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Gaga's 2011 was borne out of a giant egg on stage at the Grammys, and it ended on the hood of an exploding car in the "Marry the Night" music video. In between, there were #1 albums, #1 singles, TV cameos, alternate identities, eggings, HBO specials and more Event music videos than you could shake one of the "Paparazzi" crutches at. Behold, a slideshow of the year in Gaga, one of her best yet, and by extension, one of the best years anyone had in 2011. (And again, you can check out all our previous slideshows by clicking on the Artists of the Year tag.)
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Feb. 13: The Grammys, "Born This Way" and That Damn Egg
In the evening's most anticipated performance, Gaga nationally debuts her new single "Born This Way" at the 53rd Grammy awards, complete with a sea of androgynous backing dancers, a dramatic organ breakdown, and of course, a gigantic egg. Performance and song are well-received, though years from now, people will probably only remember the performance for that damn egg, the perfect symbol of the constantly growing larger-than-life scale on which Gaga would perform in '11.
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Feb. 28: Unicorn Sighting! Gaga Debuts the "Born This Way" Video
"This is the manifesto of Mother Monster," begins the seven-minute video for the title track on Gaga's Born This Way. The "manifesto," whose primary objectives would have to be described as muddy, evidently includes good-and-evil battles, unicorns, the score to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, skeleton makeup, half-nudity and lots of pink triangles. The craziest thing about the video, which has garnered over 85 million views on YouTube, is that by the end of the year, it will seem almost quaint in its comparatively small-scale production.
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Mar. 22: Google Gaga
While on the West Coast, Gaga stops by the Google offices, and holds a Q&A with some interestingly dressed fans. Over the course of the hour-long interview, she talks about being an outcast, calls viral sensation Rebecca Black a "genius," and describes her upcoming Born This Way album as "avant-garde techno rock." (We're still not sure about the first two, but she was actually pretty close with the third.)
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Mar. 28: Gaga Celebrates Being Able to Rent a Car with Mariachi Band
You only turn 25 once, and Lady Gaga was certainly going to make the most of her quarter-century B-Day. She joined up with Jose Hernandez and his Mariachi Sol de Mexico to assist on a mariachi version of "Born This Way" at the El Cielto restaurant in Los Angeles, delighting the crowd with her appearance half-way through. At the very least, Gaga seems to be having fun, as evidenced from the wine bottle she keeps swigging from throughout the performance.
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April 20: The Short-Lived "Weird Al" Beef
Gaga prompts accusations of humorlessness when famed song parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic unleashes an angry blog post claiming that Stefani's people strung him along during the recording of his Gaga parody "Perform This Way" before ultimately denying him approval without explanation. The bad PR abates when Gaga claims ignorance of the entire affair and gives "Weird Al" her blessing, with Yankovic eventually releasing both song and video without friction. (Meat dresses are involved, natch.)
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Apr. 26: Glee Gets on the Right Track, Baby With Gaga-Themed Episode
Self-acceptance is the name of the game in "Born This Way," Glee's loosely Gaga-themed episode which climaxes with a performance of the title song. The episode gets the show's lowest ratings of the season, but garners good reviews, none the least of which comes from Gaga herself: "I admire the show for being brave+fighting for such modern social messaging. Never back down."
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May 5: The Most Controversial Video That Wasn't
After weeks of anticipation for a video that seemed like it was going to be the most controversial thing to happen to Catholicism in the music world since "Like a Prayer," Gaga finally releases the clip for second Born This Way single "Judas." Despite some minorly eyebrow-raising images—Gaga being baptized by beer, Gaga getting stoned (the biblical way), Jesus and Judas exchanging a peck on the check—the hype is ultimately unwarranted, and the Catholic world continues to go about its day's business, largely unmoved.
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May 8: Gaga Feels Like a Loser, Plays MSG Anyway in HBO Special
You're nobody in the pop world until you play Madison Square Garden and have the thing nationally televised (and eventually released on DVD). Gaga checks the whole thing off her bucket list in May, with her own MSG HBO special. The concert features a lot of set changes, elaborate dance numbers, and some truly relentless monologuing, though the most revelatory moment comes backstage, where Gaga breaks down crying about she "still feel[s] like a loser kid in high school" sometimes. She gets over it in time, natch.
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May 21: Gaga Joins Justin Timberlake for "3-Way"
Lady Gaga continues her year of TV dominance by appearing on Saturday Night Live, on an episode hosted by Justin Timberlake. Gaga plays three songs, "Judas," "Born This Way" and new single "Edge of Glory," but the episode's high point comes with her, JT and Andy Samberg singing of digital short "3-Way (The Golden Rule)," in which it is revealed that "It's not gay when it's in a three-way." As far as pro-LBGT messaging goes, it's not exactly "Don't be a drag, just be a queen," but it's good for a chuckle.
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May 23: At Long Last, "Born This Way"
It feels like years ago at this point, but in fact we were nearly halfway through 2011 before Lady Gaga actually released Born This Way, still just her second full-length album of all-new material. The 14-track collection receives mostly strong reviews from critics and fans, and is promoted by Gaga later in the week with performances on American Idol and Good Morning America.
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June 1: Gaga Sells a Million
Seven digits' worth of Little Ones put their paws up for Mother Monster in the first week of Born This Way sales, giving her the year's largest debut week. Many would put an asterisk next to Gaga's accomplishment, since her numbers were largely inflated by Amazon.com discounting sale of the album to 99 cents, but regardless, the album goes on to sell about two million copies in the States and eight worldwide. (Billboard later changes their rules to make copies of albums sold for less than $3.95 ineligible to count towards sales tallies.)
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June 16: "Edge of Glory" Video Inspires a Lot of Quizzical Looks
After a typical amount of pre-leak hype, the video for third Born This Way single "Edge of Glory" is released to an extremely underwhelmed response from fans and critics. The clip, originally planned as a high-concept Joseph Kahn video, sees artistic conflict in production and ends up being five minutes of Gaga dancing by herself somewhat aimlessly on an empty street. At the very least, the video marks the last MTV appearance of guest saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who dies of complications from a stroke just two days later.
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July 13: Gaga Gets Egged in Sydney
Again with the eggs. For reasons unknown but largely speculated upon, Gaga receives criticism in the form of catapulted ovum during a gig in Sydney—most likely for her use of a wheelchair in stage performance, something Stefani has long received criticism for from various groups representing disabled people. Then again, egging people is also just sort of what they do in Sydney—just ask The Bieb.
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July 27: So You Think You Can Keep it Together for One TV Appearance?
Gaga's TV blitz extends to a July appearance as a guest judge on FOX's So You Think You Can Dance? Her cameo is punctuated by her breaking down in tears at one couple's performance ("I'm just so proud of you!") and by her likely facetious claim to be wearing a "fashion catheter" as part of her costume ("So I don't heave to leave to go the bathroom during the show").
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Aug. 16: Mermaid Sex, Cornfields and Power Balladry in "You and I"
Perhaps Gaga's greatest (or at least most diverse) hodgepodge of cultural imagery and influences, the "You and I" video is about equal parts Splash, Grease, Field of Dreams, Bride of Frankenstein and Black Swan, with a little Pink and Shania Twain mixed in for good measure. It also marks the first-ever appearance of Gaga's male alter-ego Jo Calderone, who will make his presence felt in a much greater fashion in just a few weeks.
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Aug. 28: Oh Boy, Jo Calderone
Gaga kicks off the MTV Video Music Awards with a show-stopping, Brian May-featuring performance of new single "You And I," but the performance is completely overshadowed by her spending the entire evening in her male greaser Jo Calderone persona, including an endless pre-performance monologue, a super-awkward presentation of a lifetime achievement award to Britney Spears, and a post-VMAs Q&A in which Jo continued to refuse to respond to anything as Gaga. Fortunately for everyone, Jo has been little seen since.
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Sep. 21: The Tragedy of Jamey Monster
Gaga's fanbase is stunned by the news of Jamey Rodemeyer, a Gaga superfan who took his own life over bullying related to his sexuality. Stefani vows action in response to the suicide of "Jamey Monster" over Twitter, where she calls for bullying to be made illegal and promises to meet with Pres. Obama on the matter. Months later, the President's administration does agree to meet with Gaga to discuss bullying prevention, though the President himself is not expected to be in attendance.
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Nov. 13th: Gaga Dumps Laurieann
Amidst reports of Laurieann Gibson's ego getting a little bit too big for her britches—claims of having "invented" Lady Gaga may have played a part—Gaga and Laurieann decide to part ways. In addition to choreographing nearly every one of Gaga's videos, Gibson had also directed "You and I" and co-directed "Judas," making her one of Gaga's closest collaborators. But Gaga soldiers on without her, proving that no matter who "invented" Lady Gaga, it's Stefani alone who represents her now.
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Nov. 24: A Gaga For All Seasons
Gaga's first Holiday special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, airs on ABC features the pop star singing, making arts and crafts and wearing a lot of weird hats. (The New York Times describes the entire affair as being "like a dream or a tryptophan-induced hallucination," which sounds about right.) Real or hallucinatory, the program gets mediocre ratings, landing only half the viewers of a Big Bang Theory repeat on CBS. We'll see if she can't do better this Christmas.
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Dec. 6: Gaga Marries Night, Cars, Big Hats in Fifth "Born" Video
Somehow, the "Marry the Night" video is Gaga's most epic yet, a 14-minute piece that takes her from the hospital gurney to the ballet stage to Staten Island (?), with a whole lot of voiceover-narrating, dancing, dramatic acting, car-humping and big-hat-wearing (and we're talking HUGE) going on in the interim. "You may say I lost everything," intones Gaga in one particularly representative section. "But I still had my bedazzler." Five singles and videos into Born This Way and 11-plus months into 2011, it's good to see Gaga still packing that can-do spirit.
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Jun. 19: Gaga Au Naturel At the MuchMusic Video Awards
Gaga performed "Edge of Glory" and "Born this Way" and took home a couple trophies at this year's MuchMusic Video Awards, and if that wasn't enough, she also selected to show the crowd that when it came to her new blue haircut, the carpet matched the drapes, so to speak.
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Dec. 1: Not Your Grandmother's Tony Bennett Duet Partner
Never one to shy away from nakedness, Lady Gaga goes the Full Monty for duet partner Tony Bennett, who sketches the nude Gaga for the January 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. The painting will be auctioned off for charity, though for Bennett at least, the memories will undoubtedly last a lifetime.