Lady GaGa: 'The Fame Monster'
Published Nov 21 2009, 09:45 GMT | By Nick Levine
This is already the year of Lady GaGa
- and she's not ready to pack up her disco stick yet. Here in Blighty it's available as an uncommonly generous bonus disc accompanying a reissue of The Fame
, her four million-selling debut album, but across the pond Monster
is being released as a record in its own right. "In the midst of my creative journey composing The Fame Monster
, there came an exciting revelation that this was in fact my sophomore album," the Lady herself explains. "It's a complete conceptual and musical body of work that can stand on its own two feet."
She may have couched her reasoning in typically preposterous and pretentious terms, but there's no quibbling with GaGa's conclusion. The Fame Monster
does work as a standalone album and, what's more, it's a far more enjoyable listen than the disc with which it shares its 2CD slipcase. At just eight tracks and 35 minutes, there's no fat, no chance for GaGa's schtick to grate and, crucially, just the one ballad.
Of course, it helps that every track - half of which are RedOne productions, the other half split evenly between Teddy Riley, Ron Fair, Fernando Garibay and Rodney Jerkins - is a cracker. Lead single 'Bad Romance' nearly
equals 'Poker Face' for wow factor, 'Alejandro' channels Ace of Base and 'La Isla Bonita' to deliriously catchy effect, and 'Dance In The Dark' is the sort of song that, well, makes you want to dance with your top off in a grotty German bondage basement. 'Teeth', meanwhile, is the most sonically intriguing thing GaGa's put her name to, an ode to rough sex conducted over an intense, tribal production that recalls Cher's 'Half Breed' and Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk'. Oh, and the ballad? It's called 'Speechless' and it's her best one yet.
Of course, The Fame
had already told us that GaGa can find her way to a tune with a gimp mask on. What The Fame Monster
proves - as if the last 12 months hadn't already made it abundantly clear - is what an exhilarating popstar she is. She can be titillating, "touching herself" at the sight of a "lavender blonde" on 'So Happy I Could Die', tremendous fun – her Beyoncé collaboration, 'Telephone', could make Ann Widdecombe fancy a night on the tiles - and utterly startling, interrupting the '80s club rush of 'Dance In The Dark' to name-check a list of dead female icons: Marilyn, Judy, Sylvia, JonBenet, Diana. Yes, that is JonBenet Ramsey, in case you were wondering.
Best of all, there's a certain fearlessness to GaGa here - specifically, an I-don't-give-a-s**t-if-look-ridiculous sort of fearlessness. Her vocal performances, as anyone who's heard 'Bad Romance' will know, can err towards the deranged. When she tries to sound Spanish on 'Alejandro's spoken word intro, the result is more Dolmio ad than Almodovar. Oh, and barely a year since she scored her first hit, she's already self-referencing ("I wanna Just Dance / But he took me home instead"). Getting to the bottom of the GaGa phenomenon is going to take a hell of a lot longer than 12 months, but she offers a temporary fix here with her latest catchy motto: "I'm a free bitch baby." We wouldn't have her any other way.