2011–present: Born This Way and Artpop
Gaga released her second studio album, Born This Way, on May 23, 2011. Described as a marriage of electronic music with metal, rock 'n' roll, pop and anthemic style melodies with sledge-hammering dance beats and referred to as an album "about what keeps us up at night and what makes us afraid," Gaga characterized it as "something so much deeper than a wig or lipstick or a fucking meat dress" and, upon hearing it, Akon remarked that she is taking music to the "next level." Upon release, the album received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised its range of different styles and her vocals. Born This Way sold 1.108 million copies in its first week in the US, debuted atop the Billboard 200, and topped the charts in more than 20 other countries. In addition to exceeding 8 million copies in worldwide sales, Born This Way received 3 Grammy Award nominations, including her third consecutive for Album of the Year. In March 2012, Gaga was ranked fourth on Billboard's list of top moneymakers of 2011, grossing $25,353,039 dollars, which included sales from Born This Way and her Monster Ball Tour.
In the months prior to its unveiling, Gaga released the singles "Born This Way", "Judas" and "The Edge of Glory" alongside promotional single "Hair". The eponymous lead single, first sung live at the 53rd Grammy Awards in a performance that saw Gaga emerge from an egg-like vessel, deals with self-acceptance regardless of race or sexual orientation. The single debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the 19th number-one debut and the 1,000th number-one single in the history of the charts. It sold more than 3 million digital copies in the US by October 2011, becoming her eighth consecutive single to exceed sales of 2 million and, with worldwide sales of 8.2 million copies by November 2011, one of her five best-selling singles worldwide. Critics noted artistic and cultural references and praised the concept of the song's accompanying music video, in which Gaga gives birth to a new race amidst surrealistic images. The video for "Judas", in which Gaga portrays Mary Magdalene, and Biblical figures such as Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot are also featured, was criticized for its religious references but received acclaim for its overall delivery and praise from others who claimed that there was nothing offensive about it. "Judas" also peaked within the top ten in several major musical markets, while "The Edge of Glory", first a commercial success in digital outlets, was later released as a single to critical appreciation, accompanied by a video which was notably stripped down from her usually "extravagant" efforts. She released "You and I" and "Marry the Night" as the following singles from Born This Way. Although their "crazy and ambitious" videos were praised for their audacity, both songs failed to match the similar international success that their predecessors achieved. Gaga was later ranked as the second most-played artist of 2011 in the UK by the PPL.
Throughout 2011, Gaga continued her musical endeavors by pairing with veteran artists like Tony Bennett to record a jazz version of "The Lady Is a Tramp". She also recorded a duet with Cher on a "massive" and "beautiful" track, which Gaga "wrote a long time ago, and I've never put it on one of my own albums for, really, no particular reason." Gaga also lent her vocals to an original duet with Elton John for the animated feature film Gnomeo & Juliet. The song, "Hello, Hello", was released without Gaga's vocals but the duet version features in the film. She also continued her live appearances in 2011, performing a one-of-a-kind concert at the Sydney Town Hall in promotion of Born This Way and at the celebration of former US president Bill Clinton's 65th birthday, wearing a blond wig as a nod to the famous performance of Marilyn Monroe for John F. Kennedy and changing the lyrics to "You and I" specifically for the performance. Televised appearances comprised her own Thanksgiving Day television special titled A Very Gaga Thanksgiving which was critically lauded, attained 5.749 million American viewers, and spawned the release of her fourth extended play A Very Gaga Holiday. Her second performance on Saturday Night Live saw her singing a selection of Born This Way songs alongside appearing in number of sketches with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. Lady Gaga also appeared in Times Square to perform songs from Born This Way on the 40th anniversary of ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and in addition, she also had the honor of welcoming 2012 by dropping the famous Times Square Ball with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at midnight. In 2012, Gaga also guest-starred on the 23rd season finale of The Simpsons titled "Lisa Goes Gaga". In June 2012, Gaga announced her first fragrance in association with Coty, Inc., Lady Gaga Fame, which was released worldwide in September 2012. In December 2012, Gaga made an appearance at the final show of The Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary concert series to perform "Gimmie Shelter", along with Bruce Springsteen and The Black Keys.
The accompanying tour for Born This Way, titled simply The Born This Way Ball, kicked off at the end of April 2012 at Seoul's Olympic Stadium in South Korea. Although the tour – consisting of 110 shows across the globe – was a commercial success with positive reviews, several conservative political commentators denounced the Born This Way Ball shortly after the conception of the tour. This early controversy, particularly notable in several locations of the tour's leg in Asia, saw protests from several religious groups who viewed the tour as satanic and against religious values, resulting in protests mainly from the Islamic Defenders Front, causing a cancellation in the Indonesian city of Jakarta, where Gaga was denied a license to perform. She and promoters were initially optimistic that the performance would go on but, due to threats of violence from Muslim hardliners, Gaga decided to cancel the concert although 52,000 tickets had sold out in just a few days. Due to a labral tear of her right hip, Gaga announced on February 12, 2013, that the remainder of her Born This Way Ball was canceled. She posted on her blog February 20, 2013, that she had hip surgery, and was recovering.
New songs for her new album Artpop (stylized as ARTPOP) were "beginning to flourish" as she worked with producer Fernando Garibay in early 2012. Gaga's manager, Vincent Herbert, said that Gaga began work on her upcoming album during the Born This Way Ball tour, stating that the material is "insane, great records." She is also planning to record a collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett whom she has already collaborated with. Gaga will make her debut film appearance in Robert Rodriguez's upcoming movie Machete Kills. She will play the role of La Chameleón, starring alongside an ensemble cast in the action film that is due to hit cinema screens on September 13, 2013. On December 25, 2012, Gaga announced that Terry Richardson was also working on a documentary about Gaga's life, the Haus of Gaga and "the creation of Artpop".