When Lady Gaga was a little girl, she would sing along on her mini plastic tape recorder to Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper hits and get twirled in the air in daddy’s arms to the sounds of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The precocious child would dance around the table at fancy Upper West Side restaurants using the breadsticks as a baton. And, she would innocently greet a new babysitter in nothing but her birthday suit.
It’s no wonder that little girl from a good Italian New York family, turned into the exhibitionist, multi-talented singer-songwriter with a flair for theatrics that she is today: Lady Gaga.
“I was always an entertainer. I was a ham as a little girl and I’m a ham today,” says Lady Gaga, 23, who made a name for herself on the Lower East Side club scene with the infectious dance-pop party song “Beautiful Dirty Rich,” and wild, theatrical, and often tongue-in-cheek “shock art” performances where Gaga – who designs and makes many of her stage outfits -- would strip down to her hand-crafted hot pants and bikini top, light cans of hairspray on fire, and strike a pose as a disco ball lowered from the ceiling to the orchestral sounds of A Clockwork Orange.
“I always loved rock and pop and theater. When I discovered Queen and David Bowie is when it really came together for me and I realized I could do all three,” says Gaga, who nicked her name from Queen’s song “Radio Gaga” and who cites rock star girlfriends, Peggy Bundy, and Donatella Versace as her fashion icons. “I look at those artists as icons in art. It’s not just about the music. It’s about the performance, the attitude, the look; it’s everything. And, that is where I live as an artist and that is what I want to accomplish.”
That goal might seem lofty, but consider the artist: Gaga is the girl who at age 4 learned piano by ear. By age 13, she had written her first piano ballad. At 14, she played open mike nights at clubs such as New York’s the Bitter End by night and was teased for her quirky, eccentric style by her Convent of the Sacred Heart School (the Manhattan private school Nicky and Paris Hilton attended) classmates by day. At age 17, she became was one of 20 kids in the world to get early admission to Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Signed by her 20th birthday and writing songs for other artists (such as the Pussycat Dolls, and has been asked to write for a series of Interscope artists) before her debut album was even released, Lady Gaga has earned the right to reach for the sky.
“My goal as an artist is to funnel a pop record to a world in a very interesting way,” says Gaga, who wrote all of her lyrics, all of her melodies, and played most of the synth work on her album, The Fame(Streamline/KonLive/Cherrytree/Interscope). “I almost want to trick people into hanging with something that is really cool with a pop song. It’s almost like the spoonful of sugar and I’m the medicine.”
On The Fame, it’s as if Gaga took two parts dance-pop, one part electro-pop, and one part rock with a splash of disco and burlesque and generously poured it into the figurative martini glasses of the world in an effort to get everyone drunk with her Fame. “The Fame is about how anyone can feel famous,” she explains. “Pop culture is art. It doesn’t make you cool to hate pop culture, so I embraced it and you hear it all over The Fame. But, it’s a sharable fame. I want to invite you all to the party. I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle.”
The CD’s opener and first single, “Just Dance,” gets the dance floor rocking with it’s “fun, L.A., celebratory vibe.” As for the equally catchy, “Boys Boys Boys,” Gaga doesn’t mind wearing her influences on her sleeve. “I wanted to write the female version of Motley Crue’s ‘Girls Girls Girls,’ but with my own twist. I wanted to write a pop song that rockers would like.”
“Beautiful Dirty Rich” sums up her time of self-discovery, living in the Lower East Side and dabbling in drugs and the party scene. “That time, and that song, was just me trying to figure things out,” says Gaga. “Once I grabbed the reigns of my artistry, I fell in love with that more than I did with the party life.” On first listen, “Paparazzi” might come off as a love song to cameras, and in all honestly, Gaga jokes “on one level it IS about wooing the paparazzi and wanting fame. But, it’s not to be taken completely seriously. It’s about everyone’s obsession with that idea. But, it’s also about wanting a guy to love you and the struggle of whether you can have success or love or both.”
Gaga shows her passion for love songs on such softer tracks as the Queen-influenced “Brown Eyes” and the sweet kiss-off break-up song “Nothing I can Say (eh eh).” “‘Brown Eyes’ is the most vulnerable song on the album,” she explains. “‘Eh Eh’ is my simple pop song about finding someone new and breaking up with the old boyfriend.”
For the new tour for this album, fans will be treated to a more polished version of what they saw (and loved) at her critically acclaimed Lollapalooza show in August 2007 and Winter Music Conference performance in March 2008. “This new show is the couture version of my handmade downtown performance of the past few years. It’s more fine-tuned, but some of my favorite elements to my past shows – the disco balls, hot pants, sequin, and stilettos – will still be there. Just more fierce and more of a conceptual show with a vision for pop performance art.”
It’s been a while since a new pop artist has made her way in the music industry the old-fashioned/grass roots way by paying her dues with seedy club gigs and self-promotion. This is one rising pop star who hasn’t been plucked from a model casting call, born into a famous family, won a reality TV singing contest, or emerged from a teen cable TV sitcom. “I did this the way you are supposed to. I played every club in New York City and I bombed in every club and then killed it in every club and I found myself as an artist. I learned how to survive as an artist, get real, and how to fail and then figure out who I was as singer and performer. And, I worked hard.”
Gaga adds with a wink in her eye, “And, now, I’m just trying to change the world one sequin at a time.”
Date of Birth: December 13, 1989
Birth Location: Wyomissing, Pennsylvania
Taylor Alison Swift is an all American country pop singer-songwriter, guitarist and actress. In 2006, she released her debut single "Tim McGraw", which peaked at number six on the Billboard country charts. Later in October 2006, she released her self-titled debut album, which produced five hit singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts and was certified 3× Multi-Platinum by the RIAA. The New York Times described Swift as "one of pop's finest songwriters, country’s foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults".
According to Nielsen SoundScan, Swift was the biggest selling artist of 2008 in the United States with combined sales of more than four million albums. Swift's Fearless and her self-titled album finished 2008 at number three and number six respectively, with sales of 2.1 and 1.5 million. She was the first artist in the history of Nielsen SoundScan to have two different albums in the Top 10 on the year end album chart. Fearless has topped the Billboard 200 in 11 non-consecutive weeks. No album has spent more time at number one since 1999-2000. It also was the first album by a female artist in country music history to log eight weeks at #1 on The Billboard 200. In mid-January 2009, Swift became the first country artist to top the 2 million mark in paid downloads with three different songs. As of the week ending February 8, 2009, Swift's single "Love Story" became the country song with most paid downloads in history and the first country song to top the Mainstream Top 40 chart. Swift then subsequently went onto replicate the feat, reaching #1 again on the Mainstream Top 40 in September 2009 with "You Belong With Me", making it just the second country song in the chart's history to reach the top. According to the 2009 issue of Forbes, Swift is ranked as the 69th most powerful celebrity with over $18 million in earnings this year.
Swift was born in the borough of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. She is the daughter of Scott, a stock broker, and Andrea Swift, a homemaker. She has a younger brother, Austin. When she was in fourth grade, Swift won a national poetry contest with a three page poem entitled "Monster In My Closet". At ten, Swift began writing songs and singing at karaoke contests, festivals, and fairs around her hometown. During one summer, Swift devoted herself to writing a 350 page (unpublished) novel. She was a member of Kirk Cremer's SNL-inspired kid's sketch comedy group, TheatreKids Live!, where she was a natural comedic talent. After seeing her karaoke performance at one of the cast parties, it was Cremer's mother who first suggested that Swift seemed more of a natural to pursue a career in country music, rather than theatrical performing. Cremer soon leased space at a local mall and began to showcase his young protégée in weeknight performances of country songs with karaoke backing tracks. Emboldened by her performances and growing audiences, she began to perform in other local open mike and karaoke nights. Her first major show was a well-received performance at the Bloomsburg Fair, arranged by local performer Pat Garrett.
Swift first learned to play guitar from a computer repairman who showed her how to play three chords. After learning those three chords, she wrote her first song, "Lucky You". She began writing songs regularly and used it as outlet to help her with her pain from not fitting in at school. Other kids would react badly to her so she wrote songs about them.
Swift's greatest musical influence is Shania Twain. Her other influences include her grandmother, LeAnn Rimes, Tina Turner and Dolly Parton. Although her grandmother was a professional opera singer, Taylor's tastes always ran more toward country and she developed a love for Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton at an early age. She also credits the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain for demonstrating how much impact can be made by "stretching boundaries". At age 11, Swift made her first trip to Nashville hoping to obtain a record deal by distributing a demo tape of her singing with karaoke songs. She gave a copy to every label in town. Swift faced rejection, not just from record labels, but also from her peers. After Swift returned to Pennsylvania, she was asked to sing at the U.S. Open tennis tournament; her rendition of the national anthem received a lot of attention.Swift started writing songs and playing 12-string guitar when she was 12. Swift began to regularly visit Nashville and wrote songs with local songwriters. By the time she was 14, her family decided to move to an outlying Nashville suburb. When Swift was fifteen, she rejected RCA Records because the company wanted to keep her on a development deal. Swift then performed at Nashville's songwriters' venue, The Bluebird Café, catching the attention of Scott Borchetta who signed her to his newly-formed record label, Big Machine Records. She also became the youngest staff songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house at 14.
Swift's first single, "Tim McGraw", was released to radio in mid-2006 and reached number 6 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart during the week of January 27, 2007. Swift said, "I wrote the song in my freshman year of high school. I was dating a guy who was about to go off to college. I knew we were going to break up so I started thinking of all the things that I knew would remind him of me. Surprisingly, the first thing that came to mind was that my favorite country artist is Tim McGraw." Her self-titled debut album Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006. Swift wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album, which debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200 and sold 39,000 copies during its first week. It later peaked at number one at Billboard Top Country Albums and number five on the Billboard 200.It also spent eight consecutive weeks at the top of the Top Country Albums charts and remained at the top for 24 out of 91 weeks. The only other country artists this decade to achieve the number-one sales position for 20 weeks or more are The Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood. As of November 2008, Taylor Swift has sold over three million copies and 7.5 million single downloads.
Swift has surpassed the 200 million mark for music streams on MySpace. She is currently ranked in the Top 10 for the most MySpace visits for all genres of music, and is MySpace's current top-ranking Country artist. Swift is the most searched musical artist on MySpace in 2008. The music video for "Tim McGraw" set a record by appearing for 30 consecutive weeks on GAC's fan-voted weekly Top 20 music countdown show, and reached number one on CMT's video charts. The video also won Swift an award for Breakthrough Video of the Year at the 2007 CMT Music Awards. Her pursuit of country music stardom was the subject of "GAC Short Cuts", a part-documentary, part-music-video series airing since the summer of 2006 on the country music channel. On May 15, 2007, Swift performed "Tim McGraw" at the Academy of Country Music Awards. She sang the song to Tim McGraw in the audience, and introduced herself for the first time to him. Swift has been an opening act for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill on their Soul2Soul 2007 tour. She has opened in the past for George Strait, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts as well.
Monica, an accountant, and Ronald, a warehouse supervisor, welcome daughter Robyn Rihanna Fenton. Her childhood on the Caribbean island of Barbados is deeply affected by her father's addiction to crack cocaine and parent's rocky marriage, which ends when she's 14. The shy kid finds an outlet through singing.
After forming a girl group with two classmates, Rihanna, 15, auditions for veteran producer Evan Rogers, who tells Entertainment Weekly, "The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn't exist." She eventually moves to Connecticut to live with Rogers and his wife, while cutting a four-song demo. "When I left Barbados, I didn't look back," Rihanna adds. "I wanted to do what I had to do, even it meant moving to America."
Rihanna's demo makes its way to Def Jam and the budding star is invited to audition for rapper turned Def Jam president Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. "I was in the lobby just shaking," Rihanna, who sings Whitney Houston's "For the Love of You," tells Rolling Stone. "I signed her in one day," Jay-Z adds. "It took me two minutes to see she was a star."
Rihanna releases her first single, "Pon de Replay," kicking off her debut album, Music of the Sun, and it peaks at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100. The Barbados beauty tours with Gwen Stefani to promote her album, which sells more than 2 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone calls the album "a seductive mix of big-voiced R&B and souped-up island riddims – whatBeyoncé might have sounded like if she had grown up in the West Indies and skipped the whole Destiny's Child thing."
Eight months after the release of her debut album, Rihanna releases her sophomore album, A Girl Like Me. The album boasts Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers "S.O.S." and "Unfaithful," and earns her four Billboard Music Awards, including Female Artist of the Year. But the success is paired with gossip that Rihanna is romantically involved with her mentor Jay-Z, who isdating pop star Beyoncé. "At first I was like, 'Ha ha, it's funny,'" Rihanna tells the AP. "Now I just ignore it and I'm numb to it...You cannot stop people from saying what they want to say."
Rihanna follows the likes of Janet Jackson and Christina Aguilera when she sheds her innocent image for an edgier look and sound. She releases the single, "Umbrella," which reaches the top spot on Billboard's Hot 100 in June and kicks off her upcoming third album, Good Girl Gone Bad. "It shows such growth for her as an artist," Jay-Z tells the AP." "If you listen to the lyrics to that song, you know the depth and how far she's come."
After becoming the face of Cover Girl cosmetics, Rihanna appears in PEOPLE's Most Beautiful issue sans makeup. "The best thing about going without makeup is that it takes a lot less time to get ready," Rihanna tells PEOPLE. "You feel comfortable and free." The glowing singer is also listed at No. 8 on Maxim's Hot 100 and No. 59 on EW's 100 Stars We Love, among such up-and-comers as Hayden Panettiere and Shia LaBeouf.
Rihanna's latest disc, Good Girl Gone Bad, debuts at No. 2 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart. It features songs produced by Timbaland, cameos by Jay-Z and has a track, "Rehab," written for her by Justin Timberlake. "'Good Girl Gone Bad' was an expression of where I am at this point in my life, where I am in my career. It just represents my rebelliousness," she tells EW.
After making a splash with an even shorter do, Rihanna performs "Umbrella" and "Don’t Stop the Music" at the 2008 Grammy Awards. The 19-year-old singer also goes home with her first Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration with Jay-Z for her hit "Umbrella." During her acceptance speech, Rihanna says, "Dad, I know I promised you I'd give you my first Grammy, but we're going to have to fight for this one!"
After adamantly denying being involved with actor Josh Hartnett, Rihanna is romantically linked to 18-year-old R&B star Chris Brown (pictured at Clive Davis' Pre-Grammy Party). "He's one of my closest friends in the industry," Rihanna tells Allure in January. "He makes me feel like a teenager. I have to act and think like an adult so much. He makes me feel young again." In February, the pair is spotted awfully close in a pool in Jamaica.
Now a household name, Rihanna appears on the cover of Cosmopolitan, with newfound self-confidence. "A year ago, I would have sat here in my shell with my hands in my lap and been very shy," she explains to the magazine. "But now, I can be goofy and outgoing." The Grammy winner also gets to celebrate another single, "Don't Stop The Music," heating up the Billboard charts, reaching No. 3 – right behind Chris Brown's "With You."
Continuing her magazine cover domination, Rihanna appears on the cover of Elle, where she briefly unseals her glossy lips regarding her "friendship" with Brown. "We've always been friends," the singer, who is currently on tour with Kanye West, tells the magazine, "but we're very close now."