Lady Gaga is a confusing artist. I’ll say this right now; her songs are cringe-worthy, and incredibly pretentious at times. However, she creeps up on you, and before you know it you are singing along to every chorus, and trying to join in on the absurd dance moves in her videos. Lady Gaga is the both the worst of pop, and the best of it all at once, and I don’t know if I’ll ever wrap my head around her fully. If her first album wasn’t confusing enough, this special edition bonus tracks-cum-EP-cum-new album that she calls ‘The Fame Monster’ just adds to the Gaga enigma.
Just let me take on the Lady as a whole, first off. She’s incredibly odd, in terms of look, costume, public persona, music, and especially her music videos. By rights, she should have gone the way of Bjork in the public perception, a one hit wonder that drops out of the mainstream but still has hardcore fans who can accept her strange aesthetic and unique musical style. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, endures. I think this is because she isn’t unique. Whether this is pure lack of creativity, or as I like to see her, a big postmodernist comment on the world of pop and celebrity, is still up for debate. What Gaga does well is take on the wide range of what we call pop, smash it all together through massive layers of production and create something decidedly weird, but catchy as hell and so bombastically unoriginal that it comes full circle and feels fresh and new.
I hate to go track by track, but I’m going to party have to for ‘The Fame Monster’ as it is not really a coherent album. Oh sure, it’s being sold as that now, but it was originally planned as a bonus disc for her debut release ‘The Fame’, filled with tracks that were either new or left off that release, depending on which articles you read. The only thing that seems to pull the album together is the repetition of the words “free bitch” in a few of the songs. The reason for highlighting certain tracks will just give you an idea of what to expect, and an idea of how eclectic an album ‘The Fame Monster’ is:
Bad Romance is the closest to what I’ve come to expect of Gaga thus far, with a similar sound to previous songs like Paparazzi, though with a vocal hook that reminds me of Boney M’s Rasputin, and a verse in French for no other reason than it’s a Lady Gaga song. Alejandro opens with a spoken intro in a bad, pan-European accent, and carries on in that vein, sounding like Shakira taken to the Europop extreme. Monster is booming R&B and features the line “he ate my heart and then he ate my brain.” ‘nuff said. Speechless would sound like Abbey Road/Let It Be era Beatles mixed with Christina Aguilera, if it weren’t for the strange accent Lady Gaga puts on to sing it. Try to imagine a country drawl mixed with Dick Van Dyke quality cockney and you’ll be about half way there. Dance In The Dark sounds a little like a darker version of her earlier song ‘Just Dance’, funnily enough. Telephone (feat. Beyonce) opens with a harp, and then breaks out into a thumping club track. If you like random vocal effects and hearing Beyonce for a verse, then you’ll probably enjoy it, there’s not much else to it really. So Happy I Could Die is what Rhianna would sound like if she’d been around in the 90s, pop R&B scene. Finally we have Teeth, which to my ears is the love child of Fanz Ferdinand’s ‘Ulysses’ and everything Scissor Sisters ever released. Though sadly, unlike those bands, Lady Gaga’s tongue is nowhere near her cheek in this one.
So where does that leave us? The Fame Monster is an eclectic mix of songs, which while possibly enjoyable on their own, don’t totally work together. Actually even on their own, just as you start to get into a song something, be it the lyrics, or an odd sound effect Gaga decided to add, will make you cringe. The subject matter is a little more mainstream than her main her first album, with each track seeming more about relationships than celebrity. Here’s the rub. Nothing I or any other reviewer says about this album will matter. This album will sell. It will pump out single after single, and Lady Gaga will make video after absurd video to promote it. I still can’t work out whether Lady Gaga is a genius or just very lucky to hit on some untouched artery of the market, but it doesn’t really matter. She’s cemented in pop culture now, and this album is doing nothing to endanger that.
Telephone (feat. Beyonce)