Lady Gaga Took A Fast Track To Fame And The Grammys

Winning Album of the Year at Sunday's awards show could be a nice cherry atop Gaga's already epic career.

There were plenty of musical story lines in 2009: [artist id="1236911"]Beyoncé[/artist] striking gold with a black-and-white video (and an unyielding desire for an engagement ring); [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] riding the Yankees' World Series victory to the top of the singles chart; the [artist id="1233888"]Kings of Leon[/artist] finally finding the Stateside success that had eluded them for so long; [artist id="3188063"]Adam Lambert[/artist] being Adam Lambert. But undoubtedly, the biggest story of the year was the unheralded, unbelievable success of one Stefani Germanotta, better known to the entire globe as [artist id="3061469"]Lady Gaga[/artist].

It wasn't so much that Gaga became famous in 2009 — with her talent and preternatural drive, you figured it would probably happen eventually — it was how she did it. She never compromised, never shied away from the controversial or the irreverent. She let nothing stand in the way of one singular goal: to make pop music the world-uniting force it once was. It was a bold statement, indeed, one that was greeted with its fair share of guffaws from the naysayers. But she persisted, and through her music, her style, her determination and, dare we say, her art, she may very well have accomplished it.

Still, for all you read about Gaga, for all the ephemera surrounding her, most people forget that she is an astonishingly great musician, with an ear for hooks and a penchant for jaw-dropping lyrics. For proof, look no further than her debut disc The Fame (or even the Fame Monster collection), a slickly produced, genre-mashing, joy-inducing pop/dance bonanza, which just so happened to land her five Grammy nominations, including a nod for Album of the Year.

Released to little fanfare in August 2008 (it sold just 24,000 copies in its first week here in the States), The Fame slowly began to burrow itself into the public consciousness, thanks to an unending stream of singles — "Just Dance," "Poker Face," "LoveGame," "Paparazzi" — artistic videos and ambitious, eye-popping live shows. What started as a well-kept secret eventually became a worldwide phenomenon, as her singles went to the tops of charts around the globe, and The Fame moved more than 8 million copies.

Seizing upon her newfound celebrity, Gaga decided to push things even further. Her awards-show performances — including a bloody turn at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and a bottle-shattering show at the American Music Awards — became the stuff of legend, and though her high-profile co-headlining tour with Kanye West never materialized, she took her show back on the road, with the impressive Monster Ball Tour.

Through it all, she became an icon. Not just in the gay community, but to outcasts everywhere. Gaga most certainly did not fit in to any category — she was just herself: an art-obsessed, self-professed "freak" — and she had absolutely no problem with that. And, as it turns out, neither did anyone else on the planet. Her success, not to mention her comfort in her own skin, made it OK to be different. She made the odd accessible.

Album Of The Year Nominees

» Beyoncé

» Black Eyed Peas

» Dave Matthews Band

» Taylor Swift

» Lady Gaga

She doesn't show any signs of letting up any time soon, either. In November, she released The Fame Monster, and rather than just go the glorified reissue route, she recorded eight new songs and made it available to fans as a standalone album. She wowed critics with the disturbingly arty "Bad Romance" video. And she's gearing up to take a revamped version of the Monster Ball across the pond.

And if The Fame manages to take home Album of the Year during Sunday's Grammy Awards, you could consider it a rather nice cherry atop an already big year. Or, you could see it as another victory for the outcasts, the oddballs, the so-called "monsters" of the world. The beauty of Lady Gaga is that it works either way.

Stick with MTV News all week for our coverage of the 2010 Grammy Awards. We'll have reports on your favorite nominees, party photos, behind-the-scenes video and much more leading up to and during the big show Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.