Billboard has dubbed Lady Gaga its Woman of the Year for 2015, which is an especially impressive honor since — to hear Gaga herself tell it — she almost threw in the towel completely about a year ago. "It speaks volumes to me that I'm being recognized as Woman of the Year in 2015," she says. "This is the year I did what I wanted instead of trying to keep up with what I thought everyone else wanted from me."

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So how close did we really come to losing Gaga from the international pop scene? Pretty close, as it turns out. "At the end of 2014, my stylist asked, 'Do you even want to be a pop star anymore?' I looked at him and I go, 'You know, if I could just stop this train right now, today, I would. I just can't. I need to get off now because I'm going to die,'" she remembers. "When you're going so fast you don't feel safe anymore, you feel like you're being slapped around and you can't think straight."

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"You can't sell your soul once you make it. It's a big mistake to just go after the money to try to stay on top. I think that's what everyone wanted me to do," she says. "People think, 'You can just sit down at a piano whenever you want and write,' but I couldn't write for two f—ing years. For 'Artpop,' I was doing beats instead. I didn't want to be near that damn [piano]. It was too emotional. I would start to play and sing, and my mind would go, 'You are way too talented for this s—. F—, your voice sounds good. F—, that's a beautiful chord. F—, that's an amazing lyric. Why are you letting these people run you into the ground? When did you become the fashionable robot?' Can't being an artist be enough?"

Well, at least according to Billboard, it can.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick