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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And we're going to hear, now, about a singer who's made Barbara Walters' lists of the year's 10 most fascinating people. Among those Barbara Walters will interview tomorrow night is Lady Gaga. The singer has been riding the top of the pop charts for more than a year. She's always interesting TV. On "Saturday Night Live" she played a huge white grand piano while wearing a dress that looked like a giant gyroscope. Imagine that. Commentator Shana Naomi Krochmal says Lady Gaga has earned her place on the pop charts and on Barbara Walter's list.

SHANA NAOMI KROCHMAL: Lady Gaga is scary.

(Soundbite of song "Bad Romance")

LADY GAGA (Singer): (Singing) I want it bad, your bad romance. I want your love and I want your revenge. You and me could write a bad romance...

KROCHMAL: At the American Music Awards, she set her piano on fire, belted out a heart-wrenching ballad, and smashed wine bottles on the keys.

Sure, there's still choreographed dancing in her music videos, but there's also wheelchairs, homicides, coffins and charred skeletons. It's the twisted visual imagery of a David Lynch film. She's a one-woman horror movie.

(Soundbite of song "Bad Romance")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) Love, love, love, I want your love...

KROCHMAL: We're just not used to turning on the TV and seeing performance art. Pop stars tend to be pretty straightforward. They fit easily into one box or another. They're a B-boy rap star, they're a pretty pop princess, but Lady Gaga started off her performing career in college coffeehouses and underground bars - the kinds of places where an avant-garde show is par for the course.

(Soundbite of song "Paparazzi")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) I'm your biggest fan. I'll follow you until you love me Papa-paparazzi...

KROCHMA: And no one really knows what she's going to do next and that, of course, is exactly how rumors get started. So go Google. Read all that crazy speculation about how she's a man, how she supposedly heads a satanic brainwashing cult. But the truth might be harder to believe than the conspiracy theories.

She's 23, she's already broken Billboard records and sold millions of albums. She writes all her own lyrics and music. She's quite suddenly a very powerful woman in what is still a man's music industry.

(Soundbite of song "Paparazzi")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) Baby you'll be famous, chase you down until you love me...

KROCHMA: She's not just selling sex; she's selling art - which may be the most terrifying idea of all.

(Soundbite of song "Speechless")

MONTAGNE: Shana Naomi Krochmal covers music for current.com.

(Soundbite of song "Speechless")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) I can't believe what you said to me last night we were alone. You threw your hands up. Baby you gave up, you gave up. I can't believe how you looked at me with your James Dean glossy eyes.

MONTAGNE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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