By Kelly Dearmore
Over the past few decades, disco has been the recipient of a rather bad rap. Born in the clubs of the New York City in the late ‘60s, the syncopated, electric beats of disco was an edgy alternative, influenced by Italian, Hispanic and African American artists, sounds and styles long before it became a whitewashed mainstream object. As the Wall Street-fueled Reagan-era of the 1980s rolled on, disco sounds fell out of favor in the pop music world. The Bee Gees had saturated the radio to the point many folks suffered a sort of disco fatigue.
Because history repeats itself, or because time is a flat circle or because the Earth needs time to heal, or because you can’t keep a good sound down, disco didn’t stay dormant for long. There’s a new batch of chart-topping performers dabbling in disco such as Dua Lipa and Doja Cat, and bands including Parcels and Daft Punk damn near make it feel like the disco life never really fell out of vogue. But as much as any other mainstream A-list artist, Lady Gaga has embraced the disco life and done more than her fair share to bring the glamour, sweat, sex, joy and glory of disco back to not only the clubs, but to your mom’s minivan radio.
Given that Gaga’s legend was born from making music that would blast through the smoke and noise of New York’s most bustling dance clubs, it makes total sense that electrified, funkified tunes would be a style right up her alley. Form a sheer thematic or standpoint, disco aligns with Gaga’s personal philosophy on living life in the most robust, colorful way possible. Lest we forget, when it came time to name an area of the male anatomy she was planning to enjoy, in the Fame track “LoveGame,” Gaga gifted that region with the name “disco stick.”
On that same album, Gaga is equally direct in “Just Dance.” Over an electronic flurry, Gaga orders her Monsters to dance and give in to the blasting beat. You can try to keep yourself from spontaneously busting into the Brooklyn Shuffle, as John Travolta famously did in the 1977 disco film Saturday Night Fever, when “Disco Heaven,” from The Fame Monster, surges through your speakers, but alas, you’ll almost certainly fail.
With a searing guitar blazing its way through the tight beat syncopation, this song emphasizes the varying degrees of textures involved in disco. It’s never been all synths and beats. Strings, horns, pianos and guitars have often made their presence felt throughout the disco canon. In its own musically kaleidoscopic way, Artpop’s “Fashion!” features Gaga singing “Step into the room / Like it’s a catwalk” in front of a steady beat looking to make any who listen strut their own stuff.
In 2018 Lady Gaga teamed with disco icons Nile Rodgers and Chic, to record a new take on the band’s groove-intensive 1978 hit “I Want Your Love.” The supergroup didn’t reinvent the strobe light on this track, but instead, they reminded everyone just how infectiously fun and deceptively simple a truly great disco track can be. The disco love hasn’t stopped for Gaga either. On 2020’s Chromatica, “Stupid Live” showcases Gaga’s expert ability to combine eras of club music by wrapping ‘80s Erasure-style electro-pop with four on the floor beats of disco.
Clearly, disco is here to stay, and perhaps contrary to popular belief, it never really left. Either way, we know that Lady Gaga is now and forever, our disco queen.