Rolling Stone Greatest Songs

Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs: Lady Gaga, ‘Bad Romance’ (#482)

There’s no one quite like Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.

Granted, the pop firmament abounds with artists who’ve managed to extend their creative talents across multiple fields and formats, including music, performance, movies, and fashion.  Beyonce, Donald Glover, and David Bowie — probably Lady Gaga’s closest parallel in terms of career trajectory — are just a few examples of the musicians who’ve found their way to the movies, or the actors who’ve found their way to music.

But even among those luminaries, Lady Gaga stands apart.

Part of what distinguishes her from most of her multi-talent peers isn’t what she’s done so much as how insanely successful she’s been doing it.  She’s sold millions of albums and singles while netting Academy Award nominations for acting and songwriting, all while constantly reinventing her sound and her public persona in ways that seem authentic and in keeping with her natural inclinations.  Wearing a dress made of raw beef to the MTV Awards in 2010 seemed ‘normal’ for Lady Gaga…but so did collaborating on an album of jazz standards with Tony Bennett a year later.

She’s made the transition from electronic dance music to jazz standards to other genres of music and back again…and made all of it look and sound easy.  That’s because for all the strangeness and innovation of her fashion and her eye-catching videos,[1]The ‘Bad Romance’ video was directed by Francis Lawrence, who’d go on to direct three Hunger Games movies. there’s nothing gimmicky in the least about Lady Gaga’s actual song-writing.  Scrape away the electronica from songs like ‘Poker Face’ and ‘Bad Romance’, and you’ll find sturdy, tried and true constructions of melody, rhythm, and theme.  You could reduce at least the choruses of every top ten hit Lady Gaga has ever had down to an arrangment of just voice and piano, and they’d hold up just fine.

Written while she was on tour in Norway, feeling lonely and paranoid, Lady Gaga told Grazia magazine that ‘Bad Romance’ was about “being in love with your best friend.”  Going by the song’s lyrics and its cryptic, ominous refrain —

I want your love and I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

— we might hope for Gaga’s sake that she’s since upgraded her taste in friends and in men, because nothing going on in ‘Bad Romance’ sounds healthy in the least.

Hell of a song, though.

Michael Strum: I find it easy to get swept up in the electronica / house pop grandeur of ‘Bad Romance,’ particularly with the post-hoc revisionist insight provided by her crushing performance in the most recent iteration of ‘A Star Is Born.’ Her inclusive, empowering politics are a delight and make it even easier to fall in love. Sign me up!”

Rolling Stone: Shortly after Gaga had established herself as a star, she catapulted to a next level of weirdness with this Nadir “RedOne” Khayat production, which drew upon the electronic music Gaga had been inundated with while touring Europe. “I want the deepest, darkest, sickest parts of you that you are afraid to share with anyone because I love you that much” is how she summed up the idea behind the song. Fittingly, she debuted the hit-to-be at Alexander McQueen’s show at Paris Fashion Week.


1 The ‘Bad Romance’ video was directed by Francis Lawrence, who’d go on to direct three Hunger Games movies.