Album Review: Lady Gaga, “The Fame” (2008)

I’m probably not the only one who feels this way, but at this moment in time, I’m pretty tired of Lady Gaga.  It’s funny, because when I first heard of her and bought her music, it was this time last year, and she was still virtually unknown.  Of course, now, Lady Gaga’s music is heard on the radio every couple of minutes, and it seems like she’s been on every magazine cover and performed at every award show this year.

The Fame was released in 2008, and is Gaga’s (whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) debut album.  To date, five of the thirteen tracks on the disc have been released as singles, and a handful of the remaining tracks have been played on TV shows and commercials.  Lady Gaga has been compared to and even hailed as the “new Madonna” (not only because of her music and style, but also due to her huge following in the gay community).

Even though now I’m a bit bitter about Lady Gaga and her music, I have to admit that’s it really only because of her overexposure. The Fame is a good debut album, and was actually a favorite of mine for a few weeks last fall, but like all good (or semi-good things, at least) things- the rest of the world quickly caught on and overhyped and overplayed her music.

The disc starts off with once such song, the lead single, and perhaps Gaga’s most famous song, Just Dance.  Like the title suggests, the song is a dance track- electric backing music and an incredibly catchy chorus made this song such a hit.  I feel like everyone in the world has heard this song at this point, as it was played on the radio for about six months straight and on every station it seemed.  Still, the song is an enjoyable, carefree one.  Whenever one of my friends are having problems, the rest of just jokingly  sing to them, “Just dance, gonna be okay!”  The song’s entire carefree and fun vibe is a splendid start to the album.

“Let’s have some fun, this beat is sick, I wanna take a ride on your disco stick,” Lady Gaga’s electronically-enhanced voice sings at the beginning of Love Game.  I never said any of her music was profound.  This song is probably one of the most ridiculous songs I’ve ever heard (“Got my a– squeezed by sexy cupid/Guess he wants to play/Wants to play/A love game”), yet the song has just the right amount of cheesy charm, and another danceable, catchy beat that you forget about how over the top it all is.

Paparazzi was the first song on the album that I truly loved when I purchased it.  It’s also the current single, so I give it a few months before I’m completely sick and tired of this song as well.  Anyway, the tempo is slowed down a bit on this song- it’s still a “dance track”, technically, but for the first time, we can actually tell that Lady Gaga is a singer and not some electronic voice like she is on the previous tracks.  The song doesn’t exactly highlight her voice, but it’s the first song on the album where the vocal production is stripped back and she’s singing.  The electronica beat and Gaga’s vocals are nice, and I’ve always been fond of the lyrics during the chorus (“I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, paparazzi…”).

My other favorite song on the album follows- Beautiful, Dirty Rich.  This track has a sort of hip hop feel to it that I like a lot, with more focus on Gaga’s vocals and the thumping beat.  The chorus is another simple and catchy one (“Bang Bang, we’re beautiful and dirty rich”), and though, again, the topic is pretty vapid, I still find the song likeable and a lot of fun to dance to.

Of course, Poker Face is another of Gaga’s huge hits, and may vie with Just Dance as her most popular song.  Again, I see the appeal here- nice, club-worthy beat, more electronic vocals (though I don’t actually find them appealing, but apparently in the world of Auto-Tune, they are), and a simplistic catchy chorus.  Musically, the song is quite reminiscent of Just Dance…it’s kind of like a sequel too it, I’d say.  Anyway, as I’m incredibly tired of this song, I’ll just end here by saying it’s a good song; played far too much, a bit overrated, but nice.

Lead single, The Fame, is all about, well…fame.  This song is the first one on the album, really, that has any cohesive story in the lyrics.  The writing is catchy enough (“I can’t help myself I’m addicted to a life of material /It’s some kind of joke, I’m obsessively opposed to the typical/All we care about is, runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles /Give me something I wanna be, retro glamour/Hollywood yes we live for the/Fame”), though I must admit that the song borrows a bit from Madonna’s Material Girl.  The music even sounds like something from the late 80’s- all synthesizers and electric guitar.Lady GaGa

Likewise, Money Honey also deals with materialism, and sounds like another 80’s club track.  The chorus is the best part of the song- so incredibly upbeat and catchy that you’ll probably have a hard time getting it out of your head even after the song has ended.   Speaking of the 80’s, Boys Boys Boys, sounds like a handful of songs from the mid-80’s.  The song also reminds me of a lot of Britney Spears’ latest music (and funnily enough, before she went solo, Gaga did some writing and producing for both Spears and The Pussycat Dolls).  The cheesy back up chorus and hand clapping in the background is a bit much, but the song is still decent enough.

The rest of the album is fairly hit and miss.  In Eh Eh [Nothing I Can Say] Gaga channels her inner-Rihanna, with a pop/reggae-influenced track.  The best part of the song is that again, the production isn’t as overpowering as it is in other songs, and you can actually hear the vocals.  Again Again actually does focus on Gaga’s vocals.  The production is stripped down again, and the sound is like something you’d expect in a rock burlesque show, with lots of edgy guitars and a raw rock melody, that sounds nice.  The track is a good one, but is a bit oddly placed among the rest of the louder, more upbeat songs on the album.  Brown Eyes is an actual ballad; the singing is decent, but the song is very boring.  Summerboy sounds like summer and is a delightful, breezy track, yet it still fails to capture my attention.

The album comes to a close with I Like It Rough, another mid-tempo dance track, that’s pretty basic (“You’ve got me wandering why I/I like it rough I/I like it rough I/I like it rough.”), and incredibly repetitive.  The song is a very dull closer to the album.

I’m not saying I don’t understand why Lady Gaga is famous.  I get it.  Her songs are catchy and fun.  The Fame is, mostly, a great dance album.  Like I said, I liked her a good six months before she had made it on the radar (I even have the original UK version of the album- if you buy the disc, you’ll probably receive the revised version which removes Again Again and adds on songs, Starstuck and Paper Gangsta– both of which I’ve never heard). But, on the other hand, I don’t see what makes her so special.  Her vocals are good, but nothing incredible.  Her music is good, but not as unique and innovative as everyone is calling it.  I think she’s a talented artist, and The Fame makes that apparent, but for the most part, Lady Gaga is terribly overrated.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Just Dance
2. Love Game
3. Paparazzi
4. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
5. Eh, Eh [Nothing Else I Can Say]
6. Poker Face
7. The Fame
8. Money Honey
9. Again Again
10. Boys Boys Boys
11. Brown Eyes
12. Summerboy
13. I Like It Rough


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