CD Giveaway details at the end of the review.
The Fame Monster
out November 23rd
The new Madonna. The female Bowie. We have an annoying fixation with history repeating itself, but why does Lady GaGa have to ‘be’ anyone but herself? Her debut The Fame only offered a small insight into a promising future, but as the bombastic live performances continued and the #1 hits stacked up, things moved into focus. There is something very special about this woman.
The Fame Monster is an affirmation of this fact. Its predecessor was the realization of a dream, a project that took years of work before arriving fully formed. And yet, with this follow up, GaGa has produced an altogether superior album, only a year after her debut.
“Bad Romance” is as good a statement of intent as you’ll ever hear, rising up on a bed of trembling synths, GaGa uttering the modern equivalent of “mama-se”: “Ra-ra-a-a-a, roma roma-ma, Gaga, ooh la la”. Quintessential GaGa- quirky, fun... genius. Sonically this is as close as things get to The Fame, but look no further than the excellent video to see how far she has come. Gaga is on show, dancing, showing her face and emotions, arguably for the first time. For someone in the spotlight, Gaga is extremely mysterious. This album breaks down some of those barriers, the sheen of fame and fortune lost as a focus.
The album features a full complement of pop songs; superficially, “Monster” is a song about a boy, but subverts this to focus on Gaga herself. The chorus is simply massive. Thematically we are in no-mans land, moving on yet still referencing the last album: “I want to just dance/but he took me home instead/…/he tore my clothes right off and then he ate my brain.”.
There is still too much pretense and unknown surrounding her, so songs like “Speechless” lose some of their impetus. Still, it’s a perfect ballad: the classy backing choir and lead vocals from our Lady are well pitched, offering ample space to work in some vocal acrobatics. As well as being a pop star, Gaga is a true musician, recently opting to reinterpret “Poker Face” and create acoustic arrangements for “Paparazzi”. These songs will no doubt see similar treatment.
She’s fully in control of this operation, ensuring this was a release in it’s own right rather than a limp re-release. Gaga also retained her creative input, having some part in the creation of each song on this album, an impressive statistic. Her lasting collaboration with RedOne once again delivers, opting to work with the Morrocan-Swedish producer on half of the album tracks.
The album eschews fame and money, instead opting to tackle the many monsters Gaga has so far encountered in her relationship with stardom. “Dance In The Dark” tackles body issues, with hidden messages galore. “I love fucking girls” is one particular gem, slipped in just before the chorus. It’s the one song where the Madonna reference is pertinent, as Gaga launches into her own “Vogue”-esque speech: “Marilyn, Judy, Silvia/Tell ‘em how you feel girls/…/Hot like Liberace/…/You will never fall apart/Diana you’re still in our hearts/Together we’ll dance in the dark”.
“Telephone” is almost certainly the next single, and finds Beyonce returning a favor — see Gaga’s input on the extended remix of “Video Phone” for context. Jay obviously didn’t have any input on Beyonce’s verse, otherwise he would have called out the awful “I sometimes feel like I live in Grand Central Station” line. It’s one of several wasted opportunities, but the pure energy and outrageous production values make this song memorable. We can only thank Britney for turning the song down after Gaga offered it to her, as her version would surely have lacked the verve that Gaga and Beyonce bring.
“So Happy I Could Die” is an intelligent ode to self-pleasuring, wrapped up as a song about fear of alcohol. It follows the rest of the album in embracing adult themes, from sex trafficking to addiction and alcoholism. The songs have more longevity, and prove that Gaga is equally as interesting and provoking on the inside as on the outside. The outfits, conspiracy and controversies are only small elements of Lady Gaga.
At 32 minutes long, The Fame Monster might be too slim to be considered a full release, but Gaga sends some loud messages nonetheless. With this release she continues to impress herself upon the public conscious, and should have her sights set firmly on becoming a modern pop icon.
Average Reader Rating: 8.6
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