Editor’s Note: Welcome to V7, an all-day series on May 15, 2020 that celebrates Vanyaland’s 7th anniversary. We launched back on May 15, 2013 with a brand new publication and a livestream (yeah, before it was cool), and to celebrate the day, Vanyaland’s editors, senior writers, and publisher have offered up their own personal favorites from the world of music, film, and comedy. Below is a contribution from Music Editor, Boston Victoria Wasylak.
As we here at Vanyaland celebrate two momentous occasions — the website’s 7th birthday and the impending blessing that is Lady Gaga’s forthcoming record Chromatica — I took on some dirty work and selected seven of my favorite deep cuts from Mother Monster. [Please go ahead and insert your own “I’m off the deep eeeeend” joke here.]
‘Boys Boys Boys’, from The Fame — 2008
A 22-year-old Lady Gaga can name exactly four nice things about men: Cars, free drinks, hairspray, and denim. It’s not easy being a deep cut on a formative record like The Fame, which has become synonymous with those first four Gaga hits, two of which earned her a spot at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Now 12 years old (yeesh), The Fame feels like a time capsule of sorts, especially if you push past its singles to reveal a glam slice of lust like “Boys Boys Boys.” Nothing says 2008 quite like propositioning someone to “see The Killers and make out in the bleachers,” long before dating looped in the complications of tinder matches and ghosting. Laden with clever lyrical quips (“I’m not loose / I like to party / Let’s get lost in your Ferrari”) and some utter nonsensical ones (“Love it when you call me legs / In the morning buy me eggs”), “Boys Boys Boys” showcases some of The Fame’s friskiest pop visions.
‘So Happy I Could Die’, from The Fame Monster — 2009
“I love that lavender blonde…./ The way she moves/the way she walks….” Right from its opening lines, the seventh track on The Fame Monster doesn’t mince words, offering up a shimmering glimpse at Gaga’s often-erased bisexuality. Aside from lining up a clear pattern of self-abuse songs for her future albums (more on that later), “So Happy I Could Die” conveys the ecstasy of crushing on women in a far less subtle way than “Poker Face” ever could (that song’s about bedding a dude while thinking of a woman, if you haven’t put that lil puzzle together yet). Pulsing from a core of subdued synth-pop, you can feel the lovestruck, red-wine-fueled buzz of this tune in your bones long after Gaga’s echoey vocals dissipate.
‘Government Hooker’, from Born This Way — 2011
You know what’s more American than romanticized adultery? Romanticized adultery committed by government officials. For all of this song’s seemingly unrelated elements — operatic vocals, trance beats, and the classic tale of JFK and Marilyn Monroe — “Government Hooker” offers the exact dark brilliance expected of Gaga following her immaculate release of The Fame Monster. Maybe it’s a jab at a humankind’s stereotypical lack of restraint, maybe it’s a weirdly randy love letter to one of the most iconic affairs in history; in either case, the track remains an anthem for women everywhere who make men pay for their desires — literally.
‘Heavy Metal Lover’, from Born This Way — 2011
Behold, one of the most iconic, irreverent opening lines of any pop song, ever, autotuned to Venus and back: “I want your whiskey mouth all over my blonde south.” That’s it. That’s the only explanation “Heavy Metal Lover” needs.
‘Donatella’, from ARTPOP — 2013
If the general public couldn’t appreciate the electronic defiance of ARTPOP, at least TikTok seems to have taken to a chunk of Gaga’s fourth record. This tune’s deadpan opening lines — “I’m blonde, I’m skinny, I’m rich, and I’m a little bit of a bitch” — circulated on the social media platform last year, a long-overdue toast to the album once called “artflop” by critics and former fans alike. Somehow a cohesive mix of biting satire and genuine adoration of the Versace queen bee, “Donatella” unveils a piece of ARTPOP carved from diamond-clad socialite culture. Punctuated by Zedd’s signature style of crunchy EDM production, “Donatella” represents everything ARTPOP set out to be: Namely, a dose of tipsy, staggering-across-the-dancefloor fun.
‘Dancin’ in Circles’, from Joanne — 2016
Don’t ever let anyone make the argument that Lady Gaga lost her edge on Joanne, because this woman put an entire unabashed ode to jerking off on a record dedicated to her dead aunt. (Read that sentence again if you need. We’ll wait). While writing an album rooted in singer-songwriter fare to soothe some inherited emotional wounds, Gaga snuck in this off-kilter downtown romp, whose purpose is solely to emote the very literal pains of, um, missing someone physically. Tucked between the equally rowdy songs “John Wayne” and “Perfect Illusion,” “Dancin’ in Circles” and its adjacent tracks provide some danceable pop reprieve for listeners who can’t dig Joanne’s acoustic-guitar-dive-bar deal.
‘Is That Alright?’, from A Star Is Born Soundtrack — 2018
Sure, the A Star Is Born soundtrack can’t be filed under Gaga’s solo discography due to its assistance from Bradley Cooper, but there’s a reason Gaga garnered three Grammys for the the 2018 record. In the wake of the mega-success that was “Shallow,” though, the movie’s main duet overshadowed much of the album’s other gems, for better or for worse. “Is That Alright?” itself was cut from the final version of the film, but it was meant for Jack (Cooper) and Ally’s (Gaga) wedding scene. Albeit crafted for fake nuptials, there’s nothing remotely artificial about “Is That Alright?”; alongside “Speechless,” “Dope,” and “Million Reasons,” the tune further cements Gaga’s creds as a moving, timeless balladeer (even if her slow songs take the backseat to her pop standards on the radio every single time).