You may dig it when Beyoncé, dressed like a drag-queen Terminator, implores suitors to give rings to single ladies. You may adore the Betty Boop outfits of girl-kissing Katy Perry or Britney Spears' skimpy circus garb.
But everyone falls short when fashion-forward diva Lady Gaga steps into the room.
Gaga didn't call her debut CD The Fame for nothing.
Now, don't think she doesn't have the proper credentials to be a superstar. Gaga's a sassy New York socialite who has more than compositional chops (she penned hits for the Pussycat Dolls) and a sweet baritone voice. She has a slick hip-hop, electro-pop sound that dominates top hits such as "Just Dance," nominated for a 2009 Grammy. The Fame has achieved platinum and gold status in Australia and Britain, and so popular is Gaga locally that her April 1 concert - which sold out almost immediately at TLA - had to be moved to the Electric Factory on May 1. That space, too, is sold out.
Stefani Joanne Germanotta, who stole her stage name from an old Queen song and went to private school with Paris and Nicky Hilton, has captured the imagination of couture's elite and the adoration of gay fans with her dedication to fashion.
"She's delicious to look at and extravagant in every sense," says Jesse Cute of Philadelphia, one of at least 20 men in the city who are so gaga over Gaga that they follow her every move, her every costume. "That's every gay man's dream - to be called extravagant."
Cute, a local film publicist, loves how Gaga's blond bangs land on her long eyelashes. He's been trying to buy knockoffs of her TV-screen sunglasses and digs the tightly wrapped black leather Gaga wears.
"She screams look at me and has the talent and sound behind it to make her the perfect gay icon," says Cute, 31. "Why do we love Cher? It's not just her sound, but her 'tude and style. A sexy, strong woman stands for power. Gay men love women in power."
Though Gaga is as lean and androgynous as '70s-era David Bowie and '80s-era Grace Jones (two of her acknowledged heroes), she is all woman. That's probably due to the fact that the Lady favors sequined underwear and (sometimes) matching bras, usually visible when matched with the tiniest of designer hot pants and itsy-bitsy micro-skirts. Gaga also favors lean-cut, trash-bag dresses and kinky leather minis - both hit items throughout the '80s New Wave movement.
On concert stages and in magazines, she's been spied in Hervé Leger dresses, high Marni heels and cheap leggings. With her platinum hair and clingy black gear, it's as if she's a shiny, vinyl Q-tip.
"Gaga's look – it's bondage meets The Jetsons," says Jennifer Ramsay, who once owned the retro-future Rittenhouse Row clothing store Echochic. Ramsay is also a stylist who has created personal and video-shoot wardrobes for Eve, Cameron Diaz, and Patty LaBelle.
"I remember coming back from London in 1996 with vinyl pants, pointy-collar, futuristic, vest-like tops, and platforms like what she wears from TRIPP NYC and Follies Paris . . .," says Ramsay, pointing out the punk-rock label sold at South Street's Trash and Vaudeville and the moderately regarded junior label.
"As for the onesies, tap pants, and the '80s look she's working, it is definitely what is in fashion."
Fashion and music are only part of Gaga's allure. It's attitude, too.
Take Cute, whose love of Gaga became complete when he and friend Zack Muchnick met Gaga backstage at Q102's Jingle Ball in December.
"We were taken aback by her aura," says Cute. "She had these gold boxes around her waist and a trash-bag dress, which just doesn't describe how sexy she looked."
Since then, the pals have built a language around her. "You were soooo gaga" means "you were a mess," says Cute. "He gaga-ed all over my wall on Facebook" means "he babbled on and on."
Before their crew goes out at night, they regularly gather around the laptop to hunt for Lady Gaga fashions.
Most importantly, though, Cute and 17 of his gay friends - ages 21 to 32, in health-care administration, research science and college admissions counseling - have custom-designed shirts with large Gs and As on them. When Gaga appears at the Electric Factory, they will line up with their shirts and cheer.
"We want to be noticed," says Cute. "The point of all this is extravagance. It's what we like, and it's what Lady Gaga stands for."
At a Britney Spears concert, Cute was discussing legends Tina Turner and Cher, wondering if Lady Gaga would ever reach such status.