Lady Gaga – The Fame

Let’s start with the good. They picked the singles really well. “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” are pretty decent club bangers with choruses that get stuck in your head. I particularly like the last minute of “Just Dance” where the song shifts to a 4/4 club beat. I also like the “live drum” beat of “Poker Face” and that “mamama” vocal bit. “Paparazzi” has a nice shuffling beat and 80’s new wave synths.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album is pretty terrible. Especially the last half. “Money Honey” is where she runs the ideas from “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” into the ground. “Again Again” slows things down to sub-Christina Aguilera balladry and the shuffling, swinging melody may be one of the most unoriginal melodies in existence and should be retired. “Boys Boys Boys” sounds like a Gwen Stefani / Rock Steady throwaway. “Brown Eyes” sounds like “Again Again” but worse. The “blues” guitar in the song is just about the most unconvincing thing on the whole album, and at points she sounds a little like Avril Lavigne. And that is a lot of the problem. The whole album is a pastiche of more talented, more original artists. Lady Gaga sounds like Annie Lennox in “Poker Face”. She sounds like Gwen Stefani again in “Summerboy”, and the song sounds like a Blondie or Franz Ferdinand rip that was popular two or three years ago. Final song “I Like It Rough” remembers that the album started as a electro pop record. It’s a pretty good despite the Aguilera theatrics.

“Lovegame” is the perfect example of why the album is awful lyrically. “Lets have some fun, this beat is sick, I want to take a ride on your disco stick” is in the running for worst lyrics ever. It’s not helped by a boring 90’s techno/rave melody that goes nowhere and stays that way. The awful “Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)”, which musically sounds like a track on an 80s comp I’d skip over, says it all in its title, doesn’t it. You can argue that she’s doing this as some sort of “piss take” on celebrity culture. But, it’s quite clear she has a huge marketing campaign behind her. It’s clear by her fashions and her early 90’s Madonna-like stage performances that she wants people to notice her. It’s also clear that by trying to reference David Bowie and Queen, and not the artists she really resembles (Aguilera, Stefani, etc), it’s a grab for some sort of respectability that is completely fabricated.

Now for something new to my blog. I’ve been so interested and critical of this album because I listen to a lot of female dance pop artists. I wanted to see why this woman has been selected as the “next Madonna” or whatever. I am completely unconvinced, and would like to give you examples of current female artists who deserve the same popularity and exposure as Lady Gaga is getting. And, also I’ll include some songs by popular artists that do what Lady Gaga does, but better. Lest you think I’m being a snob, the first song I pick is:

Britney Spears – Break The Ice from Blackout. This song also has the live drum sound going on, but the composition of the song is of such a high quality. The cycling synth line is infectuous. And, unlike anything on Lady Gaga’s album the song fills your headphones.

Girls Aloud – Biology from Chemistry. The song starts with a shambolic rendition of a typical bluesy guitar melody, but it’s a red herring. It quickly shifts into a galloping techno track that builds with a huge crescendo. The chorus doesn’t even hit until two minutes in. This is about as good as pop music gets.

Roisin Murphy – Movie Star from Overpowered. A synth riff more monstrous than anything off Lady Gaga’s album. And a lyrical topic tackled throughout Lady Gaga’s album. Just done in a self-aware, and tactful way.

Goldfrapp – Koko from Supernatural. Another huge synth riff, clearly influenced by Gary Numan and creating a pounding yet ethereal pop track out of it. Goldfrapp make their synths rock on this track. And the bridge is divine.

Annie – Loco from Don’t Stop. This song is unreleased. I love the mixture of techno synths and britpop guitar played by Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand. I still listen to this and am amazed Annie didn’t feel it good enough to release.

Sally Shapiro – Miracle from My Guilty Pleasure. From Shapiro’s second album due August 25th. Sally Shapiro’s first album was a gorgeous, unique, well-crafted piece of work, and this first single indicates her second album will bring more of the same only better. This track is a bit more aggressive and anthemic than her earlier work. I also love how her voice is used with the little whispers and multi-tracking.

Robyn – Dream On from Robyn. A bouncy electro track that is conscious of a world beyond fame and sex. Oh, and strings.

Ladytron – Destroy Everything You Touch from Witching Hour. Electro rock pop, gothic and vital and emotional. Bright and bouncy and a dab of shoegaze guitar at the end. It takes a ton of adjectives to explain just this one song.

Lykke Li – Little Bit from Youth Novels. And finally, a slower, quieter song. It’s just as electronic as any of the above songs, but with a pretty, vaguely exotic guitar figure. The lyrics have emotional complexity, but are just as bluntly sexual as Lady Gaga gets: “And for you I keep my legs apart and forget about my tainted heart.”

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