Lady Gaga may be a spectacle, but beneath the ornate bubble costumes and marketing schemes is a highly self-aware pop star. The Fame Monster, an eight-track re-release of the singer’s 2008 debut The Fame, is more like an abridged album, boasting sharp lyrics, dance numbers from the school of “Poker Face” and indulgent fantasies often involving Gaga as the alpha female-FTW.
As on The Fame, Red One handles the bulk of production, which means lots of whirling synths, blips and buzzes. The highlight: “Monster,” wherein Gaga repeats a roboticized refrain of how “that boy is a monster.” The writing is far from poppy: “We French kissed on a subway train / He tore my clothes right off / He ate my heart and then he ate my brain.”
Along with the roaring ra-ra ooh-la-la lead single “Bad Romance,” there’s a Spanish rhythm (“Alejandro”) and a so-so Nashville-esque ballad about papa as a rolling stone with a “half wide-open jaw” and “Johnnie Walker eyes” (“Speechless”).
The club tracks are the standouts. A pounding drumbeat drives the Teddy Riley-produced “Teeth,” which sounds like a hip-hop Western in a good way. From a soft piano intro, the much anticipated Beyoncé duet “Telephone” breaks into a boisterous bug-a-boo anthem with stuttered protests from Gaga (“W-what did you say? Aw you’re breakin’ up on me”) and an over-enunciated Bey (“Boy, the way you blowin’ up my phone won’t make me leave no faster”).
With Lady Gaga soon venturing on tour, The Fame Monster is a collection of picturesque dance joints with stage-worthy concepts: A glow-in-the-dark set-up for “Dance in the Dark,” perhaps? A Where the Wild Things Are reference for “Monster”? We shall see. But until then, there’s enough to keep Gaga enthusiasts dancing in the dark, or the light. —Clover Hope
Listen to “Telephone” feat. Beyoncé here: