From Savvy To Annoying: The Complete Guide To The 11-Month Marketing Campaign For Lady Gaga’s Born This Way

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Welcome to the future: “Electric Chapel,” another new song from Lady Gaga‘s impending Born This Way is available—but only if you play the Gaga-themed FarmVille spinoff, GagaVille (or “find” it from someone who has). Meanwhile, if you play the word “CHAPEL” in a game of Words with Friends, you will be entered to win a Lady Gaga sweepstakes. It’s all part of a bizarre promotion that teams Gaga, Clear Channel, and Facebook- and smartphone-game developers Zynga:

Players who execute Gaga-themed quests in GagaVille will unlock the iHeartRadio player, enabling them to stream songs from “Born This Way” exclusively in FarmVille, which they will hear before anyone else.

How did we get to this point? Born This Way will be released in five days, but it feels like we’ve been waiting FOREVER for it, thanks mainly to the relentless Gaga hype machine. Of course, some of the marketing of this project has been straightforward, or typical, or even accidental. But some of it has been completely bizarre! Here’s our look back at the ups and downs of the Born This Way promotional cycle —which kicked off way back on June 21, 2010— and our levels of annoyance with her promotional tactics, measured by our new creation, the Gaga-Mometer™.

DATE: June 21, 2010
EVENT: In November 2009, just as “Paparazzi,” the last single off her debut The Fame, slipped from its chart peak in November 2009, Lady Gaga released mini-follow-up The Fame Monster. But in June 2010, “Alejandro,” the third and last single from that EP, reaches its chart peak without a new Lady Gaga recording to take its place. So Gaga does the next-best thing: She appears on the cover of Rolling Stone and, in the article, claims her new album is “finished right now” and that she will announce its title at midnight on New Year’s Eve, the first of many promises of future news expressed in Gaga terms as news itself.
ANNOYANCE LEVEL: Mild


DATE: June 24, 2010
EVENT: That same week, she premieres “Yoü and I” at Elton John‘s White Tie and Tiara Ball, and when footage of her performance leaks to YouTube, she shares it on Twitter and then adds the song to her live repertoire. Despite her mildly pretentious usage of an umlaut, we were psyched to hear some new Gaga music.
ANNOYANCE LEVEL: None


DATE: September 12, 2010
EVENT: As part of her acceptance speech for Video of the Year at the 2010 MTV VMAs (for “Bad Romance”), she hijacks the telecast to reveal the album’s title (earlier than planned) and sing the chorus of its title track.
ANNOYANCE LEVEL: Irksome


DATE: December 25, 2010
EVENT: Having already revealed its title, Gaga promises a different Born This Way announcement on New Year’s Eve. (This is only the most notable of many tweets counting down or otherwise talking up future developments; the rest were completely off the promotional scale measured by our Gaga-Mometer™.)
ANNOYANCE LEVEL: Critical mass


DATE: January 1, 2011
EVENT: Gaga tweets release dates for the album and its title track, Born This Way.
ANNOYANCE LEVEL: None


DATE: January 20, 2011
EVENT: Gaga premieres a remix of Born This Way track “Scheiße” in a Thierry Mugler promotional video showcasing Mugler creative director (and Gaga’s personal stylist) Nicola Formichetti‘s work; the video is available exclusively on Mugler’s site and via AOL’s StyleList blog. Also: we forgave her usage of an umlaut in “Yoü and I”, but the usage of an eszett here is a bit much.
ANNOYANCE LEVEL: Irksome


DATE: January 25, 2011
EVENT: Billy Brasfield, the makeup artist for the “Born This Way” video, tweets that the video will be “so profound, so inspiring, [and] so incredibly beautiful.” A participant in a successful shoot, one who’s on Lady Gaga’s payroll, is excited about it? You don’t say.
ANNOYANCE LEVEL: Egregious


DATE: January 25, 2011
EVENT: Stephen Hill, BET‘s VP of Music Programming, tweets about the “aural energy that had my speakers gasping for water afterwards” from six Born This Way tracks he heard—including “Edge of Glory,” a song title new to fans. But since it’s not clear whether Hill broke an embargo and it’s fairly clear that the tweet wasn’t from Gaga or her people, this story is a wash. (Also, he’s right—”Edge of Glory” is phenomenal.)
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: January 27, 2011
EVENT: Gaga leaks the lyrics of “Born This Way” in bits and pieces over the course of the afternoon after #ThankGodforGaga becomes a Twitter trending topic. Bits of the lyrics are shared via Perez Hilton, Gagadaily.com, Billboard, and the twitter feeds of Popjustice and Rolling Stone (1, 2). Then she promises the full lyrics if #bornthiswaylyrics trends worldwide, which it does, so she posts them. All in all, she made the Little Monsters work WAY too hard for this pittance.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Critical mass


DATE: February 7, 2011
EVENT: Gaga bumps the “Born This Way” release date forward three days via Twitter.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Irksome


DATE: February 8, 2011
EVENT: Gaga tweets the “Born This Way” single art while noting, in French (!), that the song’s release is three days away.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Irksome


DATE: February 11, 2011
EVENT: “Born This Way” is released to radio and iTunes.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: February (11-)13, 2011
EVENT: Gaga allegedly spends 72 hours incubating in an egg prior to her performance of “Born This Way” at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 13. This would be off the scale except that it means that she doesn’t tweet for three whole days. Also, it was later reported that the egg only had 30 minutes worth of oxygen in it; now, this doesn’t entirely disprove Gaga’s story, but it does raise some healthy skepticism about her claims.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Critical mass


DATE: February 14, 2011
EVENT: The next morning, Gaga announces her next single, “Judas,” to Ryan Seacrest and his “On Air with Ryan Seacrest” radio audience.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Irksome


DATE: February 16, 2011
EVENT: Gaga’s choreographer Laurieanne Gibson appears on MTV’s “The Seven” to discuss Gaga’s Grammy appearance and the “life-changing” video for “Born This Way.”
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Irksome


DATE: February 18, 2011
EVENT: Gaga gives Rolling Stone an exclusive preview of “Judas,” “Edge of Glory,” the unremixed “Scheiße,” and “Hair.” Like Stephen Hill before him, Rolling Stone‘s Matthew Perpetua loves “Edge of Glory” best.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Mild


DATE: February 22, 2011
EVENT: Gaga tweets a lyric snippet from “Judas.” Why just a snippet? Oh well, at least she didn’t call the Little Monsters into action this time around.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Irksome


DATE: February 27, 2011
EVENT: The day before the “Born This Way” video premieres, Gaga tweets a video still. (She will do the same for “Judas.”)
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Egregious


DATE: February 28, 2011
EVENT: The “Born This Way” video premieres. It is an intriguing video, but “life-changing” it is not.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: March 6, 2011
EVENT: Lady Gaga actually walks in the Paris Fashion Week Mugler show, scored by “Born This Way,” the “Scheiße” remix, and a remix of the yet-unheard “Government Hooker.” The New York Times fashion magazine T gets the video. (Naturally, she pre-tweets this news.)
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Egregious


DATE: March 22, 2011
EVENT: Google interviews Lady Gaga (we’re still not sure why). She makes certain to slip another “Judas” lyric snippet into the interview.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Egregious


DATE: April 6, 2011
EVENT: Gaga announces the release date of “Judas” and gives an exclusive preview to PopJustice, which writes “Will some people dislike it? Yes, and it is important that these people are able to accept that they are wrong. They will need your love and your respect while they come to terms with this difficult truth. Do not pity them, just offer them your help.” But again, since Popjustice isn’t on Gaga’s payroll, this doesn’t rate.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: April 15, 2011
EVENT: Gaga tweets the covers of both the “Judas” single and the Born This Way album.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: April 15, 2011
EVENT: A snippet of the audio of “Judas” is illicitly leaked in advance of its April 19 release date. In response, Gaga releases the full track on YouTube. She later characterizes the snippet leak as “song dismemberment” in a Gagavision video; despite her grotesque imagery, we actually understand where she’s coming from on this one.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: May 2, 2011
EVENT: Gaga reveals the full Born This Way track list via (what else?) Twitter.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Mild


DATE: May 3, 2011
EVENT: Gaga premieres the bilingual track “Americano” during a live show in Guadalajara, Mexico.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: May 5, 2011
EVENT: A big, low-quality chunk of the “Judas” video leaks early on the day of its intended E! News premiere; Gaga again releases the full-quality video immediately to YouTube.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: May 7, 2011
EVENT: Gaga’s very own HBO Concert Special premieres. Nice work if you can get it! And yes, she let the cameras capture her singing just a few bars of “Marry the Night,” but you know what? It’s her show.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: None


DATE: May 9, 2011
EVENT: The iTunes “Countdown to Born This Way” begins with “Edge of Glory” becoming available for purchase. This would be no different from any other “buy the available songs now, get the full album later” promotion, if not for Gaga’s countdown tweets (5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0).
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Irksome


DATE: May 11, 2011
EVENT: For the third time (after the two “Judas” leaks), Gaga’s team finds itself not in control, as “Edge of Glory” has turned out to be so popular that Gaga releases the song as an official promo single. That night, she appears as a coach on American Idol but her calculated weirdness actually adds a much-needed X factor to the proceedings.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Mild


DATE: May 16, 2011
EVENT: “Hair,” the second iTunes Countdown song, is released, but not before Gaga can count down on Twitter (here et al.).
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Irksome


DATE: May 17, 2011
EVENT: “Marry the Night,” the first “unlockable track” from “GagaVille,” surfaces (followed by “Electric Chapel” today and additional tracks as the release date approaches!). For someone who traffics in haute couture taste (see: her Haus of Gaga), pandering to the lowest common denominator in Farmville seems completely gauche and off-brand for her.
ANNOYANCE FACTOR: Critical mass


Whew! A pattern emerges here: most of the excessive promotion involves social networking, in which Gaga relies on her Twitter followers (now numbering over ten million) to do the online street-team grunt work. It’s like she’s trying to start a slow-clap for herself—but it keeps working! Maybe it all comes down to something she said to Rolling Stone in that cover story eleven months ago:

When I wake up in the morning, I feel just like any other insecure 24-year-old girl. Then I say, “B***h, you’re Lady Gaga, you get up and walk the walk today.”

And then she spends the rest of the day convincing the world of this selfsame fact. (And media outlets, not excluding this blog, are generally happy to help!) We just hope that, when Born This Way finally arrives on Monday, we’re not too exhausted for it.