Album for the day

Album for the day 24/06/21: Lady Gaga, “The Fame”

Speaking of girl power, here’s a Lady Gaga review I wrote in 2009, during yet another of my myriad attempts at being a music writer. Enjoy!

Back in 2009, I was trying to save money to become a full time student again. One of the ways I made a few extra quid was posting reviews of albums, DVDs and even antibacterial hand gel (I was SO ahead of the curve!) on some of the old pay-for-review sites. Here, for your entertainment, is the review I wrote for Lady Gaga’s dazzling debut album “The Fame”. I even mentioned Shampoo! Clearly, I have never gotten over that duo’s split.

You only need to look at Lady Gaga to see she has one fundamental aspect of pop covered – her striking image, part sparkly pop of early Madonna, part glam trash of 70s Bowie. Just as teenage girls in the mid 80s shocked their parents by striding out in torn fishnets and massive crucifixes, it’s heartening to think that even as I type there’s a 14 year old girl somewhere with a platinum wig and glittering metallic adornments across her cheek being roundly told by her mother that on no account is she going out like THAT. This is what pop music is all about after all: aspiration.

Well, that, and great tunes, which her debut album ‘The Fame’ has in abundance. As the title suggests, it’s all about the flashing lights, the blinding sparkle, the decadence and debauchery of stardom. And so it should be.

The album starts with the intergalactically huge hit ‘Just Dance’, all about getting so drunk your clothing turns inside out, you lose all your possessions and forget the way home, all in the name of shaking it on the floor. Next track ‘Lovegame’ is even better and features the immortal line ‘I wanna take a ride on your disco stick’. It’s clear by now that this album will be full of serious synth hooks in minor keys, insidiously suggestive of illicit dealing with illicit people with optional illicit substances.  ‘Paparazzi’ follows this trend for the verses but is offset by a surprisingly sweet chorus. Then suddenly Gaga shouts “We’re plastic but we STILL HAVE FUN!” sounding as though she were suddenly a member of Shampoo, which is, of course, brilliant.

‘Poker Face’ is THE killer single, and impossible not to hear the opening synth bleeps and deep scary ‘ma ma ma ma!’ noises without recalling that iconic image of Lady Gaga emerging resplendent from a pool flank by two huge dogs. ‘I Like It Rough’ makes use of some excellent robot-like voices and features the intriguing line “I’m in the bedroom with tissues”. The chorus is so catchy you will probably even catch your local vicar warbling “I like it rough, I, I like it rough” to nearby startled grannies.

Things take a different turn with “Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say”, in which Gaga manages to retain her dignity despite the opening lyric of “cherry cherry boom boom”. It’s all cheery sunny hippy hoppy reggae-y beats in a way that makes you want to stroll out in hotpants on a summer’s day blasting the tune from the massive boombox on your shoulder. “Starstruck” commences with some serious vocoder action and lyrics yet again about “cherry cherry boom boom”, but more cherries this time for variety. Catchy enough, but fairly derivative especially as a random rapper wanders in half way through.

“Beautiful Dirty Rich” takes a break from the 80s flavour of the album by featuring a beat straight from 90s indie-dance, and excitingly, gun shots. Despite rhyming ‘honey’ with ‘money’ far too many times, it’s a great big stonking tune and probably the next single. “The Fame” features INXS style guitars, hand claps and what sounds like someone trying to tune a radio station in your left speaker/headphone. “Money Honey” – trend emerging here – has a snaking synth bassline and yet another infectious chorus, but the album really picks up again with “Boys Boys Boys”, with its very 80s drum roll, very 80s cheerleader shouting and very 80s bubblegum chorus.

“Paper Gangsta” slows things down a bit with some old school piano, vocoder rapping and a more reflective melody, plus an odd bit of distorted hymnal chanting at the end. “Brown Eyes” is the first actual ballad and belies her Bowie/Queen influence, punctuated by 70s-style staccato guitars and a hopping synth line. “Summerboy”, despite some worrying Gwen Stefani stylings, is an instant pop classic, with its immensely catchy chorus and brilliant use of handclaps. “Disco Heaven” does exactly what it says on the tin, sounding like a lost Spice Girls tune crossed with the Scissor Sisters, and therefore fantastic. The final proper track, “Again Again”, is another ballad, this time in the Christina Aguilera vein, fuelled by big piano chords and slightly histrionic wailings. The remix of “Lovegame” which closes the album is somewhat redundant apart from giving us a chance to hear “I wanna take a ride on your disco stick” backwards.

In short, this is an album with an abundance of cracking tunes, catchy hooks, beats that make you bop about in a silly fashion, and lyrics that make you go ‘…hmmmm’. If you’re a fan of great pop, this album should definitely be in your CD shelf, ‘My Music’ folder or MP3 player of choice.

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