The Fame Mons†er
Back when I originally reviewed Lady GaGa's debut album I said this: "It is quite fortuitous that Lady GaGa has named her debut album The Fame because, one must assume, she is set to hit it in a big way." Turns out I was to be quite fortuitous, myself. However, I think it's important that once an artist such as Lady GaGa explodes into the world of music that they must be gone over with a fine tooth comb. I don't accept the argument that just because she is, apparently, some beacon of hope within the pop music landscape that she should be given a free pass and I don't believe that people who are claiming The Fame Monster is the single greatest moment in music history (more or less) are being anything but hyperbolic and reactionary.
The Fame Monster is a fine album, sure, but after many listens the initial thrill of it's immediacy has receded and has instead bared itself to be picked at. I think it was the right decision to make it a stand-alone album and not an annoying deluxe edition of The Fame because GaGa has moulded her image so meticulously over the past year that I can barely believe that she sung songs like "Boys Boys Boys", "Money Honey" and "The Fame" with their overt sunniness. However, I wish she had taken more time with The Fame Monster and turned it into a truer marvel.
At only eight tracks long you could say she's going for an '80s vibe, but with tracks at only 4 minutes long - as opposed to the '80s standard of 6 minutes - it feels a bit cheap. Not quite an EP not quite an LP, if you catch my drift. But the problem isn't so much the quantity as it is the quality. There are some truly standout miraculous moments here, but I know an album is in trouble when after only a week I have weeded out several songs and focus on just a few. That the album only had eight songs to begin with doesn't bode well.
"Telephone", which features a spectacularly brilliant guest rap by Beyonce, is my pick of the bunch - despite that fact that she has clearly stolen from the Busy Drag Queen skits - and "Monster" is a song that approaches epic proportions. It truly could have been if she had taken by above advice and extended it to six minutes of earth-shaking "he ate my heart" chants. "So Happy I Could Die" is another winner with its synthesised slow-burn that really gets under my skin while "Dance in the Dark" is enjoyable, but doesn't stick in the mind like it really should. First single, "Bad Romance" is another favourite, but it is a bellwether for problems. While the sound and the production of The Fame Monster by far suits Lady GaGa's extroverted avant-garde style, the loss of femininity in her voice on several tracks is distracting.
The rawness that comes through towards the end of "Bad Romance" is welcome, but what's not is the huskiness that appears elsewhere. It's unattractive and distracting. However, if that is a minor problem on "Bad Romance" then I probably never had a hope with "Speechless". Besides the song being a shameless rip-off of a Beatles production, she slurs her way through the song that is at times indecipherable and other times just plain annoying.
Speaking of shameless rip-offs, what about "Alejandro"? I know many have positioned GaGa as a modern day Madonna - isn't Madonna the modern day Madonna? - and "Alejandro" is ostensibly her version of Madge's "La Isla Bonita". Quite tellingly, "La Isla Bonita" is one of my least favourite Madonna tracks and "Alejandro", despite its addictive "Ale-Alejandro, Ale-Alejandro" refrain, is almost lifeless. It goes nowhere other than being a collection of foreign clichés that make no sense.
Of course, I've left the worst until last and that is "Teeth". A song so dire, worthless and calculated to appear on The Vampire Diaries that it hurts to talk about it. No wonder it's the album closer. If GaGa is the modern day Madonna then she surely hasn't learnt how to conclude an album like Madonna just yet. On the upside I am thankful that there are no stupid ballads like "Brown Eyes" on The Fame Monster and that not once does there appear a "featured" artist of the likes of Flo Rida (crass and obvious much?)
The sad fact, for me, is that The Fame Monster just does not cut it. With only half an album of truly great songs - that's four tracks for those playing along at home - it's a disappointing ratio. And so while some people want to act like this is the second coming of Christ I will happily sit back and watch her develop into a truly exception artist without needing to claim her as one now.