But that was before she pounced.
"Just Dance" isn't groundbreaking. It is a carefree dive into the pop-dance pool, a watering hole that Rihanna, Chris Brown, and the Pussycat Dolls frequent often. Lady Gaga took a sip, and found she enjoyed the refreshing taste. It wasn't much, but it was enough. She found a territory she could call her own, a place to dominate.
The Fame, Stefani Germanotta's debut album as her hyper-reality persona, Lady Gaga, had been advertised through banners and magazines for months before its October '08 release. Advertisements that didn't feature a solid release date, instead acting as true hype generators. Personally, being an avid fan of "Dance," these banners only fueled my desire to get my hands on Gaga's album.
A powerful introduction
"Just Dance" opens the album like a valkyrie leading the charge (man, what's with me and metaphors?) riding triumphant ahead of her army. If you don't know this song, use your browser. I won't waste time explaining what it sounds like. Follow-up club stomper "LoveGame" continues the seige war tactics, assaulting us with clever lyrics like, "Let's have some fun/This beat is sick/I wanna take a ride on your disco stick." Interestingly enough, her live performance involves a disco stick. It's her long-handled microphone. Dave Aude mixed "LoveGame" into a musical frenzy, providing Lady Gaga with a proper club song after the lackluster mixes of "Just Dance." Dave Aude also took a stab at Gaga's third single "Poker Face" which is actually an interesting combination of the synths from "Just Dance" and the more dance-oriented beat of "LoveGame," giving us a nice dancefloor-friendly version of the track. "Poker Face" is a fantastic offering from Gaga, more lyrically sound than either "Dance" or "LoveGame," with a very catchy chorus. "Poker Face" was preceded as a single by "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich," a jam track where the message is pretty much contained within the title, but it is still 3 minutes of fun.
What I liked
My favorite tracks on the album are "Paparazzi," "Paper Gangsta," and "Brown Eyes." I'd like to take a moment to talk about "Paparazzi," though, and how its message is muddled and confuses me. The dictionary (www.dictionary.com) defines paparazzi as a freelance photographer, esp. one who takes candid pictures of celebrities for publication. Now focus on the lyrics to Gaga's "Paparazzi"; "I'm your biggest fan/I'll follow you until you love me/Papa-paparazzi/There's no other superstar/You know that I'll be your/Papa-paparazzi." The verses do talk some about pictures and whatnot, but this chorus sounds like a stalker case to me! Regardless of what was written, this song is amazing.
Fighting back through songwriting
"Paper Gangsta," after reading about Gaga's label history, seems aimed at the man who signed her to her first label and then ignored her for three months. "Don't want no paper gangsta/Won't sign away my life to/Someone who's got the flavor/But don't got no follow-through/Don't want no paper gangsta/Won't sign no monkey papers/Don't do no funny business/Not interested in fakers" is the amazing chorus sung vulnerably overtop a fantastic beat and a piano ditty. Really a very telling song and I'm very happy she made it.
My last favorite takes the cake though, Lady Gaga's tour de force as no other song on her album sounds like it (and considering the success of her upbeat and stylistically shallow radio singles, I doubt any song on further albums will either). "Brown Eyes" starts off with a slow beat which is soon accompanied by a pensive piano and then Gaga's voice, lonely and pensive, countered by a single electric guitar strum, similar to the Across the Universe film rendition of the Beatles' "Oh! Darling." She laments the end of a relationship, singing that her song basically boils down to how she lost her guy and his brown eyes. Very heartfelt and full of longing, the song is the clear winner of the album for me because it not only showcases versatility, but also an acceptance of musical styles that aren't so prevalent in the public eye these days.
The whole album really is top notch production and performances. Those I've mentioned, while very good to my ears, may not be the best to you. Don't wait on this one though, she's going places!
Released October 2, 2008 on Interscope Records