Home > A&E: Editorial/Review > Lady Gaga releases a mature ‘Monster’ of a sophomore album

Lady Gaga releases a mature ‘Monster’ of a sophomore album

By Christina Edwards

December 2, 2009

A year following the release of her debut album “The Fame,” singer Lady Gaga’s own fame has skyrocketed to staggering heights. With four No. 1 singles under her glittery belt, over four million albums sold worldwide and her picture printed in numerous celebrity hit-or-miss fashion blogs, Gaga continues her streak of avant-garde domination with her sophomore effort, “The Fame Monster,” released Nov. 23.

While it was originally packaged as a re-release of her first album, Gaga and Interscope records have released the eight bonus tracks as an album of their own.

“The Fame Monster” picks up where “The Fame” left off. Both musically and in content, Gaga has moved on from discussing fame, money and their perils and onto an earnest and often startling portrayal of her eight fears — including the fear of love, the fear of death and the fear of loneliness.

While the content has moved forward and, in several cases, into a more mature, thoughtful space, “The Fame Monster” is still at heart an electro-pop dance album. Gaga has taken the catchy, club-destined beats of her debut and pushed them a step further, becoming more ambitious with production and more creative with her experimentation.

The result is a mass of hits, with a few scattered misses that are still admirable attempts.

One of the highlights of the album is “Monster,” a darker turn of the club beats that gave her success with “LoveGame” and “Pokerface.” The song opens with a breathy, spoken “don’t call me Gaga,” setting the horror-film-meets-underground-club feel. She goes on to sing about the monster who ate her heart, throwing in a cheeky reference to her carefree first single “Just Dance.” The result perfectly straddles the line between potential radio hit and solid artistic experimentation.

“Telephone,” her collaboration with Beyonce, feels almost destined for top-40 success, a result of the combined unstoppable star power and danceable backbeat. The song veers toward overproduction in spots, but the sassy punch of the lyrics takes the attitude of “Single Ladies” one step further and makes up for it.

The album also features several more esoteric attempts that may never see wide radio play, but certainly add to her credibility as an artist. “Speechless,” written to convince her father to have open-heart surgery, is a poignant piano-driven ballad with some of the album’s most heavy-hitting, raw lyrics.

As she wails “I’ll never talk again/oh boy, you’ve left me speechless,” the listener finally gets to see the crack in her shiny veneer. The dark, brash lyrics of “Teeth” are almost scary as they hit hard, but are easily some of her most bold artistic ventures yet.

There are weak spots, of course. Lead single “Bad Romance” feels predictable and uninspired at spots, recalling dance beats of the 80s a little too familiarly.  “Dance in the Dark” is slightly overproduced with too much going on, while still managing to drag the beat. Both tracks feel like a Madonna update, but the update part seems to have been forgotten.

Gaga is one of the most exciting artists on the current pop scene. She’s not afraid to dabble in disco and techno and attempts to make it heartfelt or hard-hitting. At times, she falls flat on her face in the process, but the brilliance of the hits far outweigh the missteps.

Overall, “The Fame Monster” is more than worthy of a listen, and if Gaga can continue to progress in later musical forays the way she has here, make sure to keep an eye out for a fast-rising star.

Originally written for the Pendulum

Categories: A&E: Editorial/Review
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