Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Genealogy of a Song: Lady Gaga's Musical Intertexts on The Fame Monster (2009)



Lady Gaga's work is noted for her references to the work of other artists and is often criticized for borrowed content that is perceived as exceeding mere generic norms. In this study, we engage closely with the musical and lyrical content of two songs from her extended play release, The Fame Monster (2009), with the goal of identifying and interpreting the intertextual pathways that led to these works. Relying upon theories of intertextuality, we unearth a network of texts invoked in each of her songs and consider these connections to comprise a musical genealogy, invoking Foucault's conception of genealogy as the process of revealing historical knowledge.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Anderson, Kyle. ‘Lady Gaga's Alejandro Video: A Guide to its Madonna References’. MTVnews, 8 June 2010. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Andrews, Damien. ‘Lady Gaga Opens Up with Ellen DeGeneres’. Yahoo? Voices, 29 November 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Auslander, Philip. Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.
Barrett, Annie. ‘Ellen Grills Lady Gaga about VMAs Meat Dress’. PopWatch, Entertainment Weekly, 13 September 2010. (accessed 18 January 2013).
Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975.
Barthes, Roland. ‘The Death of the Author’, in Image-Music-Text, trans. Heath, Stephen. London: Fontana, 1977. 142–8.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
BBC. ‘Concert for Diana, Wembley Stadium, 1 July 2007’. (accessed 4 February 2013).
Browne, David. ‘Inside the Monster Ball, Summer's Biggest Tour’. Rolling Stone 1110 (5 August 2010), 21–2.
Buchanan, Peter. ‘Review—Lady Gaga's Born This Way is more American Life than Like a Prayer’. Examiner, 17 May 2011. (accessed 1 February 2013).
Byrne, Katie. ‘Lady Gaga, You Are No Grace Jones’. MTVnews, 27 July 2009. (accessed 12 January 2013).
Cinquemani, Sal. ‘Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster’. Slant Magazine, 18 November 2009. (accessed 3 January 2013).
Copsey, Robert. ‘Lady GaGa: Alejandro’. Digital Spy, 7 June 2010. (accessed 7 January 2013).
Corner, Lewis. ‘Lady GaGa Producer Slams Madonna Comparisons’. Digital Spy, 4 May 2011. (accessed 18 January 2013).
Corona, Victor P.‘Memory, Monsters, and Lady Gaga’. The Journal of Popular Culture 23 (March 2011), 120. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Daily, Noise. ‘Lady Gaga Talks Fame Monster, Freakishness’., 25 November 2009. (accessed 18 January 2013).
Danaher, Geoff, Shirato, Tony, and Webb, Jen. Understanding Foucault. Delhi: Shri Jainendra Press, 2000.
Dingwall, John. ‘My New Album is All About the Dark Side of Celebrity, says Lady Gaga’. The Daily Record, 27 November 2009. (accessed 20 January 2013).
Ditzian, Eric. ‘Lady Gaga Explains Real Meaning of Dance in the Dark’. MTVnews, 16 December 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Dolan, Jon. ‘The Fame Monster: Lady Gaga: Review’. Rolling Stone, 23 November 2009. (accessed 21 January 2013).
Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. ‘Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster’. (accessed 8 January 2013).
Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. ‘Madonna: True Blue’. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. ‘Pop-Rock: Euro-pop.’ (accessed 10 January 2013).
Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Random House, 1970.
Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.
Foucault, Michel. ‘Truth and Power’ (Lecture, 1977), in Essential Works 1954–1984, Vol. 3: Power, ed. Faubion, J. D.. New York: New Press, 2000.
Frow, John. ‘Intertextuality and Ontology’, in Intertextuality: Theories and Practice, ed. Still, Judith and Worton, Michael. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1990. 4555.
Fry, Stephen. ‘Lady Gaga Takes Tea with Mr. Fry’. FT Magazine, 27 May 2011. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Genette, Gérard. Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree, trans. Channa Newman and Claud Doubinsky. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
Genette, Gérard. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Lewin, Jane E.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Gorgan, Elena. ‘Dance in the Dark is About my Insecurities, Lady Gaga Reveals’. Softpedia, 18 December 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Hatten, Robert. ‘The Place of Intertextuality in Music Studies’. American Journal of Semiotics 3/4 (1985), 6982.
Heath, Paul. ‘Lady Gaga Wanted to Bleed to Death on Stage’. The Hollywood News, 26 November 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Heller, Nathan. ‘Lady Gaga: Pop's Leading Conservative’. Slate Magazine, 8 September 2011. (accessed 1 February 2013).
Hubbard, Michael. ‘Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster, Track-by-track’., 23 November 2009. (accessed 2 January 2013).
‘HRC National Dinner: Lady Gaga’., 12 October 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Kelly, Mary Louise, presenter. ‘Lady Gaga vs. Ace of Base’. National Public Radio (NPR), 30 June 2010. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Klein, Michael L.Intertextuality in Western Art Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
Korsyn, Kevin. Decentering Music: A Critique of Contemporary Music Research. New York: Oxford Press, 2003.
Kristeva, Julia. ‘The Bounded Text’, in Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. 6491.
Lacasse, Serge. ‘Intertextuality and Hypertextuality in Recorded Popular Music’, in The Musical Work: Reality or Invention? ed. Talbot, Michael. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000. 3558.
Lacasse, Serge. ‘La musique pop incestueuse: une introduction à la transphonographie’. Circuit: musiques contemporaines 18/2 (2008), 1126.
Lady, Gaga. ‘National Equality March Rally: Lady Gaga Speaks’. 11 October 2009. (accessed 15 January 2013).
Lady, Gaga. Interview by Alexander Fury. ‘Lady Gaga’. Show Studio, 30 May 2010. (accessed 18 January 2013).
Lady, Gaga. Interview by Larry King. ‘CNN Larry King Live: Interview with Lady Gaga’. 1 June 2010, transcript by CNN. (accessed 12 January 2013).
Lester, Paul. ‘Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster Review’. BBC online, 20 November 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Middleton, Richard. ‘Work-in-(g) Practice: Configuration of the Popular Music Intertext’, in The Musical Work: Reality or Invention? ed. Talbot, Michael. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000. 5987.
Montgomery, James. ‘Lady Gaga's ‘Alejandro’ Video: German Expressionism With a Beat’. MTVnews, 8 June 2010. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Moore, Allan.Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.
O’Donnell, Clare. Michel Foucault. London: Sage, 2005.
Ono, Yoko. ‘On the Day of the Birth of Nutopia’. ImaginePeace, 1 April 2012. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Paglia, Camille. ‘Lady Gaga and the Death of Sex’. The Sunday Times, 12 September 2010. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Palazzo, Fernando. ‘Will Ace of Base Sue Lady Gaga?’ Examiner, 18 February 2011. (accessed 18 January 2013).
Pasetsky, Marc. ‘Lady Gaga's Twitter Drama: Did She Copy Madonna?’ Forbes, 11 February 2011. (accessed 21 January 2013).
Plagenhoef, Scott. ‘Pitchfork Album Reviews: Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster’. Pitchfork, 13 January 2010. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Powers, Ann. ‘Frank Talk With Lady Gaga’. Los Angeles Times, 13 December 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Robinson, Lisa. ‘Lady Gaga's Cultural Revolution’. Vanity Fair 52 (September 2010), 280–8.
Robinson, Peter. ‘Freak or Fraud?’. NME Magazine, 20 April 2011. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1978.
Sawdey, Evan. ‘Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster Reviews’. PopMatters, 23 November 2009. (accessed 21 January 2013).
Sheridian, Emily. ‘“When I Heard Born This Way on the Radio, I Thought that Sounds Familiar”: Madonna Finally Breaks Silence over Lady Gaga Song’. MailOnline, 14 January 2012. (accessed 18 January 2013).
Spicer, Mark. ‘Strategic Intertextuality in Three of John Lennon's Late Beatles Songs’. Gamut 2/1 (2009), 347–75.
Stern, Bradley. ‘Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster (Album Review)’. MuuMuse, 16 November 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Strauss, Neil. ‘The Broken Heart and Violent Fantasies of Lady Gaga’. Rolling Stone 1108/1109 (2010), 6674. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Tagg, Philip. Fernando the Flute: Analysis of Meaning in an Abba Mega-Hit, 2nd edn. New York: Mass Media Music Scholar's Press, 2000.
Thorogood, Tom. ‘Lady Gaga: My Princess Die Song’. The Sun, 29 June 2012. (accessed 22 February 2013).
Ursprung, Stephen. ‘Voguing: Madonna and Cyclic Reappropriation’. Interrogating Dance Globalization, 1 May 2012. (accessed 2 February 2013).
Van Meter, Jonathan. ‘Lady Gaga: Our Lady of Pop’. Vogue, 10 February 2011. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Vena, Jocelyn. ‘Lady Gaga Wanted to Show Her Death During VMA Performance’. MTVnews, 25 November 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Wloszczyna, Susan. ‘Seven Good Reasons for an ABBA Love Fest’. USA Today, 8 July 2008. (accessed 18 January 2013).
Wood, Mikael. ‘Album Review: Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster’. Los Angeles Times, 23 November 2009. (accessed 21 January 2013).
Zak, Dan. ‘Lady Gaga, Already a Gay Icon, Shows She's an Activist Too’. Washington Post, 12 October 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Abba. Greatest Hits. Prod. Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus. CD, Atlantic TP 19114, 1976.
Ace of Base. Happy Nation. Prod. Buddha, Joker, Johnny Lindén, Denniz Pop, T.O.E.C. CD, Mega Records MRCXCD2534, 1992. Released in North America as The Sign. Arista 07822-18740-2, 1993.
Charles, Christian, et al., dirs. The Concert for New York City. Sony Music Canada, 2002.
John, Elton.Elton John. Prod. Gus Dudgeon. CD, Uni, 9–3090, 1970.
Lady Gaga. The Fame. Prod. Rob Fusari et al. CD, Interscope B0013535721, 2008.
Lady Gaga. The Fame Monster. Prod. Gretchen Anderson et al. CD, Interscope B0013535–722, 2009.
Lady Gaga. ‘HRC National Dinner: Lady Gaga’., 12 October 2009. (accessed 14 January 2013).
Lady Gaga. ‘Poker Face/Speechless/Your Song’ (featuring Elton John) [Live from the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards], 2010. (accessed 1 October 2014). Music Video available on iTunes.
Lennon, John. Mind Games. Prod. John Lennon. LP, Apple SW-3414, 1973.
Madonna. True Blue. Prod. Madonna, Stephen Bray, Patrick Leonard. CD, Sire, Columbia House W4–25442, 1986.
Maxi53741. ‘Bad Romance Lady Gaga Plagiarism’., 6 July 2010. (accessed 13 January 2013).
Queen. A Day At The Races. Prod. Queen. CD, Elektra K6E101, 1976.
Shakira. Laundry Service. Prod. Brendan Buckley et al. CD, Epic EK63900, 2001.
Steil. ‘Lady Gaga – Alejandro / Ace of Base – Don't Turn Around’., 27 June 2010.—BGM9ty6c (accessed 12 January 2013).


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed