Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Fame Monster

GA GA OOH LA LA! So just the three BRITS for Lady Gaga? Should’ve cleaned up with ‘Best International Male’ as well! Haha!

So it’s official – Lady Gaga joins my list of great artists. We’ve been sharing a car whilst I drive out to the wilds of Berkshire every day doing some contract work and I can’t even contemplate sharing with anyone else. It may be that ‘The Fame Monster’, a strange 8 track sort-of album, is just damn good car music but I can’t seem to get enough of it on those long motorway hauls.

After her fabulous debut, ‘The Fame’ I was waiting for the burn out on the second album, but if anything, ‘The Fame Monster’ is better, more assured and more hook laden than a fisherman’s rucksack. I’m not really one for dance music but somehow I seem to be addicted to Lady Gaga and here’s why: She’s not what she seems. Behind the kooky, cutting edge fashion conscious image is an old fashioned musician. Here’s why.

She has paid her dues. At the dawn of time musicians would write a few songs and then take them on the road and play to the people. Sometimes this went on for years before some A&R bod took notice and signed them to a record label. It was a slog but was an accepted pre-requisite to fame and fortune. These days all this slogging around seedy halls selling your wares is now bypassed by selling your image (not your talent) direct to the record producers. All you need is ambition. Lady G appears at first sight to fit this modern ideal but actually she has been around for years writing songs for others (Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears etc) as part of her apprenticeship.

She sings. This might sound obvious as she has a half decent voice and makes the most of it but consider this: her most recent single, ‘Telephone’ features her along side mega-property BeyoncĂ© and it is very revealing. Put side by side in the same song, it becomes clear that Ms Knowles is very firmly based in the tough modern R&B mould where vocal lines are part sung part rapped but Lady G doesn’t follow. She sings her lines and in doing so sounds like a throwback to a different age – she just can’t help it.

She sings The Blues. More than anything she is an old fashioned blues singer and has more in common with Janis Joplin than Madonna or Britney Spears. Have a listen to her heart-felt ballad ‘Speechless’ written about her father or ‘Again Again’ or even her acoustic variations of her own songs. Her songs are often blues-tinged but she wraps them up in the modern dance idiom to appeal to today’s audience. However, you can’t help feeling that she would make one helluva blues singer.

She writes structured songs. In these days of studio creation, traditional song writing skills are taking a bit of a battering but Lady G is a song-crafter. She writes with an appreciation of the rules of song structure and then breaks them to great effect. Again ‘Telephone’ is a great example of how to stretch a bridge passage to breaking point.

So when it comes to Lady Gaga – don’t believe the hype. She’s just and old fashioned girl with an old fashioned mind…and an old fashioned millionaire (allegedly).


Charlie said...

Are there any instruments on Lady Gaga songs that aren't computers?

musicobsessive said...

Charlie - probably not! Although in a live environment, she uses pianos and occasionally a four piece rock band in addition to backing tapes. Also, she ALWAYS sings live. Some of her performances border on 'performance art' - (see her recent BRITS performance for example.)

But it's the songs that count, not the media for conveying them and she does have a talent for writing a great tune. I dare say the Beatles were derided by purists who thought studio trickery was not 'proper' music! :)

Jeff said...

Even for all of the gushing I do over Lady Gaga I've never actually listened to one of her albums. I saw a picture disk of the Fame Monster at my local record store not too long ago, I was somewhat tempted to purchase it, but I didn't know if that was something that I wanted to spend my money on. I'm glad you give her plenty of credit though, because I honestly believe she's one of the most talented pop artists around, if not THE most talented pop artist. As you said, she's paid her dues, and if not for nothing, people should respect her for that reason alone. Sure she may be a "freak" but she's established herself in the industry and has proved to be something more than just an image. That's a lot more than most can say.

musicobsessive said...

Thanks Jeff. I was expecting to get a lot of flack for this post as Lady G is not to everyone's taste - especially hoary old rockers!
I think she has real talent and you don't have that ability if you are run-of-the-mill so to be a 'freak' is an advantage. All the best pop artists are completely mad but it takes someone special to direct that 'madness' into real achievement. (BTW you can buy 'The Fame Monster' in a CD double package that includes 'The Fame' for the price of a single album - go get it).

Adrian said...

Perhaps best of all, Lady Gaga has inspired the return of the musical pie chart! And a fine one it is...

musicobsessive said...

Thank you Adrian - I'll try and include more of these in future!