The world of pop music in 2008 needed a shakeup, and a then-unknown singer called Lady Gaga was poised to deliver. Her debut album, The Fame, achieved what Madonna did for pop in the ’80s. She created an image that was bright, bold, and shocking. (See also the meat dress she wore in 2010.) Another parallel can be found in their vocals: similar to Madonna’s chameleon-esque voice, Gaga was able to sing in a soft, girly tone for “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” and a rough, deep tone for “Just Dance” and “Poker Face.”
The Fame is sprinkled with glitter (literally – in “Boys Boys Boys,” Gaga declares that her love interest “tastes just like glitter mixed with rock and roll”) and synths. It’s almost pre-packaged to play at the club.
The album’s title is fitting. In songs like “Paparazzi,” Gaga explores themes like stalking and wanting to be famous at any cost. It’s a meta perspective on the shifting media-celebrity relationship, which now seems almost quaint as social media has taken over.
The song that is probably the biggest throwback for me personally is “Just Dance.” That was at seemingly every party. “Poker Face” is another one, too, just because I think it’s the one that really launched her career. I listened to it on repeat back when it came out. It just sounded so different from anything else that was happening.
Gaga’s confidence is infectious. In every song, Gaga is the one who’s in control. She’s self-aware in her desire for popularity, and knows exactly what it will be like when she gets there. For example, in “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich”, Gaga sings about how vapid the wealthy lifestyle is, and how they wasted all their money on partying.
It’s a fascinating perspective from someone who was an outsider and is now at the top of the heap.