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Lady Gaga [extended]

  • The Fame [Interscope, 2009] *
  • The Fame Monster [Interscope, 2009] A-
  • Born This Way [Streamline/Interscope/KonLive, 2011] A-
  • Artpop [Streamline/Interscope, 2013] A
  • Cheek to Cheek [Streamline/Columbia/Interscope, 2014] B+
  • Joanne (Deluxe Edition) [Streamline/Interscope, 2016] *
  • Chromatica [Interscope, 2020] **

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]
"My artpop could mean anything," the title song boasts proudly. So as befits the dilemma our self-made superceleb's hype overkill and musical overproduction have gotten her into, Gaga's fourth album in five years was both grossly grotesque, as in "Swine"'s "You're just a pig inside a human body," and aptly cartoonish, long on bright, brash, overstated outlines. In "We could, we could belong together," the "we" is in fact art and pop. But this being Lady Gaga it's also S-E-X. It's "Venus" connecting rocket ships to both oysters and Uranus. It's "GUY" standing for Girl Under You. It's "Sexxx Dreams"'s sex dreams. It's songs and conceits that pop all over the place. A

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek [Streamline/Columbia/Interscope, 2014]
I'm agnostic at best as regards the urban legend of Bennett's ageless cool. It's too classy on his end and too voguish on that of his eager young admirers. But this guy isn't just 80--he's 88, old enough to awaken in a 72-year-old like myself something approaching the dreams of immortality he instills his thirtysomething partisans. Granted, it's his twentysomething partner who provides the elan vital here. Gaga grabs these standards as Linda Ronstadt never did and Annie Lennox should be tried for trying--rock-'em sock-'em uptempo, not quite overripe on ballads, and having a ball both ways. In a true collaboration--both solo turns fall flat--it's her enthusiasm, her vulgarity, and the liberties she takes with the tunes that make the concept sing. That said, however, Bennett always sounds like he has some left in the tank. It's inspirational, I admit. B+

Joanne (Deluxe Edition) [Streamline/Interscope, 2016]
It's definitely not the best way to prove you're a Real Girl to reserve the three Realest songs on the album for fans so besotted they'll pay extra for them ("Grigio Girls," "Just Another Day," "Angel Down [Work Tape]") *

Chromatica [Interscope, 2020]
Lop off the first four tracks and you'll end up with a pretty good album about a talented singer, songwriter, and actress who once upon a time was an elaborate cartoon ("Babylon," "Free Woman," "Fun Tonight") **

See Also