She's been a bridesmaid twice for Album of the Year at the Grammys, losing out on her first two releases. But with her third bid on Sunday, for Born This Way, Gaga appears to have made the kind of career-defining, big-idea album that Grammy voters could not deny.
It had all the things the Academy loves in an Album of the Year nominee: ambition, deeply personal tracks that provide a glimpse at the artist's psyche, bold musical explorations, strong sales and chance to prove that they're hip enough to get what the kids are listening to. (Or, in some cases, a new album by Steely Dan.)
And, indeed, BTW did have it all, from the jackhammer electronica of "Marry the Night" to the tango-lite grooves of "Americano," the techno attack of "Heavy Metal Lover," hints of biography in "Hair," the lighter-raising ballads in "Yoü and I" and "The Edge of Glory" and, of course, the title track, which served as both a dance-floor phenomenon and an empowerment anthem for the ages.
The album, one of the most anticipated of 2011, not only crashed the charts with stellar sales figures of more than one million in its first week, but it also managed to once again bend the will of the music-buying public to meet her quirky, unpredictable muse. Gaga promised her fans that she was pouring everything she had into the disc and when it arrived, complete with a series of trippy, provocative videos that also pushed the envelope, they couldn't have asked for any more from their Mother Monster.
Frequent musical collaborator producer Fernando Garibay said the recognition from the Recording Academy was a nice cherry-topper to a year of hard, hard work. "We worked on this album for so long and it was like our baby so it was more about if the fans would love it; that was the most important thing.," he told MTV News. "But of course, nominations, yeah, that's cool."
The first full-length effort from Gaga since her rise to international stardom, Born This Way allowed the singer to exorcise some demons, comment on her newfound fame and, of course, create the kind of over-the-top tracks that would lend themselves to equally eye-popping live performance.
"This album was the most personal, the amount of detail that went into this record, the amount of passion and emotion from her and the team," Garibay said. "We all followed her lead on this, on every song ... how intense every avenue of making this record was for us, protecting the record, creative, conceptually, every song was a story towards the Born This Way theme."
The video for the title track took the Best Female Video and Best Video With a Message at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. In a year in which she kept turning heads with ever-more-insane red carpet walks, Gaga fittingly raised the bar further at the show, where she performed and accepted the Female Video Moonman as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone. In between those appearances, Gaga also managed to circle the globe with the Broadway-worthy Monster Ball Tour, on which she brought the new songs to life every night in a spectacle that was the visual equal of her studio experiments.
Though she worked with her core team, which includes Garibay, producer RedOne and DJ White Shadow, Gaga also opened the doors to collaborations with late Bruce Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons and classic rock producer Robert "Mutt" Lange and Queen guitarist Brian May, who helped give "Yoü and I" its epic, AM radio majesty.
Gaga was so excited to record the album that she insisted on having a portable studio with her at all times to work on new music even as she toured the world for The Fame Monster, RedOne said. The road work paid off, as the album has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide, spinning off a bevy of hits, including the title track, "Marry the Night," "Judas," "Yoü and I" and "The Edge of Glory."
And though he's been there before, RedOne added that getting another nod for the biggest Grammy honor of all is new every time. "It's an amazing thing to be nominated for the biggest thing in music industry," he said. "It's always a big honor. I get happy and I never want to get used to it."
Chaos! Profanity! Wardrobe malfunctions! Don't miss our Grammy red-carpet live stream this Sunday, February 12, for a full three hours of mayhem, starting at 5 p.m. ET on MTV.com. And the fun doesn't end Sunday: MTV News has you covered for all the Grammy red-carpet fashion, Grammy winners and Grammy news until the hangover wears off!