Lady Gaga’s decade-plus discography spans genres and styles. From the shiny electro-pop of The Fame, The Fame Monster, Born This Way, and ArtPop to the stripped-down acoustics of Joanne, she’s proven her versatility time and time again. Throw in an era of jazz standards with Tony Bennett and, of course, the Star Is Born soundtrack, and you have one of the most diverse pop catalogs ever. There are moments of brilliance scattered across Gaga’s library—but with so much material, a few misfires are inevitable. That being said, even the “worst” Lady Gaga songs are still pretty damn good.
Below, my picks for the highs and lows of Mother Monster’s steady stream of hits.
10. ”Just Dance“
Hands-down her most immediately catchy track, “Just Dance” not only put Gaga on the map, it changed the sound of radio—ushering in a wave of maximalist mega-pop that everyone from Britney Spears to Rihanna rode.
9. “Always Remember Us This Way”
“Shallow” may be the sonic climax of A Star Is Born, but the heart of the film is “Always Remember Us This Way,” a stunning, simple piano ballad that carries a seismic emotional punch.
8. “Heavy Metal Lover”
One of Gaga’s most experimental songs, this Born This Way deep cut is an homage to New York City’s club kids—with a sound and energy that just feels like the Lower East Side. Sexy, sweaty, and pulsating with electronic grit, “HML” is best heard at 3 a.m. after several Jameson shots.
ArtPop was overlooked and snubbed by mainstream audiences—which is a shame, because that means many people missed this superb, sonically adventurous cut. “Gypsy,” an ode to traveling the world with your lover, begins and ends in two very different places. It’s one-part piano ballad, two parts explosive dance-pop, and all parts memorable.
6. ”The Edge of Glory”
Gaga wrote this song after her grandfather passed away, and its heartfelt sentiment is palpable. At its core, “Edge” is an electronic dance song, but there”s something about it—be it Gaga”s impassioned vocal delivery or Clarence Clemons”s sax solo—that warms it up and brings you home.
5. “Marry the Night”
This loud, bombastic tribute to New York didn’t get the acclaim or chart success it deserved. “Marry the Night” is perhaps the most quintessential Lady Gaga song (next to “Bad Romance,” obviously): defiant, exuberant, and above all else, catchy as hell. The techno breakdown at the 3:36 mark is nothing short of exhilarating.
Melodic in style but heavy in themes, “Paparazzi” was Gaga’s first real piece of pop commentary, something she’d go on to do in both her music and her red-carpet style. This sweet-sounding mid-tempo track was her way of critiquing the media’s treatment of female celebrities. It earns a spot on our list based on that unforgettable 2009 MTV Video Music Awards performance alone.
“Speechless” is Gaga’s best ballad, and I won’t be challenged. The 4-minute, 31-second track is the first breath fans get on the singer’s synth-heavy Fame Monster album, and it’s both refreshing and moving. Written to her father as a plea for him to seek treatment for a heart condition, “Speechless” is a seamless blend of vulnerability and power. As for her vocals, well, she hits it out of the park.
2. “Dance in the Dark”
This Fame Monster deep cut is on just about every Little Monster’s top-five list, and rightfully so. Sonically, it’s one of Gaga’s brightest efforts: booming and industrial yet incredibly haunting. Match this with the song’s themes—about fearing sex with the lights on because of body insecurities—and you have arguably Lady Gaga’s most emotionally potent song to date.
1. “Bad Romance”
It would be wrong to have another song at the top of this list. “Bad Romance,” simply put, is a musical tour de force. Its release in 2009 built on the dance sound Gaga brought to radio while introducing something new—and dark. Everything from the choreography to the chorus of this song is pop-culture cannon. Hell, ”Rah rah, ah ah ah” is now universally understood English. That, my friends, is influence.
10. “Why Did You Do That?”
To be clear, the two other supposed-to-be-bad pop songs in A Star Is Born, “Hair Body Face” and “Heal Me,” are fantastic. However, there's no excusing“WDYDT?,” which has a chorus more annoying than a recess chant.
“A-Yo” isn't bad so much as it is lukewarm—especially when stacked up against the more introspective cuts on Joanne.
8. “Perfect Illusion”
Shortly after the release of “Perfect Illusion,” Jezebel ran an article titled “Why Is Lady Gaga’s New Single So Damn Unpleasant?” And, well, I’m still trying to figure that out. Don’t get me wrong: “Perfect Illusion” has grown on me, but something about it is still so grating. There are far better songs on the accompanying album, Joanne.
“Dope” is a cult favorite among some Gaga fans—but the demo it’s based on, ”I Wanna Be With You,” is far superior. Both versions of the song are weighty juggernauts, but “I Wanna Be With You” sounds slightly less…erm, miserable…than “Dope.” It should’ve made ArtPop’s final roster. (And while we’re at it: Justice for “Brooklyn Nights.”)
6. “Bad Kids”
Born This Way is Gaga's longest studio album, which means it contains some filler tracks. “Bad Kids” is one of them. Sadly, the song is a bit half-baked—it contains the ’80s power-pop shell the other BTW songs have, minus the meat.
5. “Do What U Want” (feat. R. Kelly)
“Do What U Want” is a complete misfire. The song’s creepy lyrical content, mixed with who’s featured on it, just makes it unlistenable. So much so that Gaga removed it from streaming platforms in January 2019 in light of the sexual misconduct allegations against R.Kelly and went on to say she regrets releasing the song.
4. “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)”
Another filler track off Born This Way, “Highway Unicorn” sounds like six different songs rolled into one. The elements separated are actually quite good—the thumping bass-line at the beginning is magnetic—but together it’s a bit of a cluster.
3. “Jewels n’ Drugs” (feat. · T.I., Too $hort, and Twista)
The same critique goes to “Jewels n’ Drugs,” Gaga’s bizarre foray into hip-hop that fans would rather forget.
2. “Hey Girl” (feat. Florence Welch)
“Hey Girl” isn’t a terrible song; it’s just a disappointing one. For two powerhouses like Gaga and Florence Welch to come together and release a track that sounds like a tense phone call is just, I don't know, a bummer? Here’s hoping they have a follow-up duet somewhere in their arsenals.
1. “Christmas Tree”
“Christmas Tree” is arguably the only truly horrific song Gaga has ever released. With its clanging techno beats and lyrics that turn holiday decorations into sexual puns, feel free to leave this off your Christmas playlist (and all your other playlists too).
Originally Appeared on Glamour