The Countdown

Lady Gaga: Every song ranked, from Born This Way to Rain on Me

As Lady Gaga jets off to the fictional paradise of Chromatica for her new album, Adam White has ranked every song she’s ever released (but not the ones she did with Tony Bennett because, with all due respect, no one has time for that)

Thursday 28 May 2020 19:06
Lady Gaga in 'A Star Is Born' and her videos for 'Telephone', 'Alejandro' and 'Stupid Love'
Lady Gaga in 'A Star Is Born' and her videos for 'Telephone', 'Alejandro' and 'Stupid Love'

Is it possible to be undervalued and underappreciated while also being Lady Gaga? In just over 12 years of fame, Gaga has sped through more incarnations and successes than entertainers three times her age. It’s meant we’ve often taken her for granted.

She’s always embodied an outsider cool, unafraid to be different or outrageous, and demanding respect and autonomy for her choices and the rights of others. Her music has long been inescapable, too.

Now, after her Best Original Song Oscar, and a Best Actress nod, for A Star Is Born – one of the rare instances in which a popstar transitions to acting to universal raves – she returns to full-power pop with new album Chromatica, named after a cosmic world driven by joy and equality.

To greet it, we’ve ranked all 84 of her songs so far. From her ode to asses and her duet with Beyoncé, to her most recent collaboration with Ariana Grande, here they are from worst to best...

84. Why Did You Do That? (A Star Is Born)

“Why do you look so good in those jeans?” Gaga asks. “Why’d you come around me with an ass like that?” This trash-bop from A Star Is Born is, thanks to those lyrics, iconic. If we’re being honest, though, it’s also unbearable.

83. Paper Gangsta (The Fame)

Cringeworthy lyrics (“Sometimes I felt so Def in the Jam”) and endless repetition of the title make this one of The Fame’s worst detours, Gaga trying on a more overtly hip-hop persona that doesn’t suit her.

82. Jewels N’ Drugs (Artpop)

Not exactly the nadir some fans make it out to be, but “Jewels N’ Drugs” is still a mess. A cacophony of trap and pop that never manages to gel.

81. Disco Heaven (The Fame)

Every bit a first album bonus track, this is sonically and lyrically repetitive – Gaga exploring territory she mines more successfully everywhere else on The Fame.

80. The Queen (Born This Way)

Bland inspirational pop powered by glittering synths. How this wasn’t on Glee, we’ll never know.

79. Hair (Born This Way)

Flavourless inspirational pop powered by sparkly synths. How this also wasn’t on Glee, we’ll never know.

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78. Music to My Eyes (A Star Is Born)

One of the snoozier of A Star Is Born’s ballads, even if it sounds like something that’d comfortably play in a country saloon somewhere.

77. Before I Cry (A Star Is Born)

A number of A Star Is Born cuts sound like the above – pleasant, effective, but you won’t ever go back to them more than once.

76. Is That Alright? (A Star Is Born)

This is a little more commanding than the two previous entries, Gaga belting her heart out against a piano melody as if her life depended on it, but no one truthfully remembers these.

75. Highway Unicorn (Road to Love) (Born This Way)

A wacky experiment that never gets off the ground, half sounding like a Christian power-ballad, half a repetitive trance song.

74. Money Honey (The Fame)

The least interesting of The Fame’s many, many tracks about the allure of riches. Gaga’s final delivery of “M-O-N-E-why so sexy?” remains orgasmic, though.

73. Gypsy (Artpop)

An underwhelming mid-tempo number about the magical wonder of touring the world. It’s very “places 22nd at Eurovision”.

72. I Don’t Know What Love Is (A Star Is Born)

Strangely autotuned at times, but this has a plucky, orchestral swooniness to it, too.

71. Do What U Want (Artpop)

An abject disaster because of the presence of R Kelly, while the never-officially-released video for it, directed by accused sexual predator Terry Richardson of all people (he’s denied all allegations of sexual misconduct), only adds to the horror. “Do What U Want” is also hard to unearth nowadays – Gaga pulling it from streaming when new allegations of sexual misconduct against Kelly surfaced. It’s not a terrible track by any means, carried by its own slinky menace, but the sleaze oozing out of it means it’s probably best forgotten.

70. Electric Chapel (Born This Way)

The lesser of Born This Way’s three blasphemy bangers, “Electric Chapel” is enjoyably icy but ultimately not that memorable.

69. Donatella (Artpop)

“Donatella” is Gaga repeating herself a little, returning to the gilded if vaguely trashy opulence of The Fame but with limited returns three albums in.

68. La Vie En Rose (A Star Is Born)

A cover of the Edith Piaf classic that is inessential but still lovely.

67. Just Another Day (Joanne)

Very Elton John in its upbeat 1970s sprightliness, but incredibly forgettable.

66. Come to Mama (Joanne)

Much of Joanne, Gaga’s most polarising album, swims in similar waters as the above. Lots of retro pastiche and Elton sounds, with Gaga the theatrical showgirl at its centre, but tracks that never have lift off.

65. Sinner’s Prayer (Joanne)

This country bop is rich and husky, yet it can’t help but feel like Gaga trying on aesthetics rather than entirely immersing herself in a genre.

64. Brown Eyes (The Fame)

A Queen-ish ballad that is, in hindsight, one of the most important tracks on The Fame considering how often Gaga would return to this well in the years after. It feels like a rough draft of things she’d do better later on, though.

63. Hair Body Face (A Star Is Born)

A Star Is Born’s “basic pop song”, sung by Gaga’s Ali when she hits the A-list, also sort of bangs. It absolutely sounds like something a Real Housewife would release.

62. Hey Girl (Joanne)

Considering “Hey Girl” sees Gaga collaborating with Florence Welch, it’s weirdly muted. Catchy, vaguely Joe Jackson in spirit, yet slightly beneath both of them.

61. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich (The Fame)

With those Fiona Apple-ish piano dramatics and lyrical allusions to daddy issues and violence, this is The Bling Ring in song form.

60. Mary Jane Holland (Artpop)

Almost three tracks in one, cycling messily between EDM, balladry and punk, with Gaga announcing at one point that it’s OK that her parents think she’s a mess as she’s “rich as piss”. It’s also so close to being really, really good.

59. Angel Down (Joanne)

A well-intentioned if forgettable ode to political confusion.

58. Grigio Girls (Joanne)

A well-intentioned if forgettable ode to female survival.

57. Look What I Found (A Star Is Born)

Possibly the most musical theatre Gaga has ever been, full of jaunty jazz hands and sunny sentimentality.

56. Swine (Artpop)

An enjoyable oddity that burns with disgust, “Swine” turns themes of sexual assault and trauma into a club banger, and is just as uncomfortable as it sounds.

55. Boys Boys Boys (The Fame)

Brilliantly playful, this femme spin on Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls” embraces its lyrical basicness (“I like boys in cars / Boys boys boys”) and remains one of The Fame’s guiltiest of pleasures.

54. Starstruck (The Fame)

No Gaga song has aged as horribly as “Starstruck”, with its trendy 2008 synths and Beats-by-Dre references, but therein lies its cheeky appeal. There’s even a Flo Rida verse to drive home the nostalgia.

53. Applause (Artpop)

Reaction was muted to the lead single off Gaga’s third album, and “Applause” hasn’t particularly improved in the years since. It’s an attempt to wrap meta-commentary about her own fame in an electropop package, but is ultimately more messy than successful.

52. Speechless (The Fame Monster)

This is undeniably Gaga playing Freddie Mercury, and it never truthfully transcends that. There’s a lot to love about it, though, its lyrics wonderfully grungy. You can practically smell the liquor on her lips.

51. Dance in the Dark (The Fame Monster)

This begins spectacularly (“Silicone, saline, poison inject me / Baby I’m a free bitch”), but gradually declines into something more middle-of-the-road than it first appears.

50. Just Dance (The Fame)

“Just Dance”, Gaga’s first single, is secretly… kind of blah? Even if you don’t compare it to similar debuts by Gaga’s A-list pop girl peers, it’s an oddly faceless introduction to an artist who has always tended to stick in her own lane. Fun? Absolutely. One of her best? Not remotely.

49. Dope (Artpop)

Built for lighters being held aloft, “Dope” is something you don’t necessarily go back to more than once, but it’s undeniably moving.

48. Teeth (The Fame Monster)

For better or for worse, this bluesy, brassy pop track sounds like something Christina Aguilera could have sung in Burlesque.

47. Diggin’ My Grave (A Star Is Born)

A dark love song that well utilises the contrasting grit of Gaga and her A Star Is Born co-star Bradley Cooper.

46. Million Reasons (Joanne)

A Gaga fave, in that she seemed to perform it everywhere when Joanne came out, but it’s a track that always had a bit of a “your grandmother likes this one” sheen to it.

45. John Wayne (Joanne)

Incredibly on-the-nose in its cowboy-country chaos, but still generally a blast.

44. LoveGame (The Fame)

Catchy and silly and best remembered for its “wanna take a ride on your disco stick” come-on that has never been anything but insane.

43. Bad Kids (Born This Way)

A really curious number, one that toggles between New York Dolls-style punk rock and airy early Whitney. There’s a lot to like here, on-the-nose lyrics about rebellion and adolescence be damned.

42. Dancin’ in Circles (Joanne)

Nicely slots in with the big-pop-girl masturbation triquetra along with Britney’s “Touch of My Hand” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Party for One” – even if it’s not quite as good as either of them.

41. Bloody Mary (Born This Way)

Great production, beautiful production. Amid the howling, echoes and general spookiness here, there are two lines in which Gaga’s vocals appear to melt and curdle, and it’s sort of brilliant.

40. Fashion! (Artpop)

Existing somewhere between a lost RuPaul album track and the theme song to a long-forgotten medical drama, this is a brilliant, baffling mess.

39. Perfect Illusion (Joanne)

Joanne’s launch single is also the most traditional Gaga track on the album, but also one that feels a little by-the-numbers, too.

38. MANiCURE (Artpop)

The best kind of filler track, with low aspirations, a propulsive beat and Gaga doing, at least in the song’s bridge, her best Siouxsie Sioux impression.

37. A-YO (Joanne)

A fun kiss-off to the haters that squeals with a lovely, punky defiance.

36. Stupid Love (Chromatica)

Dubbed a return to form by critics who should know better, “Stupid Love” is propulsive and pleasurable, but Gaga can also, by now, do this sound in her sleep.

35. I Like It Rough (The Fame)

An entirely middle-of-the-road kink bop that also completely slaps to this day.

34. Always Remember Us This Way (A Star Is Born)

Gorgeous melodies make this a soundtrack cut easy to return to over and over again.

33. ARTPOP (Artpop)

Cosmic and ethereal, Artpop’s title track is wildly singular. Its lyrics seem to have been written by a word generator (“Lovers’ kites / Are flown on beaches for public sight”), and it’s debatable whether any of it is actually catchy. There’s something nicely arresting about its ambition, though.

32. So Happy I Could Die (The Fame Monster)

Deceptively dark, “So Happy I Could Die” sports a Europop sheen, but a melancholy undercurrent, Gaga touching herself through the pain and drinking into oblivion.

31. Monster (The Fame Monster)

While a tad over-produced, “Monster” is also one of the greatest embodiments of Gaga’s imperial phase. This is essentially a filler track, but still manages to feature a ridiculous amount of memorable lines (“We French kissed on a subway train / He tore my clothes right off / He ate my heart and then he ate my brain”).

30. Aura (Artpop)

Very much the evil twin of “Americano”, which we’ll get to later, “Aura” is gloriously nutty, its production bashing and chopping up Gaga’s vocals until they resemble a shrieky soup.

29. Summerboy (The Fame)

There’s a lot of cosplay on The Fame, and this is Gaga in full Gwen Stefani mode. It’s also irresistibly sparkly, full of hand-claps, chugging pop-punk synths and a lovely breeziness that feels appropriate considering its title.

28. Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) (The Fame)

Feather-light and pretty, “Eh, Eh” was the first Gaga single to feel neither morbid nor hungover. That might explain why it gets overlooked a lot, even if its Europop airiness is wonderful.

27. Heal Me (A Star Is Born)

A shiny pastiche of 1990s R&B balladry, this A Star Is Born track is an overlooked gem.

26. Rain on Me (Chromatica)

It’s too early to declare this track, released last week, a proper Gaga classic. But it is life-giving in a really special way – comforting, syrupy and fun. Gaga, working in perfect tandem with Ariana Grande, hasn’t been this replenishing in years.

25. Black Jesus † Amen Fashion (Born This Way)

A barnstormer of a track built around the Gaga mythology – she sings about being the plucky outsider hungry for success on New York City’s streets, determined to remake the world in her image. Incredible production, too.

24. Venus (Artpop)

Wildly melodramatic, like “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper” if it were somehow made even more camp.

23. Heavy Metal Lover (Born This Way)

“Dirty pony, I can’t wait to hose you down”, Gaga pants at one point here, a moment that forms the sweaty apex of one of her sexiest, silliest and most underrated tracks.

22. Diamond Heart (Joanne)

The opening track off Joanne is Springsteen-esque in its American-heartland expansiveness. This is cathartic, powerful and, pre-A Star Is Born at least, wildly different to anything Gaga had ever done.

21. Americano (Born This Way)

Aka the Puss in Boots theme song, which is its own kind of victory. This is otherwise pulsating, frantic and genius – like a Mariachi band stuck in a tumble dryer.

20. Poker Face (The Fame)

It’s easy to forget how creepy Gaga was when she first broke out – an enigma with the aura of a trickster or con artist, responsible for tracks that glistened with menace. “Poker Face”, her second single, sounds like Halloween, Gaga singing casually about violence and subterfuge. It remains marvellous.

19. Fashion of His Love (Born This Way)

In hindsight, it’s baffling that Madonna kicked up such a fuss about “Born This Way” sounding a bit like “Express Yourself” when “Fashion of His Love” was right there. There’s the same melody, that Shep Pettibone drumbeat – it’s also a stonking wind machine of a track, if frustratingly never talked about.

18. Alejandro (The Fame Monster)

Absolutely something that could have been rattling around in Ace of Base’s junk drawer since 1996, yet spectacular with it. From the inexplicably European lilt Gaga lends to the spoken-word lines, to the femme-fatale chilliness of its chorus, “Alejandro” bangs.

17. I’ll Never Love Again (A Star Is Born)

This is such a Whitney Houston song, with Gaga imitating her whoops and hums with uncanny aplomb. It’s secretly the most cinematic number from A Star Is Born as a result – a classic, made-in-Tinseltown ballad powered by stardust and glitter.

16. The Fame (The Fame)

A mission statement and declaration of self for early Gaga, “The Fame” provided her first album with its title and remains one of her catchiest tracks. There’s the sputtering repetition of “fame, fame, baby, the fame, fame”, the knowing celebration of vapidity and moneyed glam, and the shimmering cool of those Bowie-esque guitar licks.

15. Marry the Night (Born This Way)

A celebration of Gaga as a one-off, retelling how she fled cookie-cutter conformity in the Los Angeles pop industry and returned to New York to carve out her own destiny. Like a lot of Born This Way, there’s absolutely a starving-artist “idea” at work that feels at odds with Gaga’s very moneyed upbringing (she went to the same school as Paris Hilton’s sister Nicky, for instance). Still, there is a universal truth to “Marry the Night” regarding Gaga’s refusal to be what the industry wanted her to be – that singularity has spoken to millions of her fans since.

14. Judas (Born This Way)

“Judas” sounds like a duet between two Gagas – the electropop cyborg and the angelic Whitney fangirl. It’s ultimately about the allure of darkness, while the track’s production is a wall of bangs, shouts and gurgles (“Eww!” Gaga cries at one point). Plus, every great pop icon has at least one track that’s a little bit wonderfully blasphemous.

13. Scheiße (Born This Way)

Okay, this is naked pandering to the Berghain crowd, with its gibberish German lyrics and rampant, aggressive absurdity. But it is such a deer-in-the-headlights racket that it transcends any and all cliche.

12. The Edge of Glory (Born This Way)

The best kind of love song, “The Edge of Glory” is big, teen-movie emotions in pop form. It’s basically Gaga’s “Firework” – overplayed as all hell, but never once losing its euphoric power no matter how often you’ve heard it. That Clarence Clemons sax solo, too? Floors you.

11. Joanne (Joanne)

Named after the aunt she never knew, an artist and poet who died at 19, Gaga’s fourth album is also her most polarising – primarily because it’s so divergent to everything else she’s done. “Joanne” is its heart and soul, a rich, beautifully low-key torch song that dispenses with the jazzier theatrics of her other ballads and is, honestly, all the better for it.

10. Government Hooker (Born This Way)

“Government Hooker” is pure chaos. Over the course of three minutes of industrial techno, it grinds and squirts its way into resembling something sub-human, with a chorus that sounds like a duet between Edith Piaf and a sex robot. Nothing will ever sound as sticky and sweet.

9. The Cure (non-album single)

As cool as a dip in the ocean, “The Cure” arrived and vanished in a puff of mystery. Unattached to any album and released randomly in early 2017, this is a discography outlier but one of Gaga’s loveliest numbers. In its loose crispness, it feels like romantic contentment, Gaga insisting she’s the cure to her lover’s woes. No one really talks about this track, but maybe they should.

8. Sexxx Dreams (Artpop)

One of the strongest tracks on Gaga’s third album is a sentient dry-hump, full of theatrical flourishes as she recalls an erotic fantasy the night before. There’s a kitchen sink quality here that works unusually well – Gaga is half wailing and half speaking, giggling her way through a couple glasses of wine and pining for sexual gratification. There are strumming guitars, stop-and-start synths and a breathless funk bassline that never lets up. It’s baffling that this wasn’t a single.

7. Telephone (The Fame Monster)

It’s arguable that “Telephone” is Gaga, and duet partner Beyoncé, at their most basic, but purely because this is a track aspiring for nothing but nightclub frivolity. This is the pinnacle of trash-pop, a noisy and glitchy slab of energy and dial tones resting entirely on their shared charisma. In the end, it goes off like few others, powered by nothing but adrenaline and wigs.

6. GUY (Artpop)

Gaga has such strong vocal prowess that even when surrounded by production chaos, as in “GUY”, she still sounds totally in charge. Which is appropriate here, as it’s a track driven by themes of sexual domination and shifting gender roles. It’s also ludicrous (“Mount your goddess!” she cries in the middle-eight) – a mode that has always fit Gaga well.

5. Shallow (A Star Is Born)

Aka the “aaah-aha-a-ahhhhh” heard around the world. The standout track from A Star Is Born, which won Gaga and its co-writers an Oscar, this is dramatic, immaculately produced and heartbreaking – a rock power-ballad that sticks its hands into your soul and refuses to let go. It’s also the rare bit of modern pop culture that was immediately clipped and condensed for meme purposes, and yet hasn’t become exhausting by proxy. “Shallow” remains glorious in its mythic, born-from-the-Gods power.

4. Yoü and I (Born This Way)

One of Gaga’s greatest strengths has been her ability to fuse disparate genres – picking from the sounds she grew up adoring and channelling them through her own artistic vision. “Yoü and I” sounds like the baby Freddie Mercury and Shania Twain never had, a thunderous rock ballad that marks Gaga at her most joyous and open.

3. Paparazzi (The Fame)

“Paparazzi” was Gaga’s third single but also felt like her proper arrival, highlighting her romanticism, her vulnerability and, even more than “Poker Face”, her genius when it comes to killer hooks. That it’s the most cohesive example of The Fame’s central premise, exploring narcissism and celebrity and how we’re all guilty participants in pop culture, only adds to its power.

2. Born This Way (Born This Way)

It’s easy to forget that “Born This Way” was met with a degree of scepticism when it was first released. It was a track criticised for potentially exploiting Gaga’s gay fanbase, bizarre criticism that she was forced to condemn. In hindsight, it’s still a landmark, not only in Gaga’s career but in the kind of entirely unsubtle LGBT+ activism it represents, nothing of the sort having ever troubled the higher echelons of the charts previously, and certainly not by a star of Gaga’s magnitude. Considering how often Gaga had paid tribute to and fought for the rights of her queer fanbase, both before she was internationally famous and long after she had made it, “Born This Way” is even more powerful in its sheer joy. This is also a beast of a track, a stomping, on-the-nose battle cry and marvellous sign of the times.

1. Bad Romance (The Fame Monster)

“Bad Romance” still feels like a track only Lady Gaga could have made. Not only because so much of its hook involves the word “Gaga” being screwed and twisted into something monstrous, but because no one else would be daring enough to blend all of these sounds, images and reference points together. This is a track that is simultaneously light and dark, awash in Hitchcock nods and a guttural hunger – for sex, compassion and even death. It sounds like someone taking a chainsaw to a synthesiser, or a woman at the very peak of her powers. “Bad Romance” wasn’t the arrival of Lady Gaga – that had happened a year earlier – but it marked the moment we all knew she’d be around forever.

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