BRWC is 2: The Fame by Lady Gaga

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Here goes my second BRWC 2nd Anniversary post, and it’s a “hip”, “timely” one… At least for me…

I am quite picky when it comes to music I will listen to and love on a regular and repeat basis. When I like an artist, song or album I will obsessively listen to each millisecond of recorded aural pleasure until each syllable is permanently etched into my brain. Needless to say if I just loved everything that is popular or well known my mind would be filled to bursting AND I would probably be clinically retarded. Because, lets face it, MOST modern music is mediocre at best and at worst… well… there is Solange Knowles.

I grew up on a steady diet of well written, lovingly crafted and produced music from the varying likes of Queen, The Bee Gees, Led Zepplin, Elton John, Dio, Ennio Morricone, etc. All were classic artists, with classic songs and brilliant, seemingly unending repertoires of excellent music.

As I got older and my musical tastes expanded off into the far reaches (Tangerine Dream anyone?) I came up with a sort of natural, mental litmus test that determines what music I will enjoy.

First: And most importantly, you must be able to hear in the music that its creator truly loves what he or she has made.

Second: No matter how serious the subject matter I like to be able to tell that the artist is not taking his or herself too seriously.

Third (and Last): The music must be well written and produced (a sense of lyrical humor is also nice, but not 100% necessary.)

This criteria and general pickiness brings me to today’s subject matter, “The Fame” by Lady Gaga. I was first exposed to Gaga via the video for her single “Poker Face.” I encountered it one morning after rising early and flipping on Vh1. After a few bland, acoustic-ish, no talents rolled across the screen this glittering, campy disco ball of pseudo anti-pop, disco pulsed gloriousness rising up out of a storm surrounded pool to a thumping electronic beat.

At first I was merely stunned and amused, paying the music no mind, while watching this live-action anime-like creature strut across the screen with fearless ridiculousness. My obsessive nature took the best of me and I decided I needed to own this video. Slowly but surely the SONG at the heart of the video also worked its way into my subconscious. Pulsing and pumping around in my brain it stuck like gum to a shoe.

At this point I realized why I was loving what I was seeing and hearing. Lady Gaga is a complete caricature of what is wrong with current music. She has taken everything that Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan hint at in their various endeavors and taken it to a cartoonish extreme, thereby making into some weird art form all it’s own.

Lady Gaga’s music and image is something that shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s firmly rooted in the last days of disco and early stages of 80’s New Wave, but also a part of today’s over produced, practically computer crafted audio creations. It’s totally posed and planned, but it seems like at any minute it could fall apart and just go anywhere. All that adds up to a thoroughly delicious and entertaining experience, but the music would never work without the insane visual counterpart of Lady Gaga herself. If Britney tried to do these songs they would fall flat because she doesn’t have that sense of humor or balls out gusto that makes Gaga work.

“Just Dance” is the first track off of The Fame. It is an exceedingly well produced song. The lyrics (simply enough, about getting smashed while on a night out on the town) are prattled off in a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek manner by a relentlessly cheeky Gaga (who also writes and co-produces every song on the album) and briefly by guest singer Colby O’Donis. Overall the song is pulse pounding, melodic and sure to get your toes tapping.

“Love Game” is up next and it is a doozy. Double entendres run rampant throughout this dazzilingly produced piece. The lyrics roll off Gaga’s tongue winking all the way. With talk of talk of riding “disco sticks” and lines like “You’ve indicated your interest, I’m educated in sex yes” this one is sure to keep your pulse and your mind racing.

“Paparazzi” is the solid third track. This song is a bit different than the other two, more melodic and somber, but still cheekily playful. Paparazzi is one of those delightful love songs where the protagonist loves someone so much they must stalk them. Being a bit psychotic myself, this type of song always scores a soft spot in my heart.

“Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” is next and is one of the few songs I don’t really enjoy from the album. The song is still well written and produced. It has a nice thick back beat, and a good rhythm, but overall it just doesn’t work as well for me. It’s short though and it’s nice to hear that Gaga doesn’t shove a mess of pitch correction on her voice. On this song and all the others you can tell it’s a real human being singing.

“Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” is a change of pace. It’s light and airy, with just little pings of synthesizers floating along with its soft melody. The song is like a fun day at the beach. It’s a good listen. The lyrics are fluffy, but still sort of playfully winking at general pop music clichés, making them more interesting than they would be otherwise. And as usual, the production values are exquisite without being overbearing.

“Poker Face”, back to the Lady we know and love. The beat and lyrics are breathless in their ability to relentless infiltrate your ears and mind. Immensely catchy, be it from the initial deep voiced, stuttering “Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma’s” or the dreamily melodic tune of the “Can’t read my, can’t read my Poker Face” chorus. Once you get beyond that though, the lyrics are well timed semi-subversive tongue tricks that are unleashed at a furious pace. Plus, any song that features a line like “I won’t tell you that I love you, kiss or hug you, cause I’m bluffin’ with my muffin” deserves to be a modern day classic of some sort. Without a doubt the best overall song on the album.

“The Fame” follows next. It’s no secret Lady Gaga loves David Bowie (in fact she probably wouldn’t exist without him) and this song seems to be her homage to him. The production values are a bit more stripped down on this one. The beat accentuated with a plucky electric guitar and “shaker beans.” The song sounds like it could have come from one of Bowie’s lesser, but still interesting mid-eighties releases. This is one of the lesser tracks on the album, but still a good listen. The lyrics poke fun at today’s current media obsessed culture and the production values are consistent and engaging.

“Money Honey” begins with a silly, deep synthesizer that is sure to get stuck in your head. Gaga goes a bit deeper and throaty with her vocals in this song and it is a refreshing change of pace. Once again the lyrics are playful, ballsy and fun. And the song is sort of a cheeky, melodic, listing of all the things Lady Gaga loves about being rich and famous. If anyone else did it, it would seem conceded or flashy, but as always Gaga makes it fun and funny.

“Again Again” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It is very different from every other song. This would be the second closest thing to a “ballad” on The Fame. It features soulfully searing vocals from Gaga. And lyrics you can tell are deeply personal, but not maudlin. The production work is stripped down, but still pleasing to the ears. I guess one might even put this in the “blue eyed soul” category. Part of the reson I love the song is because it reminds me of “Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin” by Journey.

“Boys Boys Boys” switches back to the general sound The Fame has given us so far. The song sounds a little like Money Honey, due to some similar synthesizers and production work, but this is a better song. Once again the lyrics are cheeky and playful, in a kind of juvenile manner. If the lovely chorus melody doesn’t get stuck in your head check your pulse cause you might be dead. And yet again Gaga indulges in throwing out memorably goofy lines like “love it when you call me legs, in the morning buy me eggs.”

“Brown Eyes” is another “different” song. This would be THE closest thing to a ballad on the album. It’s slow and soulful, a very welcome change of pace. This is also another favorite track of mine, do to some little touches in the production work (namely a very retro sounding subtle synthesizer riff in the chorus.) Once again Gaga shows she aint no one trick pony in the vocal department by whipping out an impassioned and sentimental performance. The lyrics are deep and heartfelt, but still with a welcome sense of humor. I’d call this the second best song on The Fame.

“Summerboy” switches gears again. This song combines the danceable beats of the bulk of the tracks, with the stripped down and more “rock-like” production values of Again Again and Brown Eyes. This is a fun song, one you could put on in the car and just get lost in. The lyrics are engaging and catchy. And the hooks are ever present and solid. The chorus is especially well written, melodic and memorable.

“I Like it Rough” closes out the “standard edition” of The Fame (which is what I am reviewing from.) I like this song, but I feel that perhaps they should have ended the album with Summerboy. This is a well produced and written pop song, but it feels kind of like filler or that it has just been tacked on. Perhaps if they had placed it in between The Fame and Money Honey it would have worked better. STILL I do like the song. Once again Gaga’s lyrical word play makes the song more memorable than it would be in lesser mouths.

So, in a nutshell “The Fame” is a brilliant modern pop album. All of the songs are witty, well written and crafted. The whole album is fun and intriguing from start to finish. Even the lesser songs make for a good listening experience. Lady Gaga is a talented song writer and producer, who SHOULD have a long and fruitful career ahead of her. Despite the giddy deliriousness of The Fame I’m not totally convinced her follow up album (and I mean full follow up, not the gloriously decent EP The Fame Monster), whatever it may be, will scale the heights this one does, but I cannot wait to see her try.

• Just Dance- 9/10
• Love Game- 9/10
• Paparazzi- 8/10
• Beautiful, Dirty, Rich- 5/10
• Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)- 7/10
• Poker Face- 10/10
• The Fame- 5/10
• Money Honey- 6/10
• Again Again- 8/10
• Boys Boys Boys- 8/10
• Brown Eyes- 9/10
• Summerboy- 9/10
• I Like It Rough- 5/10

Overall Rating for “The Fame”- 8 out of 10 Disco Balls

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