Album review: Lady Gaga – ‘The Fame Monster’ (Polydor)

Hate all you like, but it's getting harder and harder to deny she's a mistress of her art

Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? About 99 per cent of pop is drudging twuntery assembled by blank-eyed robots who are unjustly rewarded with mountains of cash, while all my favourite bands languish and die in places like Tacoma, Washington. As someone who believes hardcore punk to be mankind’s highest artform, [a]Lady Gaga[/a] is the antithesis of my fucking soul: she eats diamonds marinated in the tears of seraphim, I eat week-old misery on toast. I’d despise her… but she is that remaining one per cent.

It’s because she’s baffling. ‘The Fame Monster’, being eight new tunes welded to last year’s ‘The Fame’ (where most pop muppets would tack on a tossed-off remix or two, La Gaga delves into her paranoid soul and constructs a thematic collection around new demons that have invaded her life – monsters representing her fear of, among others, sex, death, loneliness and alcohol) is as pristine as you’d expect, but has a sub-zero core of isolation and fear. In the same way as [a]Radiohead[/a] battle computers and learn new instruments to hew their sculptures while [a]Fuck Buttons[/a] and [a]HEALTH[/a] discover new sonic languages, she uses pop, its producers and masks and all its artifice, as her tool of self-expression.

‘So Happy I Could Die’ perfectly evokes the feeling of being alone in a crowded room with its icy beats, suggesting Gaga takes refuge in masturbation as the only way to retain control, while ‘Bad Romance’ would be hateful if it didn’t have a chorus so wonderfully big it dwarfs the industry of a million angry dudes with guitars. Next to the light-hearted ‘Alejandro’, the jagged ‘Teeth’ and ‘Speechless’, an old-fashioned torch song that sounds like it was recorded with the sole intention of being sung while Gaga sprawls hungrily over a grand piano, are proof of her range and depth of talent. And in an ecstasy of look-how-fucking-gargantuan-we-are-as-icons, Beyoncé appears on ‘Telephone’ to effectively say cheers for Gaga singing on her ‘Video Phone’. Coincidence? This shit’s as organised and potent as a North Korean military parade.

Those new songs are fine, even though ‘Dance In The Dark’ and ‘Monster’ are slightly too disposable, but considering the likes of the stone-cold stunner ‘Paparazzi’ and of course ‘Poker Face’, pretty much the one song 2009 will be remembered for, are included on the original album, this becomes essential for anyone who even remotely likes pop. For the rest of us, it’s the moment Gaga cements herself as a real star. Damn.

Ben Patashnik

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