Lady Gaga’s ‘The Fame Monster’ Turns 5: Stan & Deliver
Stan & Deliver gives fans an opportunity to shake, cry and sing the praises of the albums they love from their faves.
“Rah rah, ah-ah-ah…”
Five years ago today (November 18), Lady Gaga tore our clothes right off, ate our hearts and then proceeded to eat our brains. Does it feel like only yesterday? Or, in the current age of Cheek To Cheek, does it feel more like decades ago? Perhaps somewhere in between.
While The Fame had already propelled Gaga to pop stardom a year prior thanks to her inescapable, syllable-happy electro-pop earworms like “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” (muh-muh-muh-mah!), it was The Fame Monster that saw Gaga effectively take over the world.
By the time her Fame re-release arrived in November of 2009, Gaga had her monster paws securely gripped around pop culture: She was the biggest pop superstar at the time, armed with a newly minted fan base (the Little Monsters were born), over-the-top ensembles that had the world ga-gagging (from her sensible Kermit The Frog carcass top to those perilously impractical sky-high stilettos to that infamous Meat Dress…hey Cher, hold my meat purse!), undeniably next-level music videos, unforgettable award show performances and, oh right, yes: The year’s best pop record in hand.
The start-to-finish immaculate 8-track EP, produced by RedOne, Fernando Garibay, Ron Fair, Darkchild and Teddy Riley, was said to represent Gaga’s 8 different “monsters” she encountered on the road (“Fear Of Loneliness Monster,” for example). And throughout, the disco stick-wielding pop princess navigated chilly synth-pop pulsations and dark lyrical themes (oh so many Hitchcock film references!) with a pristine, pop radio-friendly gloss to tackle those fears: From “Bad Romance,” one of the greatest pop records of the past decade, to a club-thumping mini-epic with Yoncé, to the campy, gothic glamour of “Dance In The Dark.” Simply put, Halloween has never sounded the same ever since.
Five years later, we’re now looking back and rattling the Fame Monster’s cage once again. Do you dare?
Name: Ro T. | Location: Austria | Twitter: @gagamonster96
1. Bad Romance
“I’ll never forget writing those ‘ra-rahs’ on my tour bus hoping it would be a hit.” And a hit it was. Lady Gaga took the world by storm in fall of 2009 to debut “Bad Romance,” the monstrous lead single from the 8-track EP The Fame Monster, the song which raised the bar of pop music and the paws of millions of Little Monsters all over the world.
So, how big of a hit was Bad Romance? The song won 2 GRAMMY Awards and sweeped a total of 7 MTV Video Music Awards in one night, including “Video of the Year,” which she accepted wearing the infamous meat dress. The music video became a massive event in pop music, so much that the video has spawned over 600 million views online and its gigantic amount of streams helped make Lady Gaga the first female artist with a Diamond-certified single in the United States. These accomplishments translated globally as the song has sold over 12 million copies worldwide and turned into a classic pop anthem.
Now, 5 years after the song made its debut, you will still most likely be lucky enough to hear the iconic “Walk, walk, fashion baby!” line blasting from the radio, or better yet, see the song come to life during Lady Gaga’s artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball Tour. The monster paw, which Lady Gaga recently tattooed onto her body, has become a symbol in the Little Monster community and represents our unity and strength. It is noticable in every one of her live concerts, all thanks to this song and its instantly recognizable choreography.
What ultimately makes Bad Romance so special is its anthemic melody and its incredibly catchy hooks. It’s a song with genius lyrics, a song that has so many meanings, yet is so fun. “And now performing her hit single…’Bad Romance’!” you will hear Lady Gaga’s backing track announce at her current tour before the audience bursts into loud screams with their paws held high, celebrating the song that changed pop music forever.
Name: Jeremy Cabalona | Location: NYC, USA | Twitter: @jeremycabo
There was a moment during The Monster Ball Tour where Gaga performed “Alejandro” to screaming crowds across the globe. In this moment, Gaga is hoisted in the air by one of her dancers and SCREAMS: “HANDS UP, FOR GAY RIGHTS. FOR THE END OF DON’T ASK DON’T TELL.” This was a time when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the fight for gay marriage and gay bullying were forefront national issues.
To LGBT kids across the country, myself included, it truly meant something to have my favorite pop star screaming for LGBT issues. Looking back, her messaging was surface level, but at the time, that’s something that really made me feel empowered and connected to a larger community. Culture as a whole wouldn’t really get the Steven Klein-directed music video — a statement about gays in the military? The way culture and the church defines masculinity? — but culture did love the catchy summer anthem.
Each time I hear “Alejandro,” I’m transported back to The Monster Ball, and I feel that moment of empowerment and connection.
Name: Robbie Daw | Location: NYC, USA | Twitter: @chartrigger
“Don’t call me Gaga.” “I’ve never seen one like that before.” “Don’t look at me like that.” “You amaze me.”
These seemingly throw-away (pick-up?) lines begin dark, urgent dance cut “Monster,” a song that manages to perfectly capture both the euphoric thrill of a one-night stand with a bad boy — perhaps too bad — and the inevitable cloud of danger looming over the situation. Gaga always seemed torn here, lyrically, as she cautiously asks her “girlfriend if she’s seen you ’round before,” but, really, girl — we all knew from the first listen that you were gonna end up in the sack with the guy harboring “those evil eyes.”
Sex is arguably heightened when coupled with the fear of the unknown, and Gaga goes to town here graphically detailing the seedy glamour (“we French-kissed on a subway train”) and the loss of control (“he tore my clothes right off, he ate my heart and then he ate my brain”) after giving into her persistent Monster’s charms. Of course, she’s probably singing in metaphors, and really talking about making oneself vulnerable in a relationship when there’s been heartache before. But isn’t it more fun to imagine some devastatingly-handsome cannibal-vampire on the prowl for his next victim, luring unsuspecting pop stars into his bedroom for a night of bumping, grinding and rampant horror?
A large part The Fame Monster‘s brilliance is the fact that the non-singles play like classic pop anthems themselves when stacked up against showy singles “Bad Romance,” “Telephone” and “Alejandro.” No exception to that, “Monster” ranks high up among Gaga’s output from the whole Fame era, if not her entire catalog in general.
Name: Matt Russoniello | Location: NYC, USA | Twitter: @theboythoreau
If there is one point Lady Gaga likes to hammer home more than the fact that she’s Italian and has been singing jazz since the age of 13, it is that she is, at heart, a classic-rock-lovin’ singer-songwriter stuck in the body of a pop star. “Speechless,” the literal and figurative centerpiece of The Fame Monster, is the best example from her discography to support her argument.
Written as a plea for her father to undergo heart surgery, “Speechless” actually speaks to universal themes of loss and love and fear and friendship and possibly Lüc Carl (remember him?) and definitely whiskey. Let us not forget the whiskey.
All of Gaga’s albums have featured at least one piano ballad, but “Speechless” remains her most beloved (and, objectively, her best). It’s a great song, yes, but it earned its status not just from being great from the many thrilling ways in which she brought it to life. She debuted the song at a bespoke pink piano, decorated with butterflies. She performed it atop a 10-foot-tall, Salvador Dalí-inspired piano for the Queen of England while wearing an Elizabethan gown made entirely of red PVC. At the 2010 Grammys, she emerged from a smoky furnace on a two-sided piano, seated across from that Other Queen of England, Elton John. She smashed a glass cube with her mic stand and belted it out from among the flames at the 2009 AMAs, and then she took that concept to its extreme on The Monster Ball Tour, performing it each night under a funnel cloud of fire. And all of this for a song that was never released as a single.
It was this song (and her many iconic performances of it) that made everyone, not just her rapidly-growing base of newly-minted Little Monsters, take notice and see that, behind the double entendre-laden dance jams and underneath the bizarre costumes, Gaga was an incredibly talented songwriter, operating on her own plane.
So let’s raise a glass — to mend all the broken hearts of all our wrecked up friends — and, of course, to “Speechless.”
Name: Marc | Location: London | Twitter: @marcmonster
5. Dance In The Dark
“Dance In The Dark” is the “Venus” of The Fame Monster – the fan favorite track that never got its chance in the spotlight. Originally, Gaga planned to release “Dance In The Dark” as her third single after “Telephone.” However, once again similarly to “Venus,” the record label decided “Alejandro” should be the next single instead.
After that, “Dance In The Dark” was only released digitally in Australia, Belgium and France.
This track is a synth-pop masterpiece that honors iconic women whose lives were taken too soon, mostly by their own hands. It starts out very chaotic and heavy, with a moaning Gaga in the background. She has stated the song is about a girl(s) being insecure about having sex with the lights on due to body image issues. This doesn’t come as a surprise seeing that Gaga has struggled with body image most of her life.
In the bridge she reassures each girl (Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Sylvia Plath, Princess Diana), that they will “never fall apart” as Gaga and girls today still struggle with the insecurities these iconic women had. The tragic endings they suffered will not have been in vain.
Not only is this song recognized as a brilliantly crafted pop song by her fans, but it was also nominated for a Grammy for “Best Dance Recording” in 2010, despite not being a single — and should’ve won, but that’s another story.
Name: Mike Wass | Location: Los Angeles, USA | Twitter: @mikewassmusic
6. Telephone (feat. Beyoncé)
Talk about a clash of the titans. In 2009, Lady Gaga and Beyonce were the biggest pop stars on the planet. Mother Monster went from rising dance diva to veritable phenomenon with debut LP The Fame and Queen Bey had just taken an important step towards her eventual canonization with I Am…Sasha Fierce. Despite their very different approaches, it made sense for them to come together. At that time, they were simply in a league of their own.
So what do you give the two hottest ladies in pop to sing? The answer, curiously enough, is an old demo Gaga submitted for Britney Spears’ Circus LP. (Brit Brit simply wasn’t feeling it.) In the hands of its creator, however, “Telephone” became much more than a sum of its admittedly generic parts. Darkchild’s production was slick yet accessible, the chemistry between the superstars was electric and no expense was spared for the nine-minute video/mini-movie. It resulted in a monster hit that sold 7.4 million downloads by the end of 2010.
Bring on the sequel!
Name: Jake Bley | Location: Australia | Twitter: @jakebley
7. So Happy I Could Die
Although “So Happy I Could Die” was never released as a single, it is a personal favourite across all of Gaga’s discography. Fans have polarizing opinions of the track, either falling in love with the moody synth-pop melody, or pretending it didn’t even happen. Pop culture writer Evan Sawdey stated that the song had the worst vocals of The Fame Monster record. I beg to differ and think that Evan needs to take a seat. Let me explain.
Penned by Gags, long time producer RedOne, and bedazzled (and long time forgotten) DJ friend Space Cowboy, the Europop track explores two monsters in life; love and addiction. Alcoholism is a strong theme in the song, referring to drinking red wine in the club and the happy place it takes us to. It’s all about forgetting all our problems, but not without a dark twist: “Just know when that glass is empty, that the world is gonna bend.” The love theme of the track is somewhat controversial, turning up noses of the prude. It’s a love affair with one’s self, masturbation, and the relationship you maintain between desire and control tied in with addiction: “I touch myself ’til I’m on track.”
“So Happy I Could Die” is not as punchy as the rest of The Fame Monster album, but that’s the point; it has a deeper feel to it, and is an important part of the whole monster era. The structure of the tempo and lyrics are what makes this tune catchy, with ongoing “eh-eh, eh-eh ye-ha, ye-ha” throughout the track. What’s most impressive is the way the lyrics are delivered: Each line starts at a steady pace, speeding up towards the end of the lyric and takes the listener on a roller coaster ride. This specific line in the song is what makes it one of my favourites: “Don’t give up baby, open up your heart and your mind to me.” There’s something about the delivery that makes you break inside, you genuinely feel the frustration behind Gaga’s smooth coos. I resonate with it each time the song is played.
Love it or hate it, I don’t care what you think. “So Happy I Could Die” is my favourite non-single Gaga song, and a masterpiece in its own right.
Name: Bradley Stern | Location: NYC, USA | Twitter: @muumuse
The Fame Monster comes to a close with a bit of a curveball: “Teeth” is perhaps the weirdest moment on the EP, musically speaking.
The stomping, sex-starved anthem plays like a particuarly horny outtake from the Burlesque soundtrack — or perhaps the most aggressive dentistry advertisement, ever. According to an interview with Gagaloo at the time, the song’s about two things: “Oral sex, and the fear of the truth.” Talk about a mouthful!
The Teddy Riley-produced cut is full of big, campy belting and mumbled background vocals (“My religion is you,” she purrs.) By the time she hits that powerful finish (“Show me ya teeth-teeth-teeth!“), it’s clear that Gaga’s inner drama school geek is showing. Jazz hands, everyone!
On The Monster Ball Tour, “Teeth” was nothing short of terrifying — in the best way possible, of course. “Show me your fucking teeth!” she’d snarl, leering at the crowd and outstretching her paws. And, just like that, the arena became a sea of pearly whites. Anything for Mother Monster.