9

Bad Romance

Lady Gaga

The Fame Monster (2009)

It’s fitting that in the opening scene of this video, white latex-covered dancers emerge from pods like aliens, because Lady Gaga certainly seems like she was dropped off here from another planet. She is easily the unlikeliest pop star of the past few years, as her bizarre styling, unabashedly gay pop, and just general freakishness don’t really scream “#1 pop star.” But this living piece of performance art has dominated all of 2009, and “Bad Romance” is pretty much the epitome of the cult of Gaga. The song itself is chock full of catchy hooks and insta-quotes (the Hitchock references particularly slay me: “I want your psycho / your vertigo shtick / want you in my rear window / baby it’s sick”), while the video cobbles together an endless stream of jaw-dropping costumes and slick choreography. It’s a little hard to really judge this song without a little more time to test its endurance, but considering how it seems to have even gotten many Gaga-haters to concede her talent, I think it’s likely it will go down as a modern pop masterpiece.

Also check out: “Whatever Makes You Happy” by the Sugababes – an act that sadly never broke through in the U.S.

1

Poker Face

Lady Gaga

The Fame (2008)

Could I really pick a dancey pop song that’s only a year old, by a barely established artist, that features the lyric “bluffin’ with my muffin,” and make it my #1 song of the decade? Yes. And I did. I almost didn’t even want to continue the rankings when I hit the top 6, and I swapped different songs numerous times for the top position. But in the end, I suppose I knew it would always come down to Lady Gaga. I am not a traditional fan-boy who loves everything an artist does no matter what, but when it comes to Gaga, it’s been easy to love her work. “Just Dance” took the better part of a year to catch on in 2008, but once it did, it paved the way for her biggest and best hit, the song that has been sampled, parodied, karaoked, mashed-up, and heard more than any other this year. “Poker Face” is supposedly about Lady Gaga having sex with a man but thinking about a woman (call me dense, but I wouldn’t have interpreted it that way), but that doesn’t really matter. An overarching theme is not the point of this track. Instead it’s all about some gleefully unexpected lines (“stunnin’ with my love glue-gunnin’” and the aforementioned “muffin” line particularly stand out), an impossible-to-get-out-of-your-head chorus, and a variety of nonsense syllables (“muh muh muh muh”) layered over some incredibly slick electro-pop — all of which add up to the most fun, memorable, and accomplished pop song of the past ten years. And for me personally, it comes with a bunch of wonderful associations. Once this song hit, I requested it like crazy with every DJ I could find, and eventually just started shouting “POKER FACE!” at anyone with the remotest musical inclination, whether it be a lesbian with a guitar on the street in Provincetown or an a capella group at the mall. In my head, this song represents not only every ounce of Gaga’s flamboyant persona, but also all the insane, uninhibited, and absurd aspects of my own personality. And even though everybody knows “Poker Face,” it still feels like it is somehow “mine.” Time will tell if I will still be happy with this selection for the #1 song of the ’00s, but considering that even after hundreds (thousands?) of listens, I still love it every time, I think I probably made the right choice. Lady Gaga, you’re entering the next decade as the most exciting artist in the business. I can’t wait to see where you’ll take us over the next ten years.

Also check out: A lot of other people seem to prefer “Paparazzi” — check out the Stuart Price remix of that song, which keeps the beat alive but brings out the blues hiding just beneath the surface.