By Joey Nolfi
March 19, 2019 at 05:09 PM EDT

Twenty-five shows deep into her Joanne World Tour, Lady Gaga seemingly shed the persona that redefined her career in anticipation of a new album.

“Sorry Joanne, Gaga’s come out to play,” she told a sold-out crowd during a November 2017 tour stop at Uncasville, Conn.’s Mohegan Sun Arena, just as she launched into the bass-heavy bridge of Born This Way cut “Bloody Mary,” writhing around with her backup dancers as the tune’s backing track bellows “Gaga, Gaga” in haunting repetition.

Steve Granitz/WireImage

Back then, fans were quick to herald the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment as a signal that a new era loomed on the horizon, as Gaga spent much of the Joanne cycle (and resulting tour) requesting that fans refer to her by her late aunt’s first name as a means to carry on the young woman’s legacy following her untimely death in 1974 at age 19. The essence of “Gaga” as a performative identity was clearly ready to re-enter the icon’s canon as she readied herself for another reinvention under her original stage name.

With Joanne eventually platinum-certified in the United States, the album served its purpose in setting the stage for Gaga’s stripped evolution from pop provocateur to glamorous red carpet diva for her gilded journey through the 2018 awards season at the head of her first major Hollywood film A Star Is Born; The subsequent era would also bring Gaga her first No. 1 single in eight years (“Shallow,” the film’s signature duet with director-costar Bradley Cooper) and another platinum LP (the film’s accompanying soundtrack spent four weeks at No. 1, making Gaga the only woman to have five No. 1 albums this decade).

While the creation of Joanne was a highly personal endeavor (chronicled beautifully by documentarian Chris Moukarbel in the Netflix film Gaga: Five Foot Two), fans were at first reluctant to accept its pared back musical stylings, though the LP ultimately found its rightful place among the most celebrated sets of Gaga’s discography. A Star Is Born‘s soundtrack similarly shifted Gaga’s sound away from the euro-influenced dance-pop that made her a global force and into realms of rock, country, and funk.

Still, as Gaga previously revealed to EW, she’d begun writing her next project during the Joanne cycle — well before A Star Is Born hit theaters — a curious (yet altogether welcome) move for someone deep into the promotional cycle for her previous release, which vaulted her toward a new apex of success after fronting the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show of all time.

“I’ve started writing,” Gaga said. “I have a lot of ideas and a lot of things I want to create, so you’ll see in a bit. I need some time to create.”

So, where does Mother Monster — arguably at the top of her game after one of the most successful years of her career, with her Enigma Las Vegas residency show, a $215 million-grossing movie, a new Oscar, three additional Grammys, and a No. 1 album-single wallop fresh to her credit — go from here? As she prepares to drop her upcoming musical project after nearly two years of gestation, a flurry of clues has trickled in from around the internet regarding Gaga’s next standalone album, giving us a peek at what the 32-year-old has up her sleeve for Joanne‘s successor.

Here’s everything we know about LG6 so far:

Gaga admitted she’s “pregnant” … with new music (and fans speculate she might pop on her birthday)

When tabloids earlier this month reported that Gaga was expecting her first child, she quickly shot speculation down by announcing that she was actually carrying the fruits of her musical labor instead.

“Rumors I’m pregnant? Yeah, I’m pregnant with #LG6,” Gaga tweeted last week, referencing the fan-given title for her upcoming album (the sixth in her solo discography).

Still, themes of birth and revival have long played out across Gaga’s career. The music video for the title track from Gaga’s 2011 masterpiece Born This Way revolved around the birth of a new generation of pure beings (and its evil counterpart), while Joanne chronicled new beginnings in the wake of mortality; that — coupled with the proximity of Gaga’s LG6 announcement to her birthday and Enigma‘s aesthetic throwback to the early days of her career — has led fans to speculate that LG6 (or its lead single) might drop as Gaga celebrates her 33rd year alive on Thursday, March 28.

Could LG6 be a self-titled album?

Following her LG6 tweet, Gaga swapped her social profile photos for an image depicting a musical staff containing the notes for “G-A-G-A.” On Valentine’s Day, Gaga got a tattoo of the same image on her right arm (which has racked up over 1 billion views to become the most-viewed video on Instagram).

Gaga often inks herself in honor of a major creative project: Among nearly two dozen pieces on her body, in 2010 she received a unicorn on her thigh representing the impending Born This Way era; in 2012 she wrote the title of her 2013 album ARTPOP on her left arm; in 2014, she got a trumpet on her right arm in celebration of her Tony Bennett collaboration Cheek to Cheek, and in October 2016 she got “Joanne” — scribbled in her late aunt’s handwriting — tattooed on her left arm.

Gaga’s forthcoming album, then, could be titled GAGA, as Gaga’s frequent collaborators (including makeup artist Sarah Tanno in the post below) have also used the all-caps text when sharing artwork and photoshoots fans have long speculated are tied to the singer’s sixth full-length album.

Sophie, BloodPop, Boys Noize, and Anthony Rossomando have collaborated with Gaga

Scottish producer Sophie — noted for her solo work as well as productions for Charli XCX, Japanese pop superstar Namie Amuro, Vince Staples, and Madonna — has also confirmed she put in studio time with Gaga on an unknown project presumed to be LG6.

German techno producer Boys Noize also teamed with Gaga on music-related material, telling Boiler Room in summer 2018: “She’s down [with] techno. What’s crazy, too, is she got into modular stuff now. I brought my modular system and she spilled water on it right away, but it kind of broke the ice I guess and we wrote a f—ing hit I think! Now she’s into modular, she bought a system, and I went back to Berlin and came back and she had a new system and we used that on some of the songs.”

Later, it was revealed that some of Boys Noize’s contributions were further used for Gaga’s Enigma Las Vegas residency show, as evidenced in the December 2018 video below.

Gaga has seemingly re-teamed with her Joanne producer BloodPop for new tunes, too, as the 28-year-old songsmith has shared several social media posts referencing Gaga’s next project as well as asserting that 2019 would be “a big year” for the artist in a December 2018 Instagram caption.

“Shallow” co-writer Anthony Rossomando also shared a social media post showing Gaga recording vocals for an mystery project, leading many to believe he’s also contributing to LG6.

Fans have speculated that Rihanna, Diplo, Mark Ronson, Burns, and rapper Cupcakke appear on the album

After Gaga made her “pregnant with LG6” announcement, Little Monsters noticed that she had followed Rihanna, the international recording superstar, fan of Gaga’s “Sexxx Dreams”, and teeth-baring Gagachella 2017 attendee; they also pointed out that photographer Eli Russell Linnetz — who worked with Gaga on the fantastical photos below — followed Rihanna and Diplo on the social media site around the same time.

On March 14, rapper Cupcakke tweeted about hearing LG6 in full for the first time, leading fans to believe she had also been included in the album’s recording sessions.

“Thanks @ladygaga for inviting me to the studio to hear lady Gaga 6 !!!” she tweeted. “It’s amazing”

On April 1, Cupcakke followed up with another tweet confirming that she had been in the studio working with Gaga on LG6.

Diplo later shared a video of himself in the studio with Joanne producer/”Shallow” co-writer Mark Ronson. The clip is soundtracked by an unreleased beat, over which a female voice (which sounds a lot like Gaga) sings.

On April 1, BloodPop posted a photo of producer Burns (Britney Spears, Liam Payne) working in a studio. Burns later commented “#LG6” with an umbrella emoji, fueling speculating that he’s involved in LG6’s creation as well.

Representatives for Gaga, Rihanna, and Cupcakke did not immediately return EW’s request for confirmation on the rumored collaborations.

Gaga’s recorded with Born This Way/ARTPOP producer DJ White Shadow, but he’s reportedly no longer involved in the project

Before she landed on the pop-rock and country-inspired tunes that made Joanne a hit, Gaga reportedly met with several producers, namely Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, RedOne, and more to hone a sound similar to what she’d released in the past. RedOne revealed he’d worked on at least eight songs during the pre-Joanne sessions, though only one, “Angel Down,” made the cut. When the sun set on Joanne, Gaga has re-teamed with her “Applause” hitmaking partner DJ White Shadow (real name Paul Blair) for A Star Is Born and LG6, and he didn’t keep it a secret.

Blair’s Instagram account was riddled with teases for LG6 while he worked on the project during Gaga’s tour, before he deleted them in recent months. As Gaga has done in the past, she recorded material on her tour bus, which Blair dubbed “the lab” (another nod to Frankenstein’s monster). He also alluded to a new single in a lengthy post on Nov. 8, shared after he joined Gaga there for a Joanne World Tour stop.

“I am about to do some sh— that will change the world. I am going to dedicate it to the people that I let into my life with love who abandon me when I needed them the most, and to the people that took advantage of me because my heart is bigger than my head sometimes,” he captioned a now-deleted shot of him overlooking the city. “Every time you hear it on the radio, think of me.”

On the fourth anniversary of ARTPOP‘s release, Blair shared another emotional Instagram post, further elaborating on the status of LG6 — perhaps teasing a sound in line with the dance-oriented songs found on the 2013 studio set.

“Four years ago I put out a record called ARTPOP with @ladygaga. I could write a book about it, maybe one day I will. I lost a best friend and manager, LG lost her entire support team, and we were all alone. I am so grateful for this record because it taught me a lot. I made some friends that have changed my life forever in the halls where this record was recorded, whom I love so incredibly deeply,” he wrote, additionally using the hashtag #LG6. “For all her flaws, strangeness and beauty, I thank you ARTPOP for the lessons learned and the gifts you gave. Happy 4th Birthday. I can’t wait to introduce you to your little sister.”

After Blair, who opened for Gaga on several stadium tour dates throughout the summer of 2017, shared the image, Little Monsters speculated that their current sessions might produce the long-rumored ARTPOP: Act II, a planned EP which Gaga spoke in favor of releasing several years ago. Blair further fueled the rumors of the unreleased project’s resurgence after he played a snippet of scrapped ARTPOP song “Tea” during his opening set at Boston’s Fenway Park.

Blair quickly shut down the ARTPOP: Act II rumors, however, tweeting that LG6 is “its own record” that signals “a new era” and “not a second act.”

Later, in early 2019, Blair posted a comment on Instagram indicating he was no longer involved in the creation of LG6. A representative for Gaga did not immediately return EW’s request for comment on Blair’s comment.

More ARTPOP personnel previously joined Gaga on the road

Benjamin Rice, who worked extensively with Gaga to create ARTPOP, likely contributed to the LG6 sessions as well. Per a series of Instagram photos taken by Christian Carino in 2017, the recording engineer and vocal producer — who has credits with Britney Spears and Selena Gomez as well — hit the road with Gaga to work on music.

Carino shared several candid photos of Gaga recording vocals for LG6 tracks as well.

A new song with a Frankenstein theme is (potentially) in the works

Gaga gave fans a concrete preview of her upcoming material at a Nov. 5, 2017 tour stop in Indianapolis, where she reportedly sang a new song while backstage meeting with VIP ticketholders. Accounts vary, with some saying the song is titled “Frankenstein,” though others claim it’s “Frankensteined,” but the consensus agrees: the lyrics supposedly invoke a turbulent period in Gaga’s career, during which her commercially successful (yet unjustly marginalized) ARTPOP era resulted in behind-the-scenes shakeups (she split with longtime manager Troy Carter shortly before the album’s release before Bobby Campbell boarded Team Gaga in 2014).

The song’s title recalls Mary Shelley’s classic novel, in which a notorious alchemist, Victor Frankenstein, concocts a humanoid monster, which ultimately kills its maker’s bride, Elizabeth, and best friend, Henry. Gaga followers have noted similarities to Gaga’s struggles through the ARTPOP era, as she and her professional ambitions were metaphorically pulled apart and stitched back together (like the bits and pieces of the body of Frankenstein’s monster).

While it touches on issues of death, grief, and perseverance in the face of obstacles, Joanne takes a rather optimistic approach to complicated issues, but it was founded on Gaga’s signature penchant for the macabre. “I’ve just been weeping while I’m here because I have returned to something I’ve believed in so much, which is the art of darkness,” she told EW during a 2015 cover story interview pegged to her appearance in the fifth season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, which she said inspired future musical output. “It’s not something that everyone understands, but, for the people that do — Horror Story fans, my fans — there is a true connection between us, and it’s a language within itself.”

The dark nature of the title “Frankenstein”/”Frankensteined” also conjures memories of Gaga’s Fame Monster era in 2009, inspired by the singer-songwriter’s bouts with the grim side of success (she explored fears pertaining to death, sex, and substance-related vices on the eight-track EP), the lighter side of which she sang about on her debut album, The Fame, in 2008.

LG6 clues might be hidden in the “John Wayne” music video

Two singles were released from Joanne: lead single “Perfect Illusion” and the soaring ballad “Million Reasons,” and their accompanying music videos (notably toned down from the extravagant theatrics of Gaga’s previous releases) linked together for a continuous narrative of destruction and revival. Though not officially released as a Joanne single, rollicking banger “John Wayne” received a stunning Jonas Åkerlund-directed visual nonetheless, which picks up right where the “Million Reasons” clip left off, except this time with a manic, stylish aesthetic similar to what Gaga created with Åkerlund for 2010’s “Telephone” music video. As the video closes, Gaga spins around atop the trunk of a convertible, spraying bullets from the heels of her impossibly high stiletto boots.
Gaga Thoughts GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

On Saturday, Nov. 11, Gaga posted snapshots from a photoshoot, holding the end of her boots in a manner that recalls the fan-favorite “John Wayne” sequence.

Gaga also “died” twice in the “John Wayne” video — once when she careens through the windshield of a car after it slams into a tree, and again after she’s accidentally struck by a boot bullet. Could Gaga’s weekend photoshoot be another hint at where she’s headed with LG6? When paired with the “Frankenstein”/”Frankensteined” rumors (death plays a key role in the thematic structure of Shelley’s novel), the “John Wayne” video sets the tone for a segue from the Joanne era into a new one rife with dark, monstrous trimmings.

Interscope Records

Be sure to check back with EW as more information about LG6 is revealed.

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