Lady Gaga is everywhere this month: Posing on the cover of Vanity Fair. Receiving a record 13 nominations for MTV's Video Music Awards. Releasing a third album ("The Remix") of hits from her blockbuster debut "The Fame" and followup "The Fame Monster." And now coming to St. Paul for two concerts this week at Xcel Energy Center.

The 24-year-old Queen of Pop is as much about creating performance art as making hits. To trace the trajectory of her strange but compelling career, we offer 10 defining moments that made Gaga Gaga.

1January 2006: She meets producer/songwriter Rob Fusari. The man who wrote "Bootylicious" for Beyoncé gives alt-rocker Stefani Germanotta a new name -- Lady Gaga -- and a new sound: dance rock.

2 April 2009: "Poker Face" becomes her second straight No. 1 single, proving this newcomer has plenty of aces up her sleeve.

3 June 2009: She appears on Rolling Stone clothed only in clear plastic balls. Until now, the masses have experienced her hits on the radio and in the clubs, but not her self-conscious visual weirdness in the flesh.

4 Oct. 11, 2009: She takes the podium in front of a quarter-million people at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., and proclaims this the "single most important event of my career." Her parting words: "Bless God, and bless the gays."

5 Jan. 31, 2010: She does a dark duet with Elton John on the Grammys, wearing a butterfly costume that's even more over-the-top than anything in Sir Elton's outrageous prime. At the same time, she demonstrates her underappreciated musical chops by playing piano and crooning her rock ballad "Speechless" intertwined with his "Your Song."

6 March 2010: She debuts her video of "Telephone," featuring Beyoncé. This mini-movie is sweet, sinister and sexy, with B&G as a modern-day Thelma and Louise, killing and cavorting in stars and stripes a la Wonder Woman.

7 June 2010: The 9-minute "Alejandro" video tells you gobs about Gaga's influences. She melds the Europop of Abba with the Latin dance-pop of Madonna, complete with blasphemous Catholic imagery and a bra equipped with machine guns. Bang, bang.

8 June 2, 2010: She turns "Larry King Live" into performance art, spoofing the CNN host's look with feathery suspenders, oversized (sun)glasses and slicked-back hair. At the same time, she plays it straight in the interview, setting the record straight on her lupus (she's borderline).

9 July 14, 2010: Wearing a gown of Hello Kitty stuffed animals, she appears on the Bravo reality show "Double Exposure." Part of a fab photo shoot by celebrity photographers Markus Klinko and Indrani to mark Hello Kitty's 35th anniversary, it easily tops a dress made of Kermit the Frog puppets that she wore to the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

10 September 2010: She poses nude on the cover of Vanity Fair, which should shock no one by this point. Ironically, the magazine declares her the best dressed original of 2010. In one of her most revealing interviews she explains: "I used to pray every night that God would make me crazy." OK, now we get it.

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719