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A Retrospective Review: The Fame

NotMyFlop

Lady Gaga is a cultural institution in 2020. Her chameleon-esque transformations from The Fame to Chromatica (with a whopping six albums and two soundtracks) is both awe-inspiring and ever-so-debated. Gaga's discography (especially singles) is widely-known. When Chromatica landed on May 29, it added yet another layer to her enigmatic (pun intended) persona. All of Gaga's bodies of work explore one idea: the complexities of fame. With her latest record definitely touching on the subject, alongside it's referential production to musical trends of the past and within her own works, it's almost irresponsible to review Chromatica without contextualizing the records that came before it. Therefore, we must begin where she began: The Fame. 

The Fame could be argued as gaudy; a over-analysis of the complexities of fame from a person who had yet to achieve mainstream relevancy at the time of release. In the album's title track rapidly touches, but doesn't dig, on several issues regarding fame: materialism, addiction, excessive wealth and objectification. All while the song's bridge makes the bold announcement that this is Gaga's dream. It's an utterly cliché representation of what fame is. It sounds exactly like what anyone perceives as fame. With the lyric "All we care about is ****ographic girls on film and body plastic," almost immediately calls to Chromatica's Plastic Doll, in which this objectification is not a dream, but a soul-crushing reality. 

In fact, Chromatica is filled with melancholy (if not downright depressing) lyrics about fame. If one could argue The Fame is 'the dream', could Chromatica not serve as the warning against it? If Paparazzi equates a career to love, could Fun Tonight not represent a darker side to that? 

Obviously, Gaga's cliché commentary on fame clearly worked. The Fame became a global success, spawning two defining singles of the early digital era. It's hard to imagine the lead single, Just Dance, was as impactful as it was. Despite some campier, darker and more fun moments on the record, Just Dance torched the world. It threw away the rule book of current trends and ushered in a pop star that Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen could benefit from. Even withstanding legends of music were able to reinvent themselves in a commercial way that saw new career peaks. 

While Just Dance was a success, Poker Face was a magnum opus. It's not just a commercial juggernaut, the butt of several jokes and insanely recognizable to this day, it's the song that has defined Gaga's career. Every subsequent lead single has been measured up to this. Is it as catchy? Does it have the signature Gaga hook? Does it...? It goes on. While there is no denying the testament a song like that carries, it's oftentimes used against Gaga harshly and unfairly. When Gaga ditched the avant-garde pop music of her early days in exchange for the EDM-approached ARTPOP, how is it fair to compare two songs like Applause and Poker Face that are so dissimilar in style, approach and ambition? When Gaga proved she was ever-evolving with jazz, country-folk and singer-songwriter, why is one song used as the metric to discuss the quality of a song? Perfect Illusion, a song that was never trying to be a masterpiece, ended up being lamented for this. 

In relation to Chromatica, this is why Stupid Love was arguably the best lead single choice of the album. It was the kind of pop music fans and critics of Gaga had been begging for. It was instantly recognizable as classic Gaga, and made it feel ever-so-familiar. Despite it not being the best song on the album, any other song would have shied away audiences. With an unquenchable thirst for new Gaga music after the career-peak of A Star Is Born, she needed to reopen the doors to pure pop in a safe way. Thankfully, it worked. 

In retrospect, The Fame will obviously forever hold an important place in her career. It's still breaking records in 2020.  It's hard to imagine the album that sounded so new in 2008 would sound especially dated in 2020. With all of her records, it's aging the poorest. It might not be fair to say considering the sound was so heavily-replicated in the years to come that it's no wonder, but there is no denying Gaga's other attempts of describing the dichotomy of fame are more compelling. If Stupid Love was the safe choice to reintroduce longtime fans to pure pop, The Fame was the safest way for Gaga to introduce herself to the world. 

In pop music, safe oftentimes is synonymous with filler. Despite the one-two-three-four punch of Just Dance, LoveGame, Paparazzi and Poker Face, the rest of the album stumbles into the forgettable. With some fan-favorites aside, most of these never saw the light of cultural importance. Listening to this album from beginning to end is particularly mundane. For a woman who defined herself as never sounding sonically similar, this is the antithesis of that. There are so many production elements recycled throughout that the album that it feels stale shortly after track 5. However, if listening to songs individually, most of them still hold up. 

Lastly, and thankfully, The Fame represents a groundwork for which her career would constantly improve on. From production, lyrics, hooks, verses, bridges and anything else, Gaga changed and improved on them. It's a good introduction, but her thesis statement would come later. What makes The Fame so good today is what made it good then: it's relevancy into the picturesque vision of fame that so many people relate to. Don't YouTubers and TikTokers also embody so much of what this record is about? If viewing The Fame as episode one in an eight-part examination of fame, at least this started on impactful, happy note. For Little Monsters, it may be more bleak as Gaga has repeatedly discussed her issues (and regrets) with achieving this dream. However, if it weren't this perception, we would not have the woman who arguably gave a career-best in Chromatica. More on that later... 

Coming Soon: A Retrospect Review of The Fame Monster 

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Lionel Hutz

it's a very well written review and i really enjoyed it :hug: 

with that being said, though, i believe the fame doesn't exist

Oh, sure, like lawyers work in big skyscrapers and have secretaries. Look at him! He's wearing a belt. That's Hollywood for you.
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NotMyFlop
2 minutes ago, Lionel Hutz said:

it's a very well written review and i really enjoyed it :hug: 

with that being said, though, i believe the fame doesn't exist

Thank you. :runhug:  I really appreciate the kind words, despite our differing opinions. I'm an ameatur journalist, and I am bored without work right now, so I did this for fun. 

Unfortunately for you, The Fame is still very much alive. :huntyga:

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Agunimon
Posted (edited)

[...] you love the fame, even though you know it causes me pain?

Edited by Agunimon
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pop ate my heart

LOVED THIS! Keep them coming!♥♥♥

It's so refreshing to read this when the world is a mess and all they do in this site is complain about everything for no reason

am i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-p-plastic
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NotMyFlop
6 minutes ago, pop ate my heart said:

LOVED THIS! Keep them coming!♥♥♥

It's so refreshing to read this when the world is a mess and all they do in this site is complain about everything for no reason

I try to always remain positive! I will critique, of course, but I never want to unnecessarily drag her. :hor:

I think I will post one each day. Do you want me to tag you? :kara:

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pop ate my heart
4 minutes ago, NotMyFlop said:

I try to always remain positive! I will critique, of course, but I never want to unnecessarily drag her. :hor:

I think I will post one each day. Do you want me to tag you? :kara:

Yaaas that'd be so cute!! :kara:♥♥

can't wait to read about TFM and all you have in store!

am i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i-p-plastic
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