Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Fame Monster: Review

I meant to post this when the album was a little less widely talked about but given how much I love this at the moment it only seems right to share it now.

Good god Lady Gaga doesn’t take time to stop does she? This album, originally announced as an adjunct to The Fame (already a hugely successful release) is now being touted as Gaga’s official second album. It may clock in at only 8 tracks but this is a breathtaking effort, dripping with characteristic Gaga charm and plenty of new tricks.

You already know lead single Bad Romance (and THAT video) by now but needless to say it’s a fantastic track. An aggressive beat, lyrics laden with twisted imagery it manages to sound like what we expect from Gaga and take it to the next level.

Next up is Alejandro, a whirling dance track that has recalls Ace of Bass and Madonna’s La Isla Bonita. Its catchy to the point of distraction and would make a brilliant summer single next year if Gaga isn’t on her 5th album at that stage.

Monster follows, a dark but deceptively upbeat track about a girl and a guy whose nightclub dalliance takes a turn for the twisted. It sums up much of the theme of this album while sounding like the younger cousin of Poker Face. This is a good thing.

Speechless sounds even more disappointing coming off the back of this number. Billed as Gaga’s big ballad it is a hard song to warm to. There is a beautiful idea in this one and some great lyrics but it all gets drowned out in layers of awful production that make it sound like some kind of Michael Buble track. This is one of those songs that cries out for an acoustic reswizz to make you see why it should be great.

Dance In The Dark swoops in straight after and helps rub away some of the cheese left bySpeechless. This is easily the darkest track on the album. A heavy synth line weaves around lyrics about a girl left broken by her man. It uses some deliberately heavy imagery and throws it against a Eurovision chorus but it works brilliantly. It’ll make you dance like a loon but has a fragile quality that makes it oddly haunting.

Telephone slides into view and its mindblowing. And that’s even before Beyonce (yes, BEYONCE) turns up to kick things into high gear on the second verse. This is slated to be the next single and it will literally swallow the charts whole for most of next year. A slamming piece of electro pop it throws around several hooks and bursts with frenetic energy.

So Happy I Could I Die is a bubbly almost ballad that manages to be both tender and make your head bob. It might not stand out as much as some of other tracks but it is still very very good and that says more about Gaga’s own high standards more than anything else.

Teeth is an odd but strangely appropriate closer. A loping R&B beat mashed with growling, suggestive lyrics (‘Take a bite of my bad girl meat” she suggests, which might turn some of you vegetarian) and a burlesque swagger you feel must be left over from Gaga’s early days in the New York clubs. It’s a neat reminder of how far she has taken herself from her first album and a teaser for some of the ideas she might play with on her next album.

So is this worth your time? In short, yes. It might come attached to an album you already own but that won’t matter once you give this collection a listen. This is an (almost) perfect follow up to a truly stellar release and one you will go back to frequently. Despite the huge pile of new releases sitting on my desk begging to be listened to (the joys of music journalism) I’ve come back to this album numerous times over the last few weeks, its brief running time making me come back for more and more. If you like your pop music at all this is a must have.

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