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Undressing Lady Gaga

While other acts may have sold more records, I don't think there's much disputing that Lady Gaga was the breakout music story of the year.

Her music, of course, had much to do with her ubiquity. "Just Dance," "Poker Face," "LoveGame," "Paparazzi," and "Bad Romance," all from her debut album The Fame, were sleek, pop marvels, with strong melodies and enough of a suggestion of weird sex and glamour to draw in people who might not otherwise care about glitzy dance tracks.

But when it comes to her fame, the music seems secondary. Dousing herself in fake blood at the VMAs, playfully cat-fighting with Madonna on Saturday Night Live, a succession of outfights that led us to become better acquainted with her anatomy than we ever wanted to--these, more than the music, are the reasons why my mom knows who Lady Gaga is.

Where does Gaga go from here? As the Octomom and Falcon Heene and countless other among the ranks of the fleetingly famous can attest, the public's curious fascination only lasts for so long. It's hard to imagine Lady Gaga sustaining a career on the strength of costume changes. There are only so many ways to conceal a nipple.

Fortunately for her, there are enough undeniable hooks in her songs to prove that there is musical talent beneath the spectacle. And it's her songwriting skill that gives Gaga a chance to last beyond this year, to be more than just a quirk of 2009. Whether she understands that, or cares, remains to be seen.

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