The biggest pop star in the world comes to the Sunshine State this week. She has shows in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and then on Saturday night in Tampa at the St. Pete Times Forum. - Next month her third album, Born This Way, comes out; two years ago her second album, The Fame Monster, came out; three years ago her first album, The Fame, came out; four years ago she was a mostly unknown singer-songwriter in her native New York City; five years ago she was Stefani Germanotta. - Now, of course, she goes by Lady Gaga. She has recognizable musical talent - she plays the piano, writes her own songs and has a better than adequate voice - but so much of her success over these last few years has been self-consciously and brazenly based on the creation of a character. - Her career and its rapid, eye-catching ascent, traced here through words of hers and also those of others, poses big questions about identity and celebrity in our post-millennial society. Maybe that's overstatement. But maybe it's not. Her millions of fans aren't the only people watching her. - Music and culture critics, students of celebrity and serious academics are fascinated, too. - They think who she is says something about who we are. - Her meteoric rise begins - where else? - at the bottom of the page.
Jan. 20, 2006. "Listen, I've got the sickest ambition, deep in the mirror. I am scared. Don't know who the hell is there. Yeah, I'm losing my reflection." - Stefani Germanotta, singing a song called Hollywood, at a bar in Greenwich Village called the Bitter End
Aug. 13, 2007. "I like to pretend I'm famous." - Gaga in Women's Wear Daily
December 2007. "Celebrity is status on speed. It develops quickly, not over generations." - Charles Kurzman, Chelise Anderson, et al., Sociological Theory
Oct. 26, 2008. "Nobody knows who you are, but everyone wants to know who you are. And that's The Fame! That's The Fame!" - Gaga on urbanebloc.com
Aug. 12, 2008. Lady Gaga poses backstage during MTV's Total Request Live at the MTV Times Square Studios.
DEC. 12, 2008. Lady Gaga performs during Z100's Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden.
May 2, 2009. "Lady Gaga is a lie. I am a lie, and every day I kill to make it true." - Gaga in a concert at Terminal 5 in New York
May 4, 2009. "Lady Gaga's main creative act is the act of being Lady Gaga." - Jon Caramanica in the New York Times
June 11, 2009. "Even my mother calls me Gaga. I am 150,000 percent Lady Gaga every day." - Gaga in Rolling Stone
June 11, 2009. "I operate from a place of delusion. That's what The Fame is all about. I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be ..." - Gaga in Rolling Stone
July 12, 2009. "The evidence is before us now, that every artist is a borrower, every genius is a liar." - Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times
Sept. 17, 2009. "I embrace pop culture. The very thing that everybody says is poisonous and ostentatious and shallow, it's like my chemistry book." - Gaga on CNN
Dec. 13, 2009. "The idea is, you are your image, you are who you see yourself to be. ... I don't want anyone to feel trapped by their own lives." - Gaga in the Los Angeles Times
Dec. 13, 2009. "She's tapped into one of the primary obsessions of our age - the changing nature of the self in relation to technology, the ever-expanding media sphere, and that sense of always being in character and publicly visible that Gaga calls 'the fame' - and made it her own obsession, the subject of her songs and the basis of her persona." - Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times
Dec. 20, 2009. "Pop today might seem like a big charade, but it's teasing out deeper truths." - Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times
2009. "We aren't really being true to ourselves when we blame others, such as gossips, or when we say, 'The media are to blame.' The media, they're us." - Tom Payne in Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity
Jan. 20, 2010. "Take my picture! I want to be a star!" - Gaga in concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York
Jan. 20, 2010. "I'm like Tinker Bell. You know how, with Tinker Bell, if you don't applaud her, her light goes out? Speak for me! Do you want me to die?" - Gaga at Radio City Music Hall
Jan. 23, 2010. "Lady Gaga hoists a tommy gun out of the piano and swings it toward the crowd. Smiling maniacally, she sprays her fans with 'bullets,' the weapon flashing like a strobe light." - Jason Zinoman in the New York Times
March 28, 2010. "Everybody wants to be famous, but nobody wants to play the game. I'm from New York. I will kill to get what I need." - Gaga in New York magazine
March 28, 2010. "We walk and talk and live and breathe who we are with such an incredible stench that eventually the stench becomes a reality." - Gaga in New York magazine
March 28, 2010. "That's the genius of Gaga: her willingness to be a mutant, a cartoon." - Vanessa Grigoriadis in New York magazine
JUNE 18, 2010. Lady Gaga attends a New York Yankees game.
July 4, 2010. "Lady Gaga is a product of the times, a creative soul who understands the power of image and the importance of mythmaking." - Robin Givhan in the Washington Post
July 7, 2010. "I hate the truth!" - Gaga in concert at Madison Square Garden in New York
July 25, 2010. "Lady Gaga has become successful by adhering to the belief that there's no inner truth to be advertised, or salvaged: all one can do is invent anew." - Jon Caramanica in the New York Times
Aug. 6, 2010. Lady Gaga performs as part of Lollapalooza 2010 at Grant Park in Chicago.
Aug. 10, 2010. "Part of Lady Gaga's genius has been to make her career a self-fulfilling prophecy of fame, which she has done not only by creating irresistibly catchy music and building a persona around spectacular excess, but also by making her fans feel complicit in the accomplishment." - Ben Sisario in the New York Times
Sept. 12, 2010. "How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism, have become the icon of her generation?" - Camille Paglia in the Sunday Times of London
September 2010. "Who is the real Gaga? I'm f-----' Gaga. I don't know who I am if I'm not Gaga." - Gaga in Vanity Fair
Sept. 17, 2010. "Who is the 24-year-old pop star formerly known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta? Is she a brilliant performance artist - or an empty provocateur?" - Kira Cochrane in the Guardian
Nov. 24, 2010. "Gaga's hypermodern gospel of liberation hints at the irrelevance of truth or, rather, the creation of one's own truth, a performance that is relentlessly enacted until some version of it becomes true." - Columbia University sociology professor Victor P. Corona on popmatters.com
February 2011. "I want for people in the universe, my fans and otherwise, to essentially use me as an escape. ... I am the route out. I am the excuse to explore your identity." - Gaga in Vogue
Feb. 13, 2011. "One of my greatest artworks is the art of fame. I'm a master of the art of fame." - Gaga on 60 Minutes
Feb. 13, 2011. Lady Gaga celebrates after receiving the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Feb. 20, 2011. "She's smarter than the average pop star. Better read. More extensively traveled. Deeper. And she wants you to know it." - Allison Stewart in the Washington Post
March 2011. "Hypermodern methods of disseminating celebrity spectacle illustrate that artifice, if artful, can be even more compelling than the person behind the persona if it forcefully reflects the sullied truths of contemporary life." - Columbia University sociology professor Victor P. Corona in the Journal of Popular Culture
March 22, 2011. "When I was in high school, all my girlfriends wanted to get jobs here. I wanted to be what they were searching for." - Gaga in an interview at Google
March 22, 2011. "Who are you looking for? I'm right here." - Gaga at Google
Michael Kruse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8751.
Sept. 12, 2010. Lady Gaga poses in her meat dress at the MTV Video Awards.
March 28, 2011. Lady Gaga performs at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.