The Fame – Lady GaGa (2008)

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For some reason in my mind I consider Lady Gaga a ‘new’ artist yet her debut album was released in 2008 which is eight years ago on writing this review.

Gaga has gone through a number of stylistic changes to her appearance and musical output which one could say was designed to keep things fresh like a Madonna or Michael Jackson type but I feel there is more of a struggle with the type of artist that she wants to be or at least tries to be.

It all started with this album “The Fame” which yield much success for the New York born singer/songwriter. There three international hit singles and like with any debut album this set has become the foundation for all that has come after it.

But whilst Gaga would strive to be a complete artist and cite the likes of David Bowie as influences for me this album sits more into the bracket of other female pop artists such as Rihanna, Beyonce and Katy Perry. The reason I say this is not based on misogyny but on the fact that her fan base caters to the same as those artists.

The album kicks off with her first big hit “Just Dance”. A synthpop number this track is loud, busy and at times a little messy with it’s instrumentation. Melodically I like it and Gaga’s vocal is compelling on the verses.

Lyrically it is about being at a club and getting very drunk and simply dancing it off. A simple but catchy pop song co written with Akon the messy nature of the instrumentation is probably deliberate given the lyrical content and is meant to transport you to a loud party environment. It’s a strong opener.

“Love Game” is not as strong. I disliked this song at the time of it’s release and the only thing that has changed eight years on is that it sounds extremely dated. The production is of a time. The vocal on the verses is extremely annoying and the whole structure of the track lacks in flow. The vocal over the electro tune sounds at odds with one another and poorly programmed.

“Paparazzi”  is not as uptempo as the previous tracks and works a little better. The melodic structure is simple and whilst I find the chorus bland the track works better at connecting her vocal with the instrumentation. I still believe the production dated far too quickly but lyrically the song is a little more interesting with Gaga at odds with the price of fame and is aware that her eagerness for success will be tough to handle with the media.

The 4th track is “Poker Face” which remains one of her biggest hits and most well known songs. I like this track and it captures more of the what Gaga has tried to do with her debut album. The tune is much more cohesive and if you listen to the song without any vocals it still remains a interesting piece of electro music.

The vocal on the verses is distorted for a part but the robotic nature of the track is what gives it a bit more edge. Gaga is singing about deception and that uses the connection to the game of Poker to explain how her real feelings are often hidden.

“Eh, Eh. (Nothing else I can say)” is a much more standard song in it’s style. You could be forgiven for thinking this isn’t even the same album. It sounds very like a European pop track from the 90’s more in common with the likes of ‘Ace of Base’ than anything else.

I am unsure what she is trying to say in this song. She has met someone new but all she has to say is “Eh”. I can’t really work out if this is a good thing or not. You could interpret this as he has rendered her almost speechless or he is so boring that all she can say is “Eh”. In short, this song is fucking dreadful.

“Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” is far better. The drums are again more akin to a 90’s track and her influences are clear. This was a surprise to me as I hadn’t heard this song before yet instantly liked it. The whole song is exciting and a bit more funky which is always going to please me. The song is under 3 minutes long but is one of the more memorable off “The Fame”.

There is a similar theme instrumentally on the title track “The Fame”. There is a more prominent guitar and flows well. Lyrically the track should have been the opening song because it acts as a base for the entire project.

Fame, doin’ it for the fame
Cause we wanna live the life
Of the rich and famous
Fame, doin’ it for the fame
Cause we gotta taste for champagne
And endless fortune

The shallowness of the lyrics continue on the 8th track “Money Honey”. The tune sounds pretty much the same as “Just Dance”. The song talks about her love for all things expensive. She says on the bridge that actually her love for kisses is actually more important than the champagne life style on the catch yet hollow themed song.

“Startruck” starts with Gaga doing a bit of a rap which as you may guess, doesn’t sound very good. The use of auto tune is heavily used with rapper Flo Rida guesting. The song is one of the better dance numbers. How comfortable Gaga is with Electro R&B is questionable for me and this track is further proof that this debut album is little more than of a certain time with the aim to do nothing but make an impact on the already saturated Electro R&B market which Gaga is simple part of and not above.

“Boys Boys Boys” is not a cover of the Sabrina track but is still just as stunning shit.

Boys, boys, boys, we like boys in cars
Boys, boys, boys, buy us drinks in bars
Boys, boys, boys with hairspray and denim
And boys, boys, boys, we love them, we love them

Do I need to say more?

“Paper Gangsta” begins with a piano but is ruined by an autotuned rap from Gaga. She is better when she is just singing and I cannot really believe the sudden street rapper vibe she is trying to sell. Lyrically she is talking about being let down and wants this man to be real and not all talk. It’s a song that by this point of the album I can only sigh in frustration.

“Brown Eyes” at this point is very welcome. Gaga showcases her voice over a simple piano led pop song. This song doesn’t belong on “The Fame” in anyway. It’s melodic, rocky and whilst I wouldn’t say it was a great song it is more what I would think she should have been striving for with her debut. The song is about love, loss and reflection.

It would seem that “Brown Eyes” was just a quick interruption to the regular program as the electro beats are back on the the 13th track “I Like It Rough”. The title of the song suggests a more smutty content but this line is used to speak about how her life is difficult due to addiction and loving the wrong people.

Whilst this track sounds similar to many of the other songs on this album the hook is certainly catchy and I think she sounds very strong vocally on this track. The synth tune is also more interesting.

The next track (and final song on the version I am listening to) “Summerboy” sees Gaga bring in the funk. The vocal sounds very similar to Gwen Stefani and to be honest I had to check that she wasn’t actually guesting on this song. But despite this similarity this song is one of the best on the album.

It is a proper pop song. It’s structure is catchy, clean and enjoyable. It doesn’t really fit on this album at all but it is refreshing to hear a song on this set that lets loose some funky guitar and a baseline you can follow. It’s generic no doubt but it’s light, and fun.

 

The concept of this album is about being famous and all the things that come with the lifestyle so critcising the album lyrically is a little harsh as it is called “The Fame” after all.

I find this album a hard listen because on a lot of the songs the production sounds so messy. I also believe that Gaga’s advantage over many of her contemporaries is her voice which since this album she has been able to showcase a lot more and show that she is a world class singer.

Great singers need great material and “The Fame” does not have this. It’s a introduction but musically it is dated and quite ugly to listen to.

All in all I found “The Fame” quite bland.

 

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