed herself into a guy, rather convincingly. Granted, cross-dressing may be the least shocking thing she's done in the past two years.
11. Nearly naked crowdsurfing. At Lollapalooza, Gaga came out and played drums during a set by friends Semi-Precious Weapons, then leaped into the audience to crowd-surf, while apparently wearing nothing but a fishnet bodystocking. Or, as it's otherwise known, getting in touch with a different demographic.
12. The bubble dress. Gaga wasn't even yet known for her outlandish outfits when she made the fresh-out-of-the-bubble-bath look part of her first headlining tour in 2009. The original dress now resides in a museum in London, where, presumably, visitors are carefully searched for pins.
13. The Kermit-the-frog dress. She went on a German talk show covered in nothing but Kermit dolls. Hey... at least it wasn't raw frogs.
14. Biting the head off a Santa doll. In a likely nod to the Ozzy vs. bat legend, Gaga used her teeth to sever Santa from the rest of his body, which she then stomped on, at a London arena show. "I hate the holidays," she explained, probably in jest. "I'm alone and miserable, you [expletive] stuffed little toy!"
15. Gaga goes Gershwin. At a New York jazz club show at the Oak Room, Gaga surprised the audience by showing up to sing "Someone to Watch Over Me"... and well. (See video, below.) Shocking!
16. The Michael Bolton connection. Perhaps making the ultimate statement about tolerance, Lady Gaga teamed up with the none-too-hep crooner to write a song called "Murder My Heart."
17. The celibacy announcement. No one saw this coming... but no, you didn't miss the abstinence ring amid all that fashion. Her sexlessness is "because I don't have the time to get to know anybody." Earlier, she'd announced she's bisexual—so she's turning down the entire human race, not just half.
18. Lobbying the GOP. Wearing a suit and tie, Gaga spoke at a Maine rally in support of repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, hoping to influence the state's Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Because GOP politicians know that nothing gets out the Tea Party vote like announcing that Lady Gaga has changed your mind.
19. Flammable pianos. Gaga has been known to perform at a flaming piano, the best known of these appearances being at the 2009 American Music Awards. Jerry Lee Lewis' corrupting influence on the nation has continued well into the 21st century.
20. Incurring the wrath of Seinfeld. "I changed my mind, I hate her!" Jerry declared after learning that she'd been moved to his private box at a Mets game after giving photographers the finger earlier in the game. "You give people the finger and you get upgraded?" said the aggrieved comic.
21. Incurring the wrath of the Yankees' management. Gaga's uneasy relationship with major league baseball continued when she went to the Yankees' clubhouse and, according to the New York Post, drank whiskey and grabbed her chest while wearing a half-unbuttoned Yankees jersey. The team's general manager explained that her main offense wasn't her attire or attitude but her insistence on visiting the team right after a loss.
22. Dancing rights for the handicapped? Gaga stirred a discussion on "the politics of disability" when, in the "Paparazzi" video, she performed a dance routine in a wheelchair, crutches, and neck brace (following a scene in which her boyfriend throws her off a balcony).
23. Corrupting Beyonce. Jay-Z's better half had shed her once wholesome image a while ago, but not quite to the extent that she did costarring with Gaga in the "Telephone" video, which included mass murder, an unprintable Kill Bill homage, and a theme that the Daily Beast referred to as "lez-ploitation."
24. Type 0 perfume. Gaga reportedly put drops of her own blood in the mix for her upcoming perfume—possibly in homage to the members of KISS supposedly once putting their own blood in the ink being used for a comic book. "The perfume smells like an expensive hooker!" she promises.
25. Gaga goes country! Just days ago, she released a country remix of her latest single, "Born This Way." It sounds a bit more like balladic Southern rock than country, but it's the perverse crossover thought that counts.
Did we miss your favorite (or least favorite) Gaga moment?