Monday, October 28, 2013

The Fame Monster (2009)

By Fall of 2009, The Fame was still fresh in our minds, with "Paparazzi" being released just a few months prior. However, unlike many mainstream artists before her, Lady Gaga knew not to ride out the success of just one record for too long. When her Fame Ball Tour ended in September, she announced a new CD, entitled The Fame Monster. Though it wasn't a full-length album, rather it was originally meant to be a "DLC add-on" to The Fame, hence the similar naming scheme.

Though this is, by definition, an EP (including only eight songs), most people(myself included) consider it Lady Gaga's second album, so I will refer to it as such for all intents and purposes. It was packaged in a two-disc set, with the second disc containing every song from The Fame.

As the title might suggest, this record was meant to delve into the darker side of fame (though her first album did that at several points already). Once again, themes are rather varied here. Each song is based on a "monster" representing one of Gaga's fears. Filled with gratuitous reference to pleasuring oneself, "So Happy I Could Die" touches on the fear of alcohol and addiction. The smash-hit lead single, "Bad Romance" refers to the fear of love, and is her biggest hit song even today. Other themes explored include the fear of the truth ("Teeth"), insecurity ("Dance in the Dark"), and even sex and abuse in the title track, "Monster", which I feel is the album's strongest point.

Arguably, the biggest highlight of this CD was its second single, "Telephone", a song Gaga originally wrote for fellow pop star Britney Spears. It features long-time favorite, Beyonce, as a guest. This was Gaga's first time collaborating with a big-name artist, which was impressive back then, as she was still relatively new. The song itself deals with the fear of suffocation (not literally, mind you, more so that of a significant other who's always "in your face"), and the music video serves as a sequel of sorts to "Paparazzi", and had a ton of production put into it. Beyonce's verse is quite brief, but it adds to the song positively. Bey plays a much larger role in the video. Not one to forget where she came from, Gaga returns to her rock-piano ballad roots with "Speechless", a song overflowing with emotion that touches on the fear of death. It was written for her father. The final single, "Alejandro" covers one of the more interesting fears: that of man himself. It's symbolic, yet catchy, much like its predecessors.

In closing, I think this record offers a little bit of everything, which is what the Lady is usually best at. It served as a worthy successor to her debut album and, despite its small number of songs, proved good enough to stand on its own. If I had to harp on anything about The Fame Monster, it would be the choice of singles. The three that were chosen, while enjoyable, didn't seem as great as "Monster", "So Happy I Could Die", and the other non-singles. The inclusion of the extra The Fame CD was a good way for newer fans to give her older work a listen, as well as a way to show that the records made a fitting pair. As with her first album, if you want dance-worthy earworms that still have meaning behind them, this might be worth looking into.

Favorite track: Monster
Least favorite track: Alejandro
Overall rating: 9/10

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