RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Lady Gaga is one of the biggest stars in modern pop music, and her first two albums have sold in the millions. She's had a huge hit with her single "Born This Way," which is the title of her newest album, released this past week.

(Soundbite of song, "Born This Way")

LADY GAGA (Singer): (Singing) My mama told me when I was young, we're all superstars.

MONTAGNE: As soon as the album "Born This Way" came out, Amazon.com made a big move to boost sales over other retailers. On its first day, the online retailer sold the entire album for just 99 cents through its new online music service -which crashed Amazon's servers, frustrating a lot of customers. So to set things right, Amazon brought its one-day, 99-cent sale back for one more day.

To talk about the stir Lady Gaga's album is causing, we reached our online music critic, Ann Powers.

Good morning, Ann.

ANN POWERS: How you doing today?

MONTAGNE: Pretty good. Ninety-nine cents, though, that is a sliver of what an album would usually command. I mean, does it hurt or help Lady Gaga?

POWERS: Well, Renee, the thing to remember about a pop star like Lady Gaga is that she fires on all cylinders. To her, the physical product of an album is merely one aspect of her overall campaign to dominate popular culture. This is particularly true of an artist like Gaga, who is a major concert draw, who makes amazing videos, who's always all over all media. So call it a big part of her marketing plan, but not necessarily the absolute center of her art.

MONTAGNE: Well, selling at this low price would also have the charm, one would think, of endearing her to her fans.

POWERS: Here's the thing: Lady Gaga's fans will walk over a frozen lake to get this record. I mean, they'll do anything. They'll pay any amount of money that's necessary. And I think what this move does is draw in people who might only casually like Lady Gaga; draw in someone who might, say, be going to the gym and, hey, I'd like to bring the new Lady Gaga record with me on my iPod.

MONTAGNE: Also, of course, besides Amazon, thousands of other retailers are offering special deals, most of which are organized with Lady Gaga's input. Is this a particularly aggressive campaign for someone as popular as she is? You know, if you're on the outside, you might think she doesn't need it.

POWERS: Yeah. She's done many interesting things already with this particular product, like debut songs on Farmville, the online game.

This is not unprecedented for music. In fact, the thing about Lady Gaga is she never invents the wheel. She just spins the wheels in ways that nobody quite thought of before, right? But I really think this is how it's going to be, how it is for mainstream pop stars now.

MONTAGNE: So Ann, the official sales numbers haven't been released yet, but what do you expect?

POWERS: No. Well, she's really trying to beat Taylor Swift here. So Taylor Swift sold a million copies of her last record in the first week. I've seen numbers projected more like 950,000 for "Born This Way." But hey, media segments like the one we're doing now are only going to help.

(Soundbite of laughter)

POWERS: And then the Amazon deal, the fact that it was extended another day. And the fact that Billboard magazine, the entity that creates the pop charts we always refer to, decided to include the Amazon numbers - even though the sale was greatly discounted - is going to make a big difference for Gaga.

So if she doesn't crack a million, I'll be surprised. But I've been wrong before about numbers. I mean, what's next? She'll be like, giving a drop of her blood to every fan who buys the album, probably, pretty soon.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Ann Powers is our music critic at nprmusic.org. Thanks a lot.

POWERS: Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of song, "Born This Way")

Lady Gaga: (Singing) I was born this way. Hey. I was born this way. Hey. I'm on the right track. Baby, I was born this way. Hey.

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