By Kelly Dearmore
Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet once asked, “what’s in a name?” Although the star-crossed lover posed her query in the midst of a life-or-death struggle to be near her dear Romeo, that question remains worthy of examination centuries after Juliet first stepped onto her balcony. Lady Gaga has been one of the more fascinating names in pop culture for over a decade. Judging by the amount of songs in her catalog titled after a person, she realizes that someone’s name is merely the beginning of the story.
One of the songs that sent Lady Gaga’s own name soaring into the stratosphere, “Alejandro” is as addictive as a hushed cigarette. It’s name-calling is reminiscent of ABBA’s “Fernando,” while its unabashedly poppy beat brings to mind fellow Swedes Ace of Base. As for the people involved, Gaga isn’t just bidding a Spanish-inflected farewell to the song’s namesake, but also casting aside a couple of fellas who go by Fernando and Roberto.
After the mammoth success of The Fame and The Fame Monster, the instantly recognizable (even when clad only in meat) Germanotta went searching for a third identity on 2013’s Artpop. Mary Jane Holland is an alter ego Gaga constructed after a hazy night out in Amsterdam. “The grass heats up my insides and my brunette starts to sprout,” she reveals. “Ladies and gentleman, Mary Jane Holland.”
This stripped-down, Grammy-winning number was inspired by the death of Gaga’s aunt Joanne Germanotta, who the singer (full name, as if she needs more things to go by: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) was named after. Because her aunt passed well before she was born, Lady Gaga only developed a relationship with her namesake through family memories and her late relative’s poetry, so here she travels back in time to speak to her aunt in the final days.
Few pieces of literature have inspired such childlike wonder as Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. After stumbling down a rabbit hole, the seven-year-old protagnonist goes on quite the fantastical journey in that trippy tome. Over a propulsive beat on this standout from 2020’s Chromatica standout, Gaga likens the title character’s exploits to her own epic artistic quest, claiming “My name isn't Alice / But I'll keep looking for Wonderland.”
Kelly Dearmore is a music writer based in Dallas. He has written for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Press and Lone Star Music.
Photos: Shutterstock / Flickr