Proving herself capable of constant reinvention like those who came before her, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, AKA Lady Gaga, is the ultimate twenty-first century diva.
I remember “Just Dance” rising to the charts my senior year of high school when Gaga was just becoming a household name. “Gaga?” my best friend asked incredulously—what does that mean? Since she rose to fame in 2008, we have found out that “Gaga” has no single meaning. From her debut with The Fame to her most recent Chromatica, Lady Gaga’s seven studio albums have shown that she has what it takes to rise to any occasion.
Here are all seven Lady Gaga albums ranked.
Lady Gaga Albums Ranked
7. ARTPOP (2013)
Infamously Gaga’s least successful solo album, ARTPOP is a care-free, flamboyant exploration of fame, sex, and stardom.
According to a 2014 Rolling Stone interview, the album’s mixed critical reception almost caused Gaga to abandon her career altogether. While some criticism focused on the album’s subject matter—Gaga’s own star power—others criticized the music itself as largely unvaried, uncomplicated EDM and synth-pop.
Though it almost made last place in this ranking, Artpop deserves more credit than it’s often been given. Gaga’s description of the album as “the reverse of Andy Warhol’s work” is brilliant. Rather than try to elevate pop culture into high art, as Warhol famously did with his silkscreen prints of Campbell’s Soup cans, Gaga brings her art down into the sphere of pure campy pop.
The album’s first and most successful single, Applause, describes Gaga’s experience as a performer and her love of audience praise. The catchy chorus hook, which evokes the sound of Gaga’s debut album, made it to #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
6. Joanne (2016)
From folk to pop to country and back, Joanne is a vocal and emotional exploration that takes Gaga’s music to new frontiers.
After the disappointment that was ARTPOP and the jazz collaboration that was Cheek to Cheek, Joanne is so different from anything else Gaga has done that it deserves a category of its own. Often described as her “country album,” Joanne gets to Gaga’s core, as its name—Gaga’s middle name—suggests. Gaga gets her middle name from her aunt Joanne, who passed away long before Gaga was even born. The album takes that tragic death as inspiration for its overarching themes, including heartbreak and nostalgia.
Gaga delves into country-pop in songs like Sinner’s Prayer and then ricochets back to her signature catchy pop roots in tunes like Dancin’ in Circles. John Wayne brings the two together, dropping into a rhythmic dance-rock riff in its chorus.
The song Joanne is undoubtedly the most emotionally charged track, borrowing from soft rock and folk traditions to produce a powerful dedication to Gaga’s late aunt and perhaps metaphorically, to Gaga herself.
Honestly, I know where you’re goin’Joanne
And baby, you’re just movin’ on
And I still love you even if I can’t
See you anymore, can’t wait to see you soar
- John Wayne
- Dancin’ in Circles
- Perfect Illusion
- Sinner’s Prayer
- Angel Down
5. Cheek to Cheek (2014, w/ Tony Bennett)
This collaborative album with jazz legend Tony Bennett was Gaga’s palate cleanser, helping her transition from ARTPOP to Joanne.
Named after the Cole Porter and Irving Berlin standard, Cheek to Cheek, the album dives into American jazz classics like “Anything Goes” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”
The project proves Gaga’s pure vocal talent beyond a shadow of a doubt. It also demonstrates her incredible ability to take on seemingly disparate personas, from flamboyant pop star to sophisticate.
Considering that Bennett is more than 50 years Gaga’s senior, it makes sense that Gaga seems to take the lead throughout the album, outshining her collaborator through the unexpectedness of the whole endeavor. Though Gaga is most herself in the dance-pop realm, jazz allows her to really flex her vocal talent.
With the standard It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), Gaga puts her signature on the final repetition of the classic scat lyric: “Doo wah doo wah doo wah doowah Tony, Gaga!”
- Cheek to Cheek
- I Won’t Dance
- Sophisticated Lady
- It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
- Bang Bang (Bonus Track)
4. A Star Is Born Soundtrack (2018)
A Star is Born proves that Gaga is just as comfortable as a Hollywood starlet as she is as pop star.
The Star is Born soundtrack is the heart and soul of the feature film by the same name co-starring Bradley Cooper. At 34 tracks, the record accompanies the film’s dramatic arc—from Jack’s well-established career, to Ally’s rise to fame, to the complex, tragic love story that develops between them—there is a song for every moment.
With seven Grammy nominations, the soundtrack was almost as successful as the film, which received eight Academy Award nominations, including a win for Best Original Song. That winning song was Shallow, a duet between Gaga and Cooper that is far and away the soundtrack’s top stand out ballad. It’s the most-awarded song of all-time, riding on the success of its composition, an acoustic love ballad, and the film’s narrative.
Though the 2018 remake of A Star is Born is the third version of the original 1937 film, its unlikely stars and original music helped make it a hit. Look What I Found, a pop track with inspiration from funk and rock, highlights Gaga’s impressive vocal range, from powerful belting to a delicate falsetto section.
In addition to “Shallow,” I’ll Never Love Again and Always Remember Us This Way were performed by Gaga alone and released as soundtrack singles. “I’ll Never Love Again” is exactly what its title suggests: a tragic lament of love lost. And Gaga gives it the emotional depth its lyrics demand. Pitchfork’s Larry Fitzmaurice called it a “stunning, heart-wrenching closer.”
Wish I could, I could’ve said goodbyeI’ll Never Love Again
I would’ve said what I wanted to
Maybe even cried for you
If I knew it would be the last time
I would’ve broke my heart in two
Tryin’ to save a part of you
A Star is Born is Gaga’s ultimate comeback, proving that she is the ultimate star.
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow
- La Vie en Rose
- Always Remember Us This Way
- Look What I Found
- I’ll Never Love Again
3. Chromatica (2020)
At a time when planet Earth feels particularly dystopian, Chromatica offers a musical escape to a better, kinder planet.
Chromatica will always be irrevocably tied to its date of release: smack in the middle of the pandemic lockdowns of April 2020. Homebound fans were thrilled with the release, which gave Gaga’s “little monsters” some much needed relief (even if they could only dance along in the comfort of their own homes).
Gaga released Stupid Love as the album’s first single in late February, before the pandemic had fully halted most public activity. It was met with mostly positive reviews, with critics comparing it to the electro-pop/dance-pop from earlier in Gaga’s career. It’s a self-empowering anthem not unlike “Born This Way,” advocating courage and strength in the face of adversity.
Now it’s time to free me from the shameStupid Love
I gotta find that peace
Is it too late or could this love protect me from the pain?
I would battle for you, even if I break in two
According to Gaga, Chromatica is not just an album; Chromatica is another planet. In an interview with Rolling Stone prior to the album’s release, Gaga explained the colorful, other-worldly concept further: “music is made of a chromatic scale…We’re talking about inclusivity and life.” New York Times critic Wesley Morris wrote that tracks like Enigma are exemplary of the “wit and introspection you want from an artist you know can deliver.”
And deliver she does with a little help from Ariana Grande in the album’s second single, Rain on Me and from Sir Elton John in the drum-and-bass meets electro-pop meets strings epoch that is Sine from Above.
- Stupid Love
- Rain on Me (w/ Ariana Grande)
- Sine from Above (w/ Elton John)
2. The Fame (2008)
Lady Gaga burst onto the scene with uncomplicated, catchy dance-pop that would lead to exactly what its title invoked.
The Fame’s lead single, Just Dance, is a contagious synth pop dance floor anthem for intoxicated partiers at the club. Gaga’s first single easily made its way to #1 in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. In retrospect, its extremely positive critical reception was a harbinger of the chart-topping career ahead.
The star’s second consecutive hit single, Poker Face couldn’t help but stay on your mind with its endless lyrical repetition of its title. And yet, the track also shot up to Billboard’s #1 spot. The songstress even flexes her rapping muscles in the song’s signature rap break before launching back into the infectious dance chorus.
The Fame established Lady Gaga’s over-the-top, camp brand of pop stardom. Taking inspiration from Andy Warhol’s art-making team, the Factory, and sourcing its name from the ballroom tradition of “houses,” Gaga also founded her signature creative team, Haus of Gaga at the time of the album’s release.
LoveGame and Paparazzi followed as extremely popular singles, defining The Fame as a record-breaking debut album and cementing Lady Gaga’s place in the pop canon.
Just over a year later, Gaga strategically released a sequel EP, The Fame Monster, chalk full of iconic hits like “Alejandro,” and “Bad Romance.”
- Just Dance
- Poker Face
- Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
- The Fame
- Boys Boys Boys
1. Born This Way (2011)
Born This Way is Gaga doubling down on self-empowerment and pure dance energy.
Three years after The Fame and its chart-topping EP sequel, The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga released an entirely new beast, Born This Way.
The lead single and eponymous track, Born this Way, made waves around the world with its humming base and disco chorus of empowerment and self-acceptance, especially for LGBTQ communities.
Though its critical reception was overwhelmingly positive, some criticized it for its excessive campiness. To that I ask: what’s wrong with camp? “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen.”
Sal Cinquemani of Slant saw the track’s potential within the LGBTQ community, writing, “Born This Way is an unapologetically queer anthem, one you can already bet will be pumping from floats up and down every gay pride parade from San Francisco to Berlin this summer.”
“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are”Born This Way
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way
And so it did, topping charts all over the world and eventually becoming the namesake of Lady Gaga’s foundation, an organization “committed to supporting the wellness of young people, and empowering them to create a braver and kinder world.”
The Edge of Glory, which was initially meant as a promotional teaser, rose to popularity quickly and became one of the album’s most successful singles. Experimenting with multiple musical genres, the track is a poignant power ballad that positions Gaga beyond the edge of stardom.
- Born This Way
- Bloody Mary
- The Edge of Glory