album reviews

Lady Gaga
The Fame
Interscope Records (2008)

Kindred spirits: Madonna, Queen, Pussycat Dolls

Lady Gaga takes everything to the extreme on her album "The Fame" and its ubiquitous dance-pop singles. She glamorizes alcohol overconsumption ("Just Dance" is about being totally blitzed at a club) and flaunts her sexuality on "Poker Face" and "Lovegame."

Gaga (nee Stefani Joanne Germanotta) steps over the line of decorum in more than just her lyrics: Her performance at this month's MTV Video Music Awards pushed the themes of stalking and fame in her song "Paparazzi" into insinuations of suicide by hara-kiri and hanging, thanks to an unexpected burst of fake blood. Gaga has a flare for the dramatic that recalls Queen and a penchant for Madonna's hypersexuality (not to mention her skimpy performance outfits, which feature even less fabric than the Pussycat Dolls' get-ups).

The thing is, Gaga doesn't really need to rely on gimmicks and glitz: She's a competent songwriter in her own right. She co-penned every track on "The Fame" and has written catchy tunes for fellow dance-pop vixens the Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears. Her piercing voice expresses the desperation of "Paparazzi" far better than fake blood ever could, and she doesn't need raunch to capture falling out of love on the chirpy ballad "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)." While her over-the-top schtick certainly does make a splash, it also obscures any glimmer of talent and artistry beneath the surface, reducing her to a mere publicity stunt.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 25 September 2009
.: The Fame on