If history is any judge, the gears are already in motion to find the Lady's successor - another highly theatrical, edgy, all-embracing dance-pop dolly to fill those dangerously tall shoes, move those downloads, sell those concert tickets and souvenir T-shirts.
The pop-music world hates a stylistic void.
Fans "grow accustomed to a certain variety of music and the lifestyle that goes with it," said Jim Sutcliffe, a 20-year vet of the Philadelphia concert-promotion business. And if they can't be with the one they love, then they'll love the one they're with.
Usually the mantle is passed to a younger, fresher artist, though one with a sense of history, thus appealing to the kids and often their parents, too. This someone is happy to flaunt influences and gleefully fill a niche, be it a teen-idol surrogate like Jackson acolyte Justin Bieber, or a retro belter like Michael Bublé, aping the swinging Sinatra sound.
Although still bemoaning the loss of rapper Tupac Shakur, many of his fans now embrace the politically charged, charismatic Kendrick Lumar and Aesop Rock.
And if you ache for prepoliticized, romantic-era Bruce Springsteen, there's always the Killers. Dawes makes a bittersweet, surrogate Crosby Sills & Nash or Jackson Browne.
And although they've got their own twists, Grateful Dead-inspired jam bands like Phish or Philly's own Disco Biscuits are ready to fix what ails you, Deadheads.
"People aren't just looking for the music, but for a shared community, a crowd that knows about and appreciates music in a certain away," Sutcliffe said. "That's why a Phish or Biscuits concert is a lot like a 'Star Trek' convention."
Give it up for . . .
So who's the logical successor to Gaga, if her recovery goes slow?
How about our hometown girl Pink? "She's big already, with her own, more rocking agenda," assessed Sutcliffe.
Katy Perry? She'd have to give up the candy-coated pop crown and get edgy on us. Plus, Perry's already done her share of career-robbing, having stolen the teen-tease crown from Britney Spears.
As Gaga surrogates go, our Philly concert promoter best likes "that woman on 'American Idol,' Nicki Minaj." She's smart and brash and an interesting character, "just like Gaga, who always knew she was going to be a star."
And Minaj is now getting top-of-mind exposure on a hugely popular TV talent show, likewise a great career move for past "Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez and "The Voice" authority Adam Levine, of Maroon 5.
Market-savvy record labels, concert promoters and TV talent-show judges have always had their collective eye on filling niches, jumping on bandwagons already rolling down the highway.
At the moment, there's a rush to sign artists working both extremes of the musical spectrum. At one end there's the buzzy, electronic-dance-music scene lorded over by this year's three-time Grammy winner Skrillex and the international party animal Tiesto (holding court at the Liacouras Center on Saturday).
Rising up at the other extreme are the strummy, shouting anthems of Mumford & Sons, British exports who claimed best album of the year at the 2013 Grammys and sold out two shows at the Susquehanna Bank Center this past weekend.
"But Mumford can't tour 12 months a year," noted Sutcliffe. "That leaves room for others in the same vein, like the Lumineers and Trampled By Turtles, to fill that public's craving, if they time their tours and album releases correctly."
Crystal Bowersox can attest to that.
When the Season 9 (2009-2010) first runner-up first went on "American Idol," "there was a lot of talk I could be 'the new Janis Joplin.' Pretty amazing that they were still looking to fill the niche of a woman who's been dead since 1970," she said. Bowersox is about to release her second solo album, "All That For This," and hit the road with a band that plays the Tin Angel on March 8.
Later, when Bowersox got her big, post-"Idol" label deal, "they tried to make me a pop-rock star. I resisted."
For her new album, produced by former Philly resident Steve Berlin, Bowersox stays true to her gospel-tinged, country-rockin' tastes. But she's had to go with smaller indie label Shanachie to get it out there.
Filling the holes
I've been touting Takiff's Law of Musical Vacuum-Filling since I first saw it play out as a late-night radio DJ in the 1970s on a then-free-form WMMR (93.3-FM).
Although we were generally given carte blanche to "play anything good," program director Jerry Stevens once pushed a song on me and the other jocks by a new group we'd dismissed as totally derivative. Whenever we played that obligatory track - "A Horse With No Name" - the phones would light up with callers asking, "Is that the new Neil Young record?" The twangy rocker had been lying low on his ranch for quite a while, reportedly recovering from the excesses of the road.
"No, it's a new group called America," I'd reply, thinking the caller's next comment would be, "Wow, what a ripoff."
Instead, most then said "Oh. Well, I like it."
Taught me a lesson.
Knockin' the knock-offs
Not every knock-off is so popular.
Although British artists Amy Winehouse and Adele managed to fan the flames for a soul-pop revival, evoking past role models such as Dusty Springfield, some really talented men on the same wavelength haven't done as well.
Yes, Frank Ocean may be "the next Marvin Gaye," acclaimed by critics and winning a Grammy with his bold variations of "Sexual Healing." But after decades at the pursuit, ace Motown emulator Raphael Saadiq and tastefully inspired (by Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding) Brit James Hunter are still working midsize clubs, with Hunter returning to World Cafe Live on Feb. 28.
"We here in Britain have always embraced the classic American R&B music. Our radio DJs have never lost their taste for it, because it always seemed so exotic," Hunter said in a recent trans-Atlantic chat. "But in the States, it seems your R&B stations have given up on the classics."
Maybe that's why some kids today think John Legend and Mariah Carey are old-school souls.
Do unto others
The irony of Lady Gaga is that she, of course, pulled the rug out from Madonna in Madge's hour of weakness.
In 2008-2009, as Gaga was just breaking out, Madonna's deal with Warner Bros. was ending. Her last studio album for the label, 2008's "Hard Candy," was a modest seller domestically, while the 2009 follow-up, Madonna's third greatest-hits album, "Celebration," smacked of "contractual obligation."
Newly signed to Live Nation, Madonna was still selling concert tickets like crazy, but the girl was running on fumes, materialwise. Meanwhile, Gaga swooped in with a big batch of great tunes, preposterous stage antics and a supportive music-industry machine that would keep the heat on for years. (Remember that wacky 99-cent Amazon deal for "Born this Way" two years later?)
Music-star "feuds" are often publicity stunts, but it's pretty clear Madonna felt Gaga had stolen her act. Madge underscored the point by performing a medley of "Express Yourself" and "Born This Way" in concerts and famously declared in an Atlantic City appearance that "imitation is the highest form of flattery."
And, sometimes, a fast track to the top.