LADY GAGA with SHILOH at Circa (126 John), Sunday (November 30). $23. ticketmaster.ca
If you've flipped past much more Music any time over the past six months, chances are you've seen the glitzy video clip for Lady GaGa's breakthrough club anthem Just Dance, a paean to nightclub debauchery.
GaGa is the songwriter who penned Big Girl Now for the New Kids on the Block's comeback album, The Block, and the Pussycat Dolls' Elevator from their Doll Domination disc. Her Just Dance single was Toronto's soundtrack of the summer and hit huge across Canada before GaGa had any kind of real profile in the U.S. outside the downtown New York scene where she began her career as a keyboardist for performance artist Lady Starlight.
"I absolutely love Canada," gushes GaGa from a tour stop in Vancouver, where she's opening for New Kids on the Block. "Canada was the first country where Just Dance topped the charts, followed by Sweden and Australia. Canadian audiences always find the good stuff first, and the people programming radio and video stations seem to be way more open-minded about trying things that break the rules."
Initially signed to Def Jam by L.A. Reid, the musical prodigy born Joanne Stefani Germanotta in Yonkers, New York, was abruptly dropped by the label just three months later. But Reid's loss is Akon's gain. The hard- hustling entrepreneur quickly snapped up the multi-talented Lady GaGa for his Kon Live label in a joint deal with Interscope.
"I'm a great believer in fate. I'm exactly where I should be right now. Interscope signed me as a songwriter, and Akon heard what I was doing through RedOne, a producer I'd been working with, and hired me to add some of my New York flava to a few songs he was doing with different artists," says GaGa, who learned to play piano by ear at age four.
According to GaGa, writing a global dance-floor anthem was the furthest thing from her mind when she got a call from RedOne, who was excited about a synth line he'd come up with.
"At the time, I'd just gotten off the plane from New York where I'd been partying with some friends. I told RedOne that I was still really hungover from being out at the clubs the night before, and he said to come over to the studio anyway and see what happens," she says.
"The feeling was, let's just have fun coming up with something without worrying about who's going to record it or hear it. That's really when I'm at my best as a writer, because there's no pressure whatsoever. Akon heard an early version and said, ‘Oh my god, this is crazy!' We played it for Jimmy Iovine at Interscope, and he was like, ‘I can't see any other artist singing it but you.' The whole thing came together really quickly."
Even though Lady GaGa's career as a performer is taking off, she hasn't stopped writing songs for other artists. It's a good way to help make ends meet, particularly if you're supplying material for platinum-selling celebs like Britney Spears, whose forthcoming Circus album contains the GaGa-penned Quicksand.
"I can't tell you anything about the song, but I can say that it's a great album and I'm really excited to have a song on it. Try to imagine being the biggest Britney Spears fan on the planet and someone calls you up to say that she wants to record one of your songs. I couldn't breathe.
"I feel like I'm the new girl in school who doesn't really fit in and Britney is one of the popular girls who has gone out of her way to be really nice to me. It's wonderful that she's being so supportive.
When asked about the recent Christina Aguilera controversy, Lady GaGa seemed more flattered than upset by the possibility that Aguilera could be biting her style.
Those freaky digital glasses Lady GaGa wears on stage may need some technical adjustments before they hit store shelves.