On June 24, 2010, Lady Gaga  leaned into a microphone and said five words that Little Monsters around the world had been dying to hear.
"This is a brand-new record."
Seated behind a deconstructed piano at Elton John's  12th annual White Tie & Tiara Ball -- wearing nothing but a BeDazzled black bra and panties -- pop's reigning princess unveiled the piano-driven rock 'n' roll tune "You and I"  to the exclusive audience at the Windsor, England benefit.
As expected in the Internet age, the song did not stay confined within the walls of the English mansion for long -- a video of the performance quickly became a YouTube sensation when it was leaked days later. By the time Gaga reached New York's Madison Square Garden two weeks later, ardent fans were singing along to every word of the tune, which has now became a show-stopping staple on her Monster Ball tour.
The new track was also the centerpiece of her record-breaking performance  on NBC's "Today" show on July 9. Despite the early hour, 20,000 Gaga-lovers crowded New York's Rockefeller Plaza, making her five-song mini-set the most well-attended gig in "Today's" concert series' history.
"You and I" is the first and only new material Gaga has shared with fans since she announced that her new album was all but done and would be released sometime in 2011. She teased fans with the promise that she would not reveal the title of the new record until midnight on New Year's Eve.
"I think I'm gonna get the album title tattooed on me and put out the photo," she told Rolling Stone in June. "I've been working on it for months now, and I feel very strongly that it's finished right now. It came so quickly. Some artists take years; I don't. I write music every day." And in the pre-Fall issue of iD magazine, Gaga calls her new album  "my absolute greatest work I've ever done, and I'm so excited about it...The message, the melodies, the direction, the meaning, what it will mean to my fans and what it will mean to me in my own life -- it's utter liberation."
At Lollapalooza in August , she confirmed that "You and I" will definitely be included on the upcoming album, which she's been working on in part in Chicago. The song is "about real true love," and "about the most important person in my life," she hinted as she challenged the crowd to name that tune and received the correct answer shouted back to her by tens of thousands of fans in unison.
"I've been writing a lot on the road. I've been real inspired by the highway, and real inspired by rock 'n' roll music," pop queen Gaga revealed at Lollapalooza about some of the direction of her new material. "I like to listen to rock 'n' roll, whether you believe that or not, while we drive."
As anticipation grows around the new album (which Gaga has asserted is her "best work to date"), so do the rumors. On August 12, 2010, celebrity blog Oh No They Didn't posted a scan of a document which hinted that Gaga may have collaborated with David Bowie during a July recording session in Sydney, Australia in July. Bowie, however, quickly shot down the rumor , saying in a statement, "The suggestion that David Bowie is producing and participating in the production of Lady Gaga's next album is untrue and a hoax."
While he couldn't reveal any specific information about the album, producer RedOne -- the Moroccan-Swedish mastermind behind Gaga's monster hits "Just Dance," "Love Game," "Poker Face," "Bad Romance" and "Alejandro" -- assures Billboard that the new material is worth waiting for.
"It's going to be shocking, shocking, shocking!" RedOne says of Gaga's new music. "You never want to go too far from your brand -- people love you for a reason. But we still want to give them something with a kick, something that makes them say, 'Oh my God! We didn't expect this!'
"When you heard 'Bad Romance' after 'Poker Face,' it was like the best thing you've ever heard," he continues. "We want that type of reaction. I think that's part of my job and her job -- to keep her evolving. "
RedOne (aka Nadir Khayat) confirms that he has worked with Gaga on two tracks and describes both of them as "massive" hits-to-be. While RedOne and Gaga's studio synergy has proven its platinum power (the pair collaborated on nine tracks on her first two albums), the producer says he encouraged her to add some new names to the production credits this time around.
"After 'Just Dance' and 'Poker Face,' 'Love Game' and 'Boys Boys Boys,' I got a sound out of her, and that made it easier for other producers," he says, though he remains mum on naming names. "Her sound is so defined that no matter what people can follow it. That sound belongs to her."
It's this ability to reinvent herself without losing her sense of self that originally drew RedOne to Lady Gaga a few years ago. "When I met her I just felt her energy -- and of course she was dressed in that special way [that] caught my eye," he half-jokes. "She had this energy and was so knowledgeable of music. She makes an impression on you right away. Immediately I thought, 'I can do something big with this girl.'"
That initial meeting took place very shortly after Lady Gaga was signed to Def Jam Records. RedOne saw so much in the up-and-coming singer -- even at first sight -- that even on the day she was dropped from the label just three months later, he joined her in the studio to hear the songs she'd already recorded. The music he heard confirmed his instinct about her talent. After listening, RedOne immediately realized her vast potential, especially since Gaga turned out to be a good singer and musician as well as a strong songwriter ("lyrically, it's always interesting with her," he says). The only thing that needed tweaking, he felt, was someone adjusting the arrangements and mix it to make it all sound more mainstream and radio-friendly.
"It was really good musically but it was a bit too left. I asked her if we could take it more to the middle, and she said, 'I'm open. Let's do it,'" he recalls. Once he was behind the board, he eagerly added "big drums, almost like a rock song with synths." And the polished Gaga sound the world came to love began to take shape.
Now, with that early period of matching Gaga with the right sonic feel vindicated by a raft of hits, RedOne explains that the goal with her next album, as with any, is pushing the music to not only change but to grow. "We try to take the sound and make it bigger and more interesting every time," he says. "And every time and era has its sound; you always want to be the first to jump on it."
Propelled by his success with Lady Gaga and sure to influence his work on Lady Gaga's new tracks, RedOne has been working hard with other artists. He recently completed Nicole Scherzinger's upcoming album, with a single expected to be released by end of year, and he also just launched his own label, 2101, through Universal Records. 2101's first artist is 23-year-old singer/songwriter, Mohombi. And just as in the case of Gaga, RedOne has stepped in to effectively launch the career of this already locally-praised artist.
Mohombi's album doesn't have a release date yet because they are still defining that sound -- but it's one of the lessons RedOne learned working with Gaga, and likely a factor in the patient timing of working on her highly-anticipated follow up. "That's one of the things I really believe in -- never give an album until people want it," RedOne says. "Even with Gaga, the [first] album was released kind of early, but it wasn't until 'LoveGame' that it took off and people realized she had talent. That's when they suddenly paid attention. I think that's important -- to give them an album when they're ready."
If the recent reaction to Gaga's every new bit of music -- from her hit remix album to the massive fan love for her new tune "You and I" -- is any indication, the world is more than ready.
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