Lady Gaga's 15 Best Ballads: From 'Speechless' to 'Shallow'
As the release of Lady Gaga’s musical drama film A Star Is Born approaches, Billboard has taken on the task of rounding up Gaga’s most powerful musical moments, in a form that many people didn’t associate with the singer until more recently: a ballad.
While Joanne is chock-full of ‘em, Gaga has actually been penning scorching, so-called “slow songs” since she was still known as Stefani. In order to dig for ballads both old and new, unreleased songs and live versions, we fell down the YouTube hole for you.
Arranged in alphabetical order for your listening pleasure, here’s the definitive list of Lady Gaga’s best ballads. Grab the tissues and settle in to spend an hour or so with one of this generation’s best vocalists.
1. “Angel Down” (Joanne)
If you have two working ears, this song is likely dangerous. “Million Reasons” tends to get all of the praise as the standout ballad on Joanne -- and yes, that’s to come on our list -- but “Angel Down,” which Gaga wrote about Trayvon Martin, is downright chilling.
2. “Brown Eyes” (The Fame)
The Fame is full of fun, disco-tinged tracks, but “Brown Eyes” had Gaga striving for genuine emotion. The cheesy lyrics do make it a bit of a “silly song,” which she herself admits on the track, but it’s pretty, and not at all bad for an early effort.
3. “Dope” (Artpop)
Gaga tore the labrum of her right hip during the Born This Way Ball tour in February 2013, and had to cancel the rest of her dates so she could have surgery. She later told Elvis Duran that she smoked marijuana in order to deal with the pain of the operation, and developed an addiction. "I was smoking up to 15-20 marijuana cigarettes a day with no tobacco,” she admitted. Gaga channeled this struggle into the sad song "Dope," which is one of the most autobiographical songs on 2013's Artpop.
4. “Electric Kiss” (Unreleased)
An early example of Gaga’s great technique. Her voice isn’t as strong on “Electric Kiss” as it would be one day, but her knack for writing a piano pop hook made itself clear. Gaga performed this at NYU's annual talent show in 2005. She came in third place.
5. “Fooled Me Again” (Unreleased)
This didn't make it onto Gaga's debut album, likely due to the similarities to "Brown Eyes," but it it is a delicious electro-ballad nonetheless.
6. “Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Goin'?)” (Piano Version)
The story of Gaga losing her aunt Joanne Germanotta to lupus inspired the title track of Gaga's fifth studio album -- and informed the wider concept of the record, too. The piano rendition of “Joanne” is just that much more tender.
7. “Let Love Down” (Unreleased)
Again, "Let Love Down" bears more than a few similarities to "Brown Eyes," and it's hard not to be impressed by Gaga's tendency to write fifty versions of a song before arriving at the polished final product. “Let Love Down” is what you could call a “melancholy banger.”
8. “Million Reasons” (Joanne)
By Joanne, Gaga was really leaning into the whole ballad concept -- and thank goodness, because we’ve never wanted our heart strings to be tugged more. You only need one reason to listen to this gem: it’s perfect.
9. “No Floods” (Red and Blue EP, as Stefani Germanotta)
This early cut is exactly what us superfans used to whip out back in the day when someone claimed that Gaga couldn’t sing. The song's title was inspired by Hurricane Katrina victims, and Gaga wrote it in the tail end of 2005.
10. “Shallow” (A Star Is Born soundtrack, with Bradley Cooper)
Here, Gaga delivers an emotional duet with her A Star Is Born counterpart Bradley Cooper. The singer-turned-actress wrote the striking song with Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando, and it serves a "crucial moment in the film," as she told Zane Lowe. “It’s two people talking to each other and talking about the need and the drive to dive in to the deep end and stay away from the shallow area,” Gaga explained.
11. “Speechless” (The Fame Monster)
There are hints of "Let Love Down" on this beautiful Fame Monster number, and it really shows her progress as both a singer and a lyricist. Billboard named it one of the best pop deep cuts of the century last November, and Gaga has even called it the "best song she's ever written."
12. “Til It Happens To You” (Single)
While this impassioned song can apply to any kind of loss, it was written for the 2015 documentary film The Hunting Ground -- which is about campus rape in America -- and a portion of the song's sales went to organizations that support victims of sexual assault. Gaga delivered one of the most stunning performances of her career when she sang "Til It Happens to You" at the 2016 Academy Awards, dressed all in white.
13. “Viva La Vida” (Cover)
Everything about this 2009 live BBC Radio 1 cover of Coldplay’s Hot 100-topping modern classic is iconic, from Gaga changing the lyrics to make them her own, to the adorable mess-ups that she (eventually) just powers through. Who hasn’t felt like a Gaga on a lonely string?
14. “Wonderful” (Unreleased)
According to legend, Gaga wrote this track in 2006, and included it in a demo tape sent to Interscope Records before getting signed. It’s one of her best retro-rock ballads.
15. “You and I” (Born This Way)
Queen's Brian May plays electric guitar on "You and I," which also samples Queen's "We Will Rock You” and involves two Bruce Springsteen references -- but yes, it's still a ballad. Just goes to show that Gaga can leap from country to rock to pop whenever she damn well pleases, and like just about everything else she does, it works.