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10 Years On: Revisiting Lady Gaga's 'The Fame Monster'


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Having cemented herself firmly at the forefront of chart music with 2008’s debut The Fame, Lady Gaga quickly capitalised on her meteoric rise by releasing The Fame Monster in 2009.

Image by Ashley Scott via Flickr

Lead single ‘Bad Romance’ topped the British charts and confirmed Gaga as the first solo female artist to have three chart-toppers in a calendar year, the others being 'Just Dance' and 'Pokerface' from the previous album cycle. 

Dealing with the dark underbelly of fame, Gaga expressed her experiences and feelings through a monster metaphor in which the whole album was presented, with industrial and gothic undertones. Incorporating influences of glam-rock, disco and synth pop of the 1980s, the album is an avant-garde example in mixing fashion and music to create a standout pop record. 

‘Bad Romance’ is commanding and direct, combining a monstrous chorus and sweeping synths into a stadium pop track that has only two volumes, 10 and 11. In each of the eight tracks, Gaga describes tales of paranoia and melancholia in a claustrophobic and demanding celebrity environment.

Her lyrics describe the perils of the spotlight. On 'Teeth', Gaga longs for a defining moment as she risks being swallowed by the music business - "Just tell me when it’s alright / Tell me something that’ll change me". Her wearable art projects coincide with her awkward, AI dance moves as if she has been stripped of her personality and loaded with the ingredients to make the perfect, industry-stamped ideal. With the benefit of hindsight and the rise of the picture-perfect Instagram influencer, it's a genius concept. 

The Fame Monster carved a distinct sound on the radio, using infectious club-beats and towering rhythm sections, Gaga showed a total disregard towards the regular radio-friendly pop song with sinister themes and passionate innuendos - “I want you ugly / I want you diseased”. At no point during the album does Gaga settle for anything less than maximalism in expressing herself. 

Gaga has since continued to release both music and film to widespread acclaim. To coincide with 2011's Born This Way, Gaga created the Born This Way Foundation to help empower the youth of America and improve mental health resources. In particular, Gaga capitalised on her name to produce an album that promoted acceptance, equality and support for the LGBTQ+ community. Her lyrics during the bridge of 'Born This Way' promoted acceptance and understanding to these groups, as Gaga describes to her listeners that every form of person is accepted in her colourful world -  "No matter gay, straight, or bi/ Lesbian, transgendered life / I'm on the right track baby / I was born to survive".

Diverse from start to finish, The Fame Monster continues to thrive ten years later. The extreme fashion designs and guttural drag-voice were a sharp contrast from her debut effort and pointed Gaga on a totally different artistic look. Drawing influence from drag artists, the album manages to showcase an abundance of personality and colour into a compact, coherent and confident effort without sacrificing one element for another.

Separating herself from a mundane, heteronormative music industry, in which 50 Cent famously accused Kanye West of being homosexual for his varying artistic expression, Gaga was able to penetrate new audiences through her music and image, subsequently helping communities find a voice amongst the mainstream.

Ten years on, Gaga’s The Fame Monster is cemented as a turning point in mainstream pop music and for herself - leading a generation in how to bring vivid, colourful identity to the mainstream sterility.

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