Shooting to Stardom

It’s always compelling to find out where musical artists got their start, particularly if they wound up becoming a superstar; after all, how does someone go from average person to a musician whose name is on the lips of massive crowds?  Who were they before superstardom, and where did their music start?

This is a question I’ve explored in-depth with Lady Gaga, though certainly it’s no mystery to the world at large.  Before she adopted her stage name, she was simply Stefani Germanotta, and beyond a thoroughly musical youth, she first took the stage in New York, as part of the Stefani Germanotta Band.  If you haven’t heard of them, it’s no surprise; they never had any major label releases, and you won’t find their music available for purchase digitally, either.  However, they did write and perform their own music, and sold CDs at their shows.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet, this music is accessible today even if you weren’t around the New York club scene in the mid-2000s.

My personal favorite of all their work has always been “No Floods,” an energetic and hopeful composition in the piano-rock style the band produced.  I first heard a demo version on YouTube that was classified as being a Lady Gaga song; it wasn’t until later that I discovered the studio version, off the band’s Red And Blue EP.  It’s long-since been one of my absolute favorite songs that she’s put out under any moniker, and a song I’ve turned to for anyone who listened to one or two of her radio singles and assumed she was all flash and no substance.

True, Stefani Germanotta’s vocals are (expectedly) less developed than those of the Gaga we know today, but the raw talent is still so evidently there, belting out over the guitar that backs the prominent piano.  It’s a far cry from the electro-pop that’s defined most of her career as Gaga, but it’s very akin to the style she would later bring forward in piano ballads like “Speechless” and “Brown Eyes,” something at which the singer-songwriter has always excelled.

Even more powerful than this jazzy characteristic is the song’s lyrics of determination, the anthem of a dreamer who continues to do so in the face of adversity; in a vacuum, its insistence that “you can’t flood this town” and other, similar refusals to be taken down are empowering enough.  Even more poignant is the bridge, where she asserts, “Go ahead and don’t believe / But everyone needs a way to breathe, and love, and dream / And you can’t stop me,” hitting a show-stopping high note as she repeats that last line.  What I’ve always found most powerful about it, though—having heard it first in 2010, as Gaga was riding the success of The Fame Monster—is that it’s the story of a woman who dared to dream no matter what people told her, and we can see that this perseverance led her to achieve everything that she was aiming for.  Love or hate her, it’s inspiring to hear her aspirations from this time so powerfully expressed and know that it panned out.

Any fan of Lady Gaga owes it to themselves to hear where she came from, but all of it is more than just an origin story, and “No Floods” in particular is an amazingly powerful piece of music that anyone, fan or not, ought to hear.

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