Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lady Gaga

  • The Fame [Interscope, 2009] *
  • The Fame Monster [Interscope, 2009] A-
  • Born This Way [Streamline/Interscope/KonLive, 2011] A-
  • Artpop [Streamline/Interscope, 2013]

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Fame [Interscope, 2009]
Shallowness at its most principled ("Just Dance," "Paper Gangsta"). *

The Fame Monster [Interscope, 2009]
I liked the 14-track 2008 version of this album, augmented in this two-CD set by an eight-song EP of comparable quality. But only after being overwhelmed by the sheer visibility of her warp-speed relaunch did I realize how enjoyable and inescapable her hooks and snatches had turned out to be. Even if you consider her videos and such overelaborate, as I do, her songs are streamlined pop machines. Some are more efficient than others--I prefer the "Poker Face" hook as jacked by Kid Cudi and Lil Wayne to Gaga's sandbagging original. But even the slower ones have a way of taking off, in part because she writes lyrics like a paper gangster. The tell is "Money Honey," an apparent descent into ever crasser materialism that instead revives a short-lived slang usage of "money." His Jag, enjoyable. His kisses, money. A-

Born This Way [Streamline/Interscope/KonLive, 2011]
First of all, avoid the "Special Edition." Of the three extra songs, only "The Queen" would be a decent B side, and the remixes are as unnecessary as usual. Even at normal length, moreover, this isn't up to The Fame or The Fame Monster. But both of those keep growing, and with its mad momentum and nutty thematics, this one could too--despite being laid down on tour trailed by 28 semis. Ever the non-Catholic, I let "Judas" and "Bloody Mary" slide while going all googly-eared for the hilarious "Hair," where the nimbus of every woman's vanity becomes the cutting edge of every woman's freedom, and "Americano," a marriage proposal to a Chicana in a flowered skirt that's as sincere and unreliable as The Fame Monster's "Alejandro," where the title inamorato keeps morphing into Fernando and Roberto. This lags seriously only on the one with unicorns in it, a no-no not even Gaga can safely defy, and a big closer that just doesn't take the whole effort over the top where it belongs. The country song in particular is a hoot, which reminds me that the title track wasn't inspired solely by "Express Yourself." Close your eyes on the refrain and you can almost hear Carl Perkins lining out "You've got the right string baby but the wrong yo-yo." A-

Artpop [Streamline/Interscope, 2013]
[2013 Dean's List: 6]

See Also