Hear Lady Gaga A–Z

Lady Gaga, Mother Monster — whatever you call her, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is synonymous with insane vocal ability and breaking down barriers in pop music. Shortly after dropping out of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Gaga landed what would be many a recording artist’s dream: a Def Jam Records contract. Unfortunately, the deal didn’t work out, and after performing at local bars and coffee shops and writing songs professionally, she attracted the attention of famed singer Akon, who helped push Mother Monster forward.

After inking a new deal with Interscope Records, Lady Gaga burst onto the scene with the 2008 release of her critically acclaimed debut album, The Fame, which turns 10 today. Ahead of the album’s release, Gaga dropped “Just Dance,” the track that she says saved her life. After years of ups and downs and deals gone wrong, Gaga says writing this track felt like her last shot. The song and its accompanying video embodied everything we came to love about Gaga: having a good time and being unapologetically real. The infectious track began to build Gaga a loyal fanbase, pulling together kids from different walks of life all over the world to, well, dance.

That ode to partying and creative expression was a perfect setup for the rest of the album. For her second single, Gaga gave us “Poker Face,” another international smash. Arguably the best track on the album, its frank depiction of sex, gambling, drinking and bisexuality helped Gaga renegotiate the standards of pop music without holding her tongue one bit.

The Fame shows us the many sides of Lady Gaga, from her party life to her more vulnerable side. On “Paparazzi,” for example, she’s in love with her relationship and her career. Behind all the glitz and glam of The Fame are messages we can all relate to and places we’ve all been.

Here’s to 10 years of The Fame. Pop music wouldn’t be the same without it.