Welcome to Musical Appreciation. And we’re at the conclusion to this year’s Women’s Month. So who can we end this month on? How about Lady Gaga? Initially, I was one of those people who hated on her big time, which you can tell on my earlier posts. But when she was no longer the focus of attention, I gave her music a second chance and I can safely say I’m glad I did. I discovered some of the most clever and infectious pop music of the 21st century. Granted, I still have problems with her music, but that’s a conversation for another day. Today, we’ll be looking at Gaga’s best album to date, a reissue of her debut album The Fame. This is The Fame Monster.
- Bad Romance: A modern-day pop masterpiece, Bad Romance is what I would call a 21st century classic. The epic synths that kicks into the chorus along with thumping percussion and a chorus that would fit in to a lot of techno and house tracks from the 80s and 90s is infectious as hell. I’ve been critical of toxic relationship songs, but the writing here frames the situation to wanting to know someone’s darkest secrets that they won’t share with anyone else. Not sure if I’m cool with that, but hey. The rest of the song is awesome. Not much else needs to be said.
- Alejandro: One of my other favorite Gaga songs is Alejandro, a kiss-off to three ex-lovers. Though I’m not sure why it’s called Alejandro when he’s not the only focus of the song. Nitpicking aside, as most people would tell you, it has similarities to songs from Ace Of Base and ABBA, which you can tell in, well, everything in the song. I dig the string arrangement that compliments the mid-tempo synth production. This is one of those songs that I would gladly revisit time and time again.
- Monster: Next up is Monster, a track that has a lot in common with synthpop tracks from the 80s in its synths and percussion. Gaga describes her fear of being in a bad relationship due to bad experiences, afraid that the person she falls in love with becomes a monster both as a person and in the bed. Wouldn’t call it my favorite Gaga song, but it’s cool.
- Speechless: The sole ballad of the album, Speechless is a glam rock track inspired by Queen, especially in its instrumentation. The song is aimed at her father, who she pleads with her father, who suffered from a heart condition, to get surgery to fix his aortic valve. She really loves her father and doesn’t want him to die. It’s something that a lot of people can relate to that they can draw back to personal experiences. A definite highlight of the album.
- Dance In The Dark: And now for Dance In The Dark. The Madonna influence is heavy in this track because it sounds like something that she would’ve made in the 90s. The production is much darker than other songs on the album, with low-end synths and a heavier beat that packs a punch. As for writing? It’s a sex song, so make of that what you will.
- Telephone ft Beyonce: The once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between two of the biggest names in pop music, Telephone was a big deal at the time along with its music video. And it was… okay. Not great, not horrible, just okay. On one hand. I like the production and it is catchy. But on the other hand, I’m not feeling the writing, which compares not wanting to answer her boyfriend’s phone call to suffocation. Plus, Beyonce had no reason to be on this track and she was forgettable. This is a song that I don’t mind skipping.
- So Happy I Could Die: Next, we have So Happy I Could Die. It’s a but Auto-Tune-heavy, but I like it fine enough. It has the synth-heavy dance-pop production that we expected from the rest of the album and the lyrical indulges in a lot of hedonistic acts like getting drunk and high and even references to masturbation. Far from the best song on the album, but it’s much better than the next track.
- Teeth: And the album concludes on Teeth, the worst song on the album. So much of this song reminds me too much of what The Pussycat Dolls would make: messy production, hedonistic and sexual lyrical content that brings up showing teeth because shut up, a below-average vocal performance. Gaga is capable of doing SO much better than this and because it’s the last song on the album, it’s a really bad way of concluding things. So skip it.
And that’s The Fame Monster, one of the best pop albums of the current century that saved pop music from being complete shit. The dance tunes are bound to get butts moving on the dance floor. The writing is potent, hitting you with the force of a tsunami along with killer vocal performances from Gaga herself. The entire project explores the downside of fame and is much darker in tone compared to The Fame. This album is a landmark of pop music of the 2000s and it holds up the most out of its contemporaries. In my personal opinion, while I appreciate her growth as an artist and her wanting to do different things, this was Gaga at her creative peak. Will she ever make an album that comes close to its level or above it? Who knows? Either way, you know that I’ll be checking it out.
So that was Musical Appreciation. Next time, we’ll talk about Mothership Connection. And next week is the Worst Songs of 2009.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Bad Romance-Lady Gaga
This Way-Dilated Peoples ft Kanye West
Ziggy Stardust-David Bowie
Feel Good Inc.-Gorillaz